Augusta National Has Quietly Made a $200 Million Land Grab

The home of the Masters has expanded its territory by more than 75%, paying massive sums for surrounding properties

More than half a century after it opened, the Lakemont Presbyterian Church last year was eyeing a move. But all it had to sell was an outdated building on 1.7 acres bordering a sea of empty lots.

Needing cash for a new facility, the church appealed to a higher power: Augusta National Golf Club, the nearby host of this week’s Masters tournament. Within months, they had a deal. Just before Christmas, the club bought the church for $1.65 million.

.. Last year alone, a corporate entity connected with the club spent a combined $41 million on a pair of adjacent strip malls whose tenants include a Hooters restaurant and a Publix supermarket. In February, the club filed plans with the city to dig a large tunnel under the area’s main commercial thoroughfare, Washington Road, that will connect its primary land with other lots it has acquired.

.. The extent of the land grab, which vastly exceeds any previously reported estimate, has been obscured by the club’s use of limited liability companies. Rather than buying land in its name, the club has instead done so using more than a dozen LLCs, which have no other known purpose.

Though their names—such as BC Acquisition Co. and WSQ—are not overtly related, all have used Augusta National as their registered address. Some have listed the club’s general manager, Will Jones, as their registered agent. Several people who have sold to the club said it represented itself as Augusta National throughout negotiations, using the LLCs only on paperwork for the sales.

.. With no claim to eminent domain, Augusta National has expanded its territory by more than 75% using its foremost instrument of power: mountains of cash. In a city where, according to Zillow, the median listed home price is around $125,000, the club often pays several multiples of the assessed property value. That, combined with the millions of dollars the club has donated to area charities, has helped keep community opposition to a minimum.

“They’ve made quite a few homeowners millionaires,” said Venus Griffin, a prominent Augusta realtor.