Masters Mystery: What's the Story Behind Golf's Green Jacket?

Some golf tournaments give trophies, some give cars. But only one gives its winner a green sports jacket the Masters.

In an annual tradition that dates back more than 60 years, the previous year's champion helps the new winner put on the fairway-green coat with the logo emblem of the host, Augusta National Golf Club, on the left side. However, like most things at the Masters and Augusta, there are rules for the green jacket.

Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts gave every club member a green jacket as the standard dress code at club functions. The official reason was to distinguish members from non-members during public tournaments and events. However, unofficial Augusta historians have said the real reason was Roberts was tired of members trying to out-dress each other with fancy jackets. Hence, the great green equalizers to keep egos in check.

In 1949, after winning his first of three Masters championships, Sam Snead was awarded the first green jacket as an honorary member. Since then, the reigning champion is allowed to take his green jacket home with him, but then must return with it the following year to help the new champion slip into his own jacket. If there is a repeat champion, (there have only been three, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods ), then the current Augusta chairman does the honors.

Last year's champ also then has to leave his jacket behind at Augusta. All of the coats are kept there and may be worn by past winners whenever they visit, as they often do since they are given a lifetime invitation to play in the tournament.

On the Tuesday evening of each Masters week, there is a room full of green coats at Augusta when a dinner for all past champions is held. Started by Ben Hogan in 1952, only past winners, with a few club VIPs, are invited with the reigning champion getting to pick the menu.

In addition to the stylish clothing, tournament champs also receive a gold medallion (more than 13" in diameter!), a replica trophy like the full-size one kept at Augusta and a sizable check of $1.35 million.

Dan Peterson writes about sports science at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental.