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Augusta National Makes Its Priciest Land Buy Ever

Augusta National Golf Club, Bobby Jones
The 10th hole at Augusta National Golf Club

The home of the green sports jacket and golf's greatest tournament is continuing its real estate expansion efforts with its largest single purchase yet.

The Augusta National Golf Club acquired The Fresh Market-anchored National Hills shopping center from Canadian real estate firm Slate Asset Management for $26M, Golfweek reported. The purchase of the 169K SF retail center comes a month after Augusta National purchased five former residential tracts in the neighboring Jamestown neighborhood for more than $2M, the magazine reported.

The original owner had planned to develop a resort-style neighborhood, which never got built.

This is the famed golf club's latest acquisition of bordering properties spanning 20 years, during which the club has amassed more than 200 acres using a string of shell companies and limited liability companies, the Wall Street Journal previously reported. Last year, officials with the club purchased two strip centers, anchored by a Hooters and a Publix Super Market, for $41M, as well as a Presbyterian church, which ended up building a new facility nearby, for $1.65M. Those efforts have increased Augusta National's land holdings by more than 75%.

The reasons for the acquisitions have never been fully explained by club officials. While some of the land buys have been used to increase parking, they also have gone toward attempting to deter a carnival-like atmosphere outside the club walls, the WSJ reported. Commercial activity outside the grounds and outside its control was becoming inconsistent with the look and feel of The Masters, with many private parties brought within the grounds instead.

The Masters tournament has become big business in recent years, with badges that give direct access to the tournament going for well over $300 each, and going even higher in secondary-market sales.

Augusta National is now developing an underpass beneath Washington Road for deliveries to the club, Golf.com reported. Then Club Chairman Billy Payne said in 2016 that Augusta plans years ahead when it comes to real estate decisions.

"Corporately, we plan 20 years down the road," he said at a press conference. "We have plans for every couple years' iteration going all the way out to 20 years. That, of course, is subject to dramatic change depending on who the chairman is at the time. So whether or not my 20‑year plan would be embraced by the person that follows me is, you know, subject to debate perhaps. But we plan very far into the future."

Payne was succeeded as chairman of the golf club and the Masters Tournament by Fred Ridley in 2017.