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. Alicia

    It's a snap to get in to most any "privileged" clubs when you belong to the NWO.....even a woman.
    Congrats Ms Condo-sleeza.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mikem

    And this is a headline because ...? Women feel discriminated because they are not allowed to chase a ball around a very expensive manicured lawn? Aren't there more important issues?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldpatriot

      Because its an election year and the GOP needs to bolster its republican women image in the wholy owned news media.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eggy66

    "Fortunate Magazine"?? Freudian slip? Hilarious!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SDG66

    Wow – one of our most distinguished Americans (who happens to be a woman) has finally achieved token status in Georgia in the 21st century. I'll bet lots of good ol' white boys who are club members gotta resign now and find another club that ain't lost its ante-bellum mind.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike


    August 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      succinct and accurate !

      August 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Wisconsin

    An attempt before election day for GOPers to try to make up for their lack of womens rights .....TOO LATE!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff

    One of the first women admitted: "Well, I sure feel comfortable being around you guys who, up until today, would refuse me here just because of my gender!"

    August 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. south4evr

    Way to go Augusta National!! You get double Political Correctness points for this!! Condy: A woman and Black to boot!! Who's next, Michelle Obama?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. noh8comment8

    I wouldn't even want to belong to a club that excluded females for so long. They are not worth my time or energy.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Richard

    The top stories of the day regarding American society are abortion and golf. Maybe everyone will skip the boring election where they aren't talking at all about the issues and watch something more entertaining and fulfilling like the Super Bowl?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Richard

    If I were a member of the "club", I'd be terribly ashamed. Her membership signals if you're a famous or important female, you're now considered along side of every-day male golfers who have joined. Applicants should all be considered on their own merit and abilities, regardless of body plumbing.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Michael

    Ms. Rice was should be recognised as a war crminal along side Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mommers

    I'm all for women's rights but this is silly. It's okay to have men's clubs, and women's club. Don't like it? Start your own club.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. I am Not for 1.7 million illegals

    Its about time Augusta National let's women in! Well their you have it your first black woman futures President of the United State... Ms.Condoleezza Rice. She already have my vote....

    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. nik green

    Shame that they selected a WAR CRIMINAL and a serial LIAR over the 10s of millions of far better qualified women (ie virtually anyone other than Rice) for membership. What a bunch....

    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
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