Masters provides golf business benefits for Augusta

Andy Gallacher discovers how vital the Masters is to Augusta's economy

If you wander too close to the gates of the Augusta National Golf Club, the chances are you will attract the attention of the private police force.

Business of Golf

The club values anonymity and there is a reason for that - it is one of the world's most coveted courses and membership is by invitation only.  

But every April the whole place is opened to the public when the Masters is held here, one of the four "majors" - the quartet of the most prestigious professional golf tournaments in the world.

The tournament began back in the 1930s and has always been hosted by Augusta National; its very history is intricately woven into the story of the city of Augusta.

The final round of the 2010 Augusta Masters Every year the normally secretive Augusta National Golf Club opens its doors for the Masters

It is hard to think of one without the other.

"We're very fortunate to have a major each and every year," says Augusta's mayor Deke Copenhaver.

"The international exposure it gives the city is something that is a huge benefit.

"It stimulates tourism - they want to see the course, they want to see our downtown, so its something that is impacting the city from a positive perspective throughout the year."

'Busy and exciting'

The mayor's claim is borne out by the figures.

Augusta regularly ranks as amongst the strongest US cities economically and many businesses make more than half of their annual profits during the week of the Masters.

Partridge Inn, Augusta The Partridge Inn does a good chunk of its business during the Masters

The landmark Partridge Inn - which describes itself as a "grand, colourful" hotel - is a good example.

The walls of its corridors and banquet halls are full of grainy old black and white pictures of guests putting golf balls in the corridors as Masters fever takes hold.

"For us its a good chunk of our annual income," says Brian Cole, general manager of the Inn.

"It's definitely a busy and exciting time," he adds.

"A lot of businesses in town rev up for this time period, they basically target their work around the tournament."

The association with one of golf's most famous tournaments has an almost irresistible pull for certain businesses.

Almost all of America's golf cars and buggies are made either in, or close by, to the city of Augusta and these manufacturers are major employers in the region.

'Golf history'

At the E-Z-GO factory, where the workforce is around 800 strong, golf cars are rigorously tested on a track which comes complete with trenches, humps and steep inclines; standards to match a tournament that challenges the world's best golfers, perhaps.

Golf buggies lined up at the E-Z-GO factory Being based in Augusta is a help to E-Z-GO when selling golf buggies

E-Z-GO president Kevin Holleran admits that building golf vehicles close to the Augusta National Golf Club comes with its own advantages.

"Golf is our history," declares Mr Holleran proudly.

"[We are] able to call on the golf professional, the club managers who are buying our product, and they know we are in Augusta, Georgia," he adds.

"It has a way of just validating the company name, knowing that our home town is in one of the real hotbeds for the golf industry."

The gravitational pull of the Masters has become a powerful force for the city of Augusta.

Having an international reputation for organising a major sporting event every year has been a boon for other events and other sports.

'Recognition'

Augusta now hosts one of the largest Ironman triathlon competitions in the world, and just about every sport you can think of holds events in the city.

Start Quote

The aura that the Masters gives off means that it is time for golf”

End Quote Brad Parker Forest Hills Golf Club public golf course, Augusta

"It's definitely beneficial to have recognition for that type of prestigious event," says Tammy Stout, executive director of the Augusta Sports Council.

She says that for event organisers finding a suitable location is often the biggest obstacle.

"But when you're known to be the home of the Masters that challenge is no longer there," she adds.

"It's kind of an understood quiet reputation that you have for hosting the best sporting event in the world."

For the city of Augusta and the state of Georgia the Masters plays a vital economic role, as does the sport of golf.

Rowers in Augusta Hosting the Masters means that Augusta is the market for other sporting events

It's estimated that the game generates more than $5bn (£3.1bn) annually and keeps almost 60,000 people in work in this state alone; in Florida, Texas, California and New York those figures are even higher.

The Masters is then, without doubt, a tour de force for the city of Augusta.

As the tournament grows closer hotels, restaurants and local golf clubs brace themselves for an influx of eager spectators and prices rocket.

The Forest Hills Golf Club is the nearest public course to the Augusta National, a geographical fact that helps fill its greens and fairways with golfers at this time of year.

The club's general manager and golf pro Brad Parker says as soon as the azaleas start to bloom then it is time for one of the sports greatest tournaments to begin.

"The aura that the Masters gives off means that it is time for golf."

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