Why Are Masters Champions Presented With a Green Jacket?

And when did the tradition of the Green Jacket begin?

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in Green Jackets after the 2006 Masters
2006 Masters winner Phil Mickelson (right) newly attired in the Green Jacket, with 2005 winner Tiger Woods. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Each year, the winner of The Masters is presented with the famous "Green Jacket." Slipping on the green jacket is the golden moment for many winners of the tournament, and the jacket is far more famous than the tournament's trophy. But how did a green jacket come to be such a big deal? What is the story behind the venerated Green Jacket?

Key Takeaways: Masters Green Jacket

  • The Masters Green Jacket, which is exactly what it sounds like, is given annually to the tournament champion. It is one of the iconic mementos of professional golf.
  • The tradition of Augusta National members wearing the Green Jacket dates to 1937, but the first time one was presented to the Masters Tournament winner was 1949.
  • The Masters winner keeps his Green Jacket for one year, then returns it to the club.
  • The winner of the previous year's Masters Tournament is responsible for slipping the Green Jacket onto the new champion.

Origins of the Masters Green Jacket

Let's face it: If you saw someone walking around in public in a shamrock green jacket, you might wonder if that person was fashion-challenged. But the Green Jacket presented to the Masters champion is one beautiful piece of outerwear.

The tradition of the Green Jacket at Augusta National Golf Club dates to 1937. That year, members of the club wore green jackets during the tournament so that fans in attendance could easily recognize them if a fan needed to ask questions.

One of the inspirations for the idea was provided by a dinner that Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones attended at Royal Liverpool. The English links club's captains were adorned in red jackets during that dinner, to stand out.

Augusta National co-founder and club chairman Clifford Roberts embraced the idea of an identifying piece of clothing for club members — something that would make it easy for non-members (and tournament attendees) to recognize an Augusta member.

According to the tournament's official website, Masters.com:

"Jackets were purchased from the Brooks Uniform Company, New York City ... Members were not initially enthusiastic about wearing the warm, green coat. Within several years, a lightweight, made-to-order Jacket was available from the Club's Golf Shop. ... The single breasted, single vent Jacket's color is 'Masters Green' and is adorned with an Augusta National Golf Club logo on the left chest pocket. The logo also appears on the brass buttons."

Presenting the Green Jacket to the Masters Winners

Soon after its public debut in 1937, the Green Jacket became the symbol of membership in the ultra-exclusive Augusta National Golf Club.

And winners of the Masters Tournament began, themselves, receiving green jackets at the 1949 Masters. The winners all become members of the Champions Club at Augusta. From 1937 through 1948, only Augusta National members wore the green jackets; from 1949 onward, the tournament winner also got one.

By the way, in those early years it was just as common to hear Masters players and Augusta members refer to the garment as the "green blazer" or "green coat," as it was for them to use "green jacket."

Who Was the First Masters Champ Presented with the Green Jacket?

You already know the jacket was first presented to the Masters winner following the 1949 tournament. And the winner that year was Sam Snead. At that time, the club also had jackets made for each of the previous winners of the Masters. 

Does the Masters Winner Get to Keep the Jacket?

The short answer: The Green Jacket stays with the new winner for one year. When they return to Augusta National the following year for the next Masters, they return the jacket. But each winner can have his own version of the jacket made to keep at home. For more, see:

  • Do Masters champions get to keep the Green Jacket?

Last Year's Champ Puts the Green Jacket on the New Winner

Following the completion of each Masters Tournament, the Green Jacket ceremony is held, where the new champion is presented with the green jacket. That jacket is one that tournament officials have retrieved from the locker room, guesstimating what will fit best the new winner. Later, the champ is measured and a jacket custom made for him.

As for who puts the jacket on the new winner at the post-tournament ceremony: The previous year's champ slips the Green Jacket onto the new winner.

Ah, but what if a golfer wins back-to-back Masters? He can't present himself with the jacket the second time around. In that case, the Augusta National Golf Club chairman has the duty of slipping the jacket onto the winner.