Some economists and sports marketing executives, though, believe that the club’s motive for keeping prices low is not as benevolent as Southern gentility. Instead, they think that the club, whose members include titans of finance and industry, may deliberately use cheap concessions to construct a feeling of an earlier, less capitalistic era in sports — and the aura that has made the Masters brand among the most revered and valuable in sports.
John A. List, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who has attended the Masters, has said that Augusta National’s strategy amounts to wanting to “shock and awe you on the low side.”
Even after 2022’s assorted hikes, the prices are certainly still low. The most expensive item is a $6 chardonnay, and a lunch of an egg salad sandwich, a bag of potato chips (plain or barbecue) and a soft drink totals $5. Patrons, as the club refers to the fans who crowd along the fairways, have been more likely to notice a menu item that vanished — like the Georgia peach ice cream sandwich, formerly sold for $2 — because of the supply chain, than their expenditures of a few extra quarters.
“We have had some modest price increases,” Fred S. Ridley, Augusta National’s chairman, said on Wednesday, when he acknowledged that supply-chain troubles had also affected construction projects. “I think that most, if not everyone, would say there is great value in our concessions, so we are very comfortable with that.”
The finances of Augusta National, a private club, are opaque, with the club not even saying how many general admission passes it sells for up to $115 on competition days, when some estimates have pegged crowds at about 40,000. But it has shown a willingness over the years to weather the more ordinary trends of inflation. Had Augusta been keeping pace, and assuming the pimento cheese sandwich was priced appropriately in 2003, the sandwich would have been about $2.14 at around this time last year, before steeper inflation began.
Tied to inflation or not, Augusta was perhaps due for some price increases. Although the pimento cheese sandwich’s price, long memorialized in newspaper accounts of the tournament, held steady for this year, the club has not lately gone so long without nudging it higher. In 2003, when the price climbed to $1.50, the $1.25 standard had been in effect since just 1999. And when that price took hold, it was after only five years of $1 sandwiches.
But the economic environment now, Summers suggested, gave Augusta “more need, more cover and more opportunity to raise prices than any year in the last 40.”