August 20th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Augusta National Golf Club admits first female members

Augusta National Golf Club has admitted its first female members, the private club announced Monday.

The decision to admit former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore of Lake City, South Carolina, ends a longstanding policy excluding women as members of the exclusive Georgia club, which hosts the Masters.

Augusta's membership, which includes titans of industry and finance, has been male-only since its opening in 1932. The policy, which had become a lightning rod issue, had been upheld as recent as  April when Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the issue was a private matter.

Monday's announcement comes as a stark about-face in the club's policy.

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said in a statement. "We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different."

Rice served under President George W. Bush as the first female national security adviser and the first African-American woman to hold the post of secretary of state. She also served on President George H.W. Bush's National Security Council staff and was a special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986.

"I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf," Rice said in a statement. "I also have an immense respect for the Masters tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world."

Moore is the vice president of Rainwater Inc., the investment firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Fortune magazine once named her among the top 50 women in business, and the University of South Carolina's business school is named in her honor.

"I am honored to have accepted an invitation to join Augusta National Golf Club. Augusta National has always captured my imagination, and is one of the most magically beautiful places anywhere in the world, as everyone gets to see during the Masters each April," Moore said in a statement. "I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life. Above all, Augusta National and the Masters  Tournament have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me. I am extremely grateful for this privilege."

Payne noted the significance of admitting the first women to the club.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the Club opens this fall," he said. "This is a significant and positive time in our Club’s history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family."

Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, tweeted his congratulations to Rice.


Reaction from the public has been swift online following the announcement, with some people complimenting the club and others remarking about how long it had taken them to reach this milestone.


One person took an irreverent look at the news, comparing it with the Olympics, which saw two women, modestly dressed and veiled, walked proudly alongside the flag of their nation, Saudi Arabia, into London's Olympic stadium at the Games' spectacular opening ceremony.


The longstanding issue was again in the spotlight this past April because of IBM's sponsorship of the Masters. The tournament guarantees club membership for its officers, but IBM's top executive was a woman. At the time, Payne defended the policy as a private matter.

"Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have historically been subject to the private deliberation of members," Payne said at the time. "That statement remains accurate; it remains my statement."

Bubba Watson, the 33-year-old southpaw who defeated Louis Oosthuizen to capture the famed green jacket at this year's Masters, teed off on the topic during an interview with Piers Morgan earlier this year.

"This day and age, I think that, I don't see any reason why (admitting women) could hurt," Watson said.

Most Augusta patrons seem untroubled by male-only membership policy 

Women's rights activist Martha Burk tried to change the exclusionary policy nine years ago when she showed up at the Augusta entrance to lead a series of protests against men-only membership. Her efforts were in vain.

When Burk tried to change things in 2002, Augusta's then-chairman, Hootie Johnson, resisted, saying that gender integration would not come "at the point of a bayonet."

In 2006, Burk was among a group of Exxon shareholders who accused the company of violating its discrimination policies by supporting the tournament.

The announcement on Monday sent social media into a frenzy, with Augusta National dominating the conversation. Here's a look at some of the reaction:







More on Augusta:

Augusta National a powerful holdout among men-only clubs Augusta National needs women for good of the game

Romney: Women should be allowed to join Augusta 

White House: Augusta National should admit women 

Let women into Augusta golf club 

Former Augusta member: Club 'pigheaded' 

soundoff (502 Responses)
  1. John

    Really....Who cares if those that think that they are high and mighty get to join a special golf club....This isn't worthy of the news. This is Tabloid journalism!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Apparently it was worthy news when they were being protested for being men-only. So, it should be worthy news when they change.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cindy

    Weak, Weak, Weak!! Spineless and Gutless. How hard could it really have been to just hold firm and say no to Women. It is reason enough in itself that it has always been tradition to keep it a Men's club, and no explanation was ever necessary to justify it's existence to remain a Men's club. If the women didn't like it, what were they really going to do about it? It is not as if the women ever had any leverage to work with, at all. Are there not plenty enough golf courses for Women to go to? They must soil them all? Tradition does not always have to be compromised in the sorry name of PC.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wdking

    Let's reward Condoleezza Rice for such a great job as National Security Advisor, who failed at her job protecting the US from terrorist attack.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dood

    Well, Condi does have masculine features so is it really that much of a stretch?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DC

    So, now Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are going to have to join each others clubs, men will pee sitting down, women will start guzzling beer and farting, men will be trying to get into Curves to "workout", cats and dogs will be living together....complete and total anarchy will rule the world! I can't wait for the first Mr./Ms. America Pageant to air soon!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jamest297

    If you knnow anything about Augusta National Golf Club, you are totally and completely blown away that the first two women members of this Democrat haven are Republican and one of them is a knee grow. This is unbelievable earth shaking news and I am sure Bobby Jones does not know about it yet or he would TOTALY veto it!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hg

    great move for the GOP !!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WachetAuf

    Congratulations to these two women and the members of the club who voted them in. Do we know what the vote was? Was it unanimous? Who voted against it?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JD

    But they are repubs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CNNuthin

    Another W Bush Generation Power Abuser Proving that they can still do whatever they want, even if they are not welcome there. I give it 3 years until Rice takes over the entire Gold Club and forces all current heads to resign, and causing most members to go elsewhere.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      The club issued the invitation... not the other way around.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Flea

    Boooo. Stand up for what you believe in, or fold. No spine Augusta, no spine.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NorCalMojo

    The more I see of Hillary's foreign policy, the more I miss Condi.

    ....and she didn't even have to be a doormat or ride the coattails of her hubby to do it.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rosa

    Miss Rice is an excellent role model, classy, smart, well brought up, with excellent parents,plays the piano, soft with and iron hand when it came to defend US interests.
    The Club is getting a jewel.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. synk

    I give it a week before we hear the first lawsuit being thrown at ANGC for alleged gender bias.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kU

    Martha its not a win for you, it is for the GOP !

    August 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
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