It’s been observed that the people who actually have money don’t like to talk about money. As for The Masters Tournament, the folks at Augusta National Golf Club could have a whole lot more to not talk about if they so choose. That doesn’t happen, however, and people like 2020 champion Dustin Johnson are most grateful for it.
A few of the numbers behind The Masters
The Masters is the most exclusive tournament on the annual PGA Tour schedule in more ways than one. Organized as an invitational, this year’s event began Thursday with 88 players compared to the 132 to 156 in most tournament fields.
That information is one of the few details that outsiders are privy to when it comes to the annual tournament. And there are few people on the inside who might know more. Augusta National Golf Club has about 300 members who pay up to a $40,000 initiation fee when invited to join.
Other than knowing that Dustin Johnson collected $2.07 million for winning and the The Masters’ total purse was $11.5 million last fall during the pandemic, financial information is largely a guessing game.
However, the club must be doing well. The Richmond County tax assessor values the 351.84-acre property at $189 million.
How much does The Masters make for Augusta National and CBS?
A 2015 story by Golf Digest offered rare insight into how The Masters operates. Arguably the most surprising revelation, coming from an unidentified broadcasting source, is that CBS, which has been operating on one-year contracts since 1956, does not make a profit by showing the tournament. Equally fascinating, Augusta National doesn’t make money from the domestic rights either.
Here’s the explanation:
The Masters coverage is famous for its limited commercial interruptions. Golf Digest reported that executives from CBS, ESPN, and the club add up the cost of televising the event after each tournament and bill the handful of exclusive sponsors accordingly.
Adjusting for inflation from the 2015 story, that probably amounts to less than $40 million. Augusta National could sell the annual rights to a network for three or four times that much. The club chooses not to do so because its arrangement with CBS leaves Augusta National in complete control of the broadcast. If you don’t believe that, consider that the club even owns the trademark on Jim Nantz’s famous “a tradition unlike any other” tagline.
According to Huddle Up, however, the ANGC does pull in around $25 million from international broadcast rights. That’s an important number, too, because the same story, based on extrapolations of the 2015 Golf Digest report, estimates that Augusta National’s tournament profit in a normal year is around $30 million.
How much money does the tournament generate?
Organizers of The Masters do not disclose attendance data, but Huddle Up estimates that the ongoing pandemic has limited galleries to about 12,000 people per day this week instead of the usual 40,000 or more. Because of that, the expectation is that the 2021 tournament won’t do much better than break even financially.
That reflects both the loss of ticket revenue – the four-day badges run $325 apiece – and lower sales in the merchandise tents. That’s because the official hats, logo shirts, and everything else are only sold on-site (last year was an exception because merchandise had already been ordered and delivered to ANGC when the pandemic struck). Incredibly, the club does about $50 million in business on those items and another $8 million or so in concessions in a normal year.
If you take the $115 million in total revenue for the week that Golf Digest estimated in 2015, when Jordan Spieth beat Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson by four strokes, and account for a healthy economy up until the pandemic, Huddle Up estimates that this year’s tournament could have generated $200 million.
Instead, they’ll have to get by with around $150 million in gross revenue. Factoring in that the prize purse is expected to remain unchanged at $11.5 million but other expenses will be lower, Augusta National will still break even despite leaving all that potential TV money on the table.