The green jacket, awarded each year to the winner of the Masters golf tournament, is a most unique trophy in the sport — and easily its most recognizable.
However, the green jacket tradition at Augusta National Golf Club wasn’t created for winners of the tournament first known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. In 1937, four years after the club opened, co-founder Clifford Roberts thought it would be a good idea to have members wear the green jackets to help tournament patrons find members if they had a question or concern while attending the tournament. Bobby Jones had told Roberts of the red jackets for captains at Royal Liverpool, and Roberts loved the idea.
The first Masters winner to get a green jacket was Sam Snead in 1949, with the winners since presented with the jacket in a ceremony on the practice green at the club. The winner first gets the green jacket put on these days, however, during a televised ceremony in Butler Cabin. Both times, the previous year’s winner presents the jacket of an existing member that most closely fits the champion. In the instances that a Masters winner has successfully defended the title, the club Chairman presents the green jacket. Weeks later, the custom-tailored jacket is presented to the champion.
The first jackets for members were made of a heavy wool that didn’t wear well in April. Now, they’re a wool-polyester blend, with the fabric typically sewn together by a company in Cincinnati. The wool-polyester blend is from Victor Forstmann Inc. in Dublin, Ga. The special brass buttons on the jacket are made by Waterbury Button Co. in Connecticut, while the breast-pocket patch that has the club logo is made in North Carolina by A&B Emblem Co.
Dating back to 1996, Masters winners also have the option of getting a custom-fit (bespoke, if you will) jacket from London tailor Henry Poole, made from high-end pure wool.
Masters champions get to keep the green jacket for one year. Then they must return it to the club, where Augusta National keeps it in the winner’s locker in the Champions Locker Room. Winners share their locker with other Masters winners.
If a Masters champion wins the tournament again, they aren’t given additional green jackets. Instead, they’re re-awarded the same green jacket they initially won, provided it still fits. Otherwise, it can be tailored.
Jack Nicklaus, however, who won the Masters six times, didn’t get his own green jacket until 12 years after winning for the final time in 1986. For most of his Augusta National career, dating back to his first win in 1963, Nicklaus wore the green jacket of former New York governor and club member Thomas Dewey. However, with each successive win, the club never gave Nicklaus a jacket of his own. Nicklaus went so far as to commission a fake from Hart, Schaffner, & Marx, a clothier he endorsed, that didn’t look good. Eventually, in 1997 after talking to then chairman Jackson Stephens, Nicklaus got fitted for his proper jacket.