Former Masters chairman explained why the tournament bans cell phones, and his replacement says it won't change

Harry How/Getty ImagesFormer Augusta National
  • Among the many things that make the Masters the quirkiest event in sports is the strict no-cell-phone policy during the tournament.
  • Former Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne explained the position and vowed never to change it under his watch.
  • Now that Payne is retired, his replacement said that the rule is unlikely ever to change, saying “I think we got that right.”
  • Read all of Business Insider’s Masters coverage here.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

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

Read more: The Masters has strict rules not seen anywhere else in sports. Here are the things that can get you thrown out or even arrested.

During Payne’s introductory press conference before the 2017 Masters, he was asked about the future of their strict no-cell-phone rule and was adamant that it would never change on his watch.

“You’re going to have to ask the next chairman,” Payne said. “Because that’s not going to change while I’m chairman.”

Payne then explained the policy.

“I just don’t think it is appropriate,” Payne said. “The noise is an irritation to, not only the players, the dialling, the conversation; it’s a distraction. And that’s the way we have chosen to deal with it.”

Masters patrons at Augusta NationalAugusta National/Getty ImagesMasters patrons have to remember to leave their cell phones at home.

That Payne would be so concerned with eliminating noise not directly associated with the sport of golf should not come as a surprise. The governing board has always been obsessed with the presentation of the tournament, including their famous azaleas, the white jumpers for the caddies, the prohibition of running among patrons (and don’t call them spectators or fans!), and even the minimal number of commercials that are allowed during the television broadcast.

Payne retired as chairman after the 2017 Masters. New chairman Fred Ridley addressed the issue before this year’s tournament and said the rule is unlikely ever to change, noting that most patrons like the rule.

“I think our patrons appreciate our cell phone policy,” Ridley said. “I know that we have now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf, as well, at allowing cell phones.”

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

“I don’t believe that’s a policy that anyone should expect is going to change in the near future, if ever,” Ridley said. “I can’t speak for future chairmen, but speaking for myself, I think we got that right.”

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