Why The Master Bans Cell Phones And Why That Won’t Change

  • Among the things that make the Masters the quirkiest sporting event is the no-cellphone policy.
  • Former President Billy Payne explained the position and vowed never to change it.
  • His replacement said the rule is unlikely to change, saying: “I think we got it right.”

Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, is famous for its strict and seemingly archaic rules, and former Masters president Billy Payne has explained why one of their most notorious rules has never changed.

At Payne’s introductory press conference ahead of the 2017 Masters, he was asked about the future of their strict no cellphone rule and was adamant that it would never change under his watch.

“You’re going to have to ask the next president,” Payne said. “Because that won’t change as long as I’m president.”

Payne then explained the policy.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Payne said. “Noise is an irritation not just for the players, the dialing, the conversation; it’s a distraction. And that’s the way we’ve chosen to deal with it.”

Augusta National provides payphones for customers if they need to contact the outside world.

Master patrons using payphones.

Master customers must use payphones provided by Augusta National.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

That Payne is so concerned with eliminating noise not directly associated with the sport of golf should come as no surprise. The board has always been obsessed with tournament presentation, including their famous azaleas, white caddie sweaters, no running among patrons (and don’t call them spectators or fans!), and even the minimum number of advertisements allowed during the television broadcast.

Payne retired as chairman after the 2017 Masters. New chairman Fred Ridley addressed the issue ahead of the 2019 tournament and said the rule is unlikely to ever change, noting that most patrons like the ban.

“I think our customers appreciate our cell phone policy,” Ridley said. “I know we’ve now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf, too, when it comes to allowing cellphones.”

Like Payne before him, Ridley acknowledged that a future president might think differently, but suggested he wouldn’t bet on it.

“I don’t think that’s a policy anyone should expect to change in the near future, if ever,” Ridley said. “I can’t speak for future presidents, but as far as I’m concerned, I think we got it right.”


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