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  Friday, 5 April, 2002, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Augusta's special aura
Augusta National Golf Course
A view of Augusta in all its glory
BBC Sport Online examines why the Augusta National Golf Course and the US Masters make such a prestigious pairing.

Mention Augusta and anybody remotely interested in sport will think of golf.

Those with even a passing interest in golf will think of the US Masters.

The first Major of the year is a special event full stop.

But the fact that it is played yearly at Augusta only adds to the occasion.

The US Masters without Augusta - Amen Corner, the azaleas, the azure waters and all - would be like the prize ceremony without the Green Jacket.

After 67 years, event and location are entwined like few others in sport.

The Augusta National Golf Course, in the southern state of Georgia, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world.

The area used to be the site of the Fruitland Nurseries, and the organisers and groundkeepers have preserved and added to the rich wealth of shrubbery over the years.

Tiger Woods searches for his ball in 1999
Tiger Woods takes to the Augusta "undergrowth"
The land was purchased in 1931 and it is believed that since the course was built more than 80,000 plants of over 350 varieties have been added.

Additionally, each hole is named after the plant which grows around it.

The course is noted for the plethora of azaleas, of which there are more than 30 varieties, and the prominent magnolia.

But as well as the abundant native species, a host of flowering plants and grasses from as far afield as Asia and South America are also nurtured.

However, to focus on the flora and fauna in the borders is to miss the point of Augusta.

Like any other golf course, be it the local municipal or St Andrews, the real substance is found on the fairways.

It is a true test for the best golfers in the world - Augusta's other main annual attraction.

Bobby Jones and his co-designer Alister Mackenzie maximised the vagaries of the land in an effort to make the golfer consider his options and shot selection at every turn.

An extra challenge is incorporated through no two consecutive holes following the same course and, as a result, the same prevailing wind.

We have always made attempts to keep the golf course current with the times
William Johnson,
Club chairman
This year the field will face an extra test in that the course, the only one on the Grand Slam roster to be used every year, has had a facelift.

Augusta has been extended by 285 yards and a number of teeing positions have been altered.

Although the club has embraced change on the course, off it, in the galleries, they remain firmly entrenched in history.

Such is the demand for tickets that those for the tournament are only available to the patrons of the club.

Regular punters are only admitted for the practice rounds, but the limited inclusivity only adds to its exclusivity.

Augusta's membership list is even more exclusive. It extends to approximately 300, but is shrouded in secrecy.

It is a secret that is guarded as closely as the price it costs to join a club that is only open from October to May.

The hot and humid Georgia summers make a round of golf impossible during the rest of the year.

But were it not for the fallow period, the course would not have a chance to recover and then bloom in April.

For that, all sports fans, particularly those with more than a passing interest in golf, should be eternally grateful.

Tiger's triumph

Tiger hole-by-hole

Earlier action

Palmer says farewell

US Masters guide

Sports Talk

Official link
Links to more US Masters stories are at the foot of the page.

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Links to more US Masters stories

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