Golf

At the Masters, the gnomes have taken over

Pinehurst #10 opened this week. Want to play it?
The full-sized Masters gnome goes for $49.50 — but resells for far more.
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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Zero days in, the gnomes are winning the Masters.
They’re cute, these gnomes. Each one comes wearing a white beard and a white bucket hat and a navy cardigan and some plaid pants and a neat little golf bag slung over his shoulder. And everybody wants one.
At the Masters merchandise center a full-sized gnome will run you $49.50, while a small gnome clocks in just under $30. That’s the same price as last year — gnomeflation hasn’t yet arrived at Augusta. But demand for these little fellas continued to skyrocket, which means acquiring a gnome requires a plan and an early start.
Each day the merch center replenishes its stock of gnomes. Each day they sell out immediately. Doors open at 7 a.m. and gnome-hunters pour through the entrance, eager to take advantage of the first-come, first-serve policy. To Augusta’s credit, they limit the gnomes to one per customer. But no matter — within an hour or so they’re reportedly gone.
You can tell the gnomers who are in it for the money. They arrive early and on a mission; the real pros were likely here this weekend for the Augusta National Women’s Am, eager to offer their stock to the world before Masters Week had even begun. A full-sized gnome can fetch north of $300 on eBay or other online retailers, and if you save ’em that price could rise — gnomes in mint condition that date back to 2016 (the year they were introduced) go for thousands.
You can tell the gnome newbies, too. While there are options to ship your haul or store it for a later pickup, wander the course and you’ll see patrons swinging bags weighed down with a t-shirt, say, and a quarter-zip, and two hats, plus the distinctive striped rectangular box that holds a gnome. It gets bulky after a while, gnome-owners say. Possession can be a burden.
But it’s still a well-earned prize, and on Wednesday proud gnomers could be seen at all corners of the property. Two employees had shown up early to work just to get a chance in the shop. A media member had snuck past the guards — unaware, he said, that he wasn’t allowed in until 8 a.m. — and snagged one of his own. A woman who was huffing and puffing her way ’round Amen Corner, one gnome in each hand, said she’d begged a friend to buy her second.
The Masters knows what they have in the gnome; they made a nod to his arrival in an Instagram post some weeks ago. That was good content. It also drove up demand. What’s better to build interest than an arrival video viewed by millions?
A post shared by The Masters (@themasters)
What do the Masters gnomes say about the Masters? They’re a reminder that for all the talk of no-cell-phone minimalism and the game as it should be, this is a massive, mega consumer event. The busiest place on property is this merchandise center. The merch center is so busy that the line for the bathroom next to the merch center requires a lengthy wait, too.
Scarcity drives demand anywhere and that applies triply here. It’s one thing to win the Masters lottery, to set foot on these hallowed grounds and to commemorate that trip with gear you can only purchase in person. But acquiring a gnome sets you apart. There are levels to exclusivity and VIP status at Augusta — Clubhouse access? Berckman’s access? Map and Flag access? — but none of those guarantee you’re taking home a bearded little fella.
Augusta National doesn’t release data on much of anything, so it’s no surprise that they’re tight-lipped on merchandise revenue. The line snaking outside the shop is a constant reminder that, gnomes or not, there’s plenty of desire to get in and get spending. But the gnomes pull that demand earlier in the day. They up the urgency of the consumer. If the gnomes could go at any minute, surely everything else could too. Load up!
On Tuesday and Wednesday I saw multiple player’s wives proudly wielding gnomes. Others stay intentionally outside the rat race.
“We’re not a gnome family,” one player said dismissively.
Most families aren’t. Most media members aren’t, either.
But we can dream.

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.
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