KAPALUA, Hawaii – The Masters is about to let anyone play Augusta National — at least in a video game.
In another step toward reaching a younger audience, the Masters will be featured in EA Sports' next edition of the popular "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" golf game franchise.
The game is go on sale March 29, a week before the Masters, and will be available on Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation consoles. It will be the first time Augusta National has allowed its fabled golf course to be used for a video game.
"This is great for the sport and will connect a new audience with the Masters, a tournament I've been fortunate to experience since 1995," said Woods, a four-time Masters champion. "Continually growing the visibility of golf is important to attracting newcomers to the sport, and I agree that showcasing the Masters Tournament in the game will bring an entirely new dimension to that approach."
The move is part of a broader effort by the club to increase interest in golf around the world, especially among youth. In his four years as club chairman, Billy Payne started a program in which juniors can attend the Masters for free with an adult who has a season badge and televised the Par 3 tournament.
Payne also announced Tuesday the "Masters Tournament Foundation," a charity arm that will allow Augusta National to invest in developmental programs around the world. Payne said all proceeds from the EA Sports game would go into the new foundation.
"Our desire to help grow the game of golf throughout the world is sincere, and it is that commitment that first led us to EA Sports more than three years ago," Payne said in a statement. "EA Sports, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour have developed an extremely successful franchise that responds to one of the popular entertainment choices of kids today. We hope our inclusion will foster an appreciation for the history and traditions of the Masters and inspire the next generation of golfers."
Payne first raised the idea of the Masters being part of video games two years ago while expanding the multimedia aspect of the tournament's website.
"Well, we are not going to be included on other people's video games," he said at the 2008 tournament.
EA Sports, however, offered a technology that was hard to ignore. It developed a laser scanning technology that could capture every detail, from the sharp changes in elevation to the bloom on azaleas and dogwoods.
Peter Moore, the EA Sports president, said he has been in contact with Augusta National for the last three years. It took 10 days to laser the course, and the entire project took the equivalent of 10 people working around the clock for a full year on nothing but Augusta National.
"To his credit," Moore said of Payne, "he sees the way a video game can actually grown knowledge in the sport. This is how you can learn about the game and get a younger audience to learn about it."
Features in the Masters edition include a chance to beat each of Woods' four scores when he won the green jacket and advice from an Augusta caddie. It also will include announcing from Jim Nantz and David Feherty of CBS Sports.
Payne has tried to broaden the appeal of the Masters during his tenure. He has expanded by one hour the weekday coverage on ESPN, and he added one hour of coverage before the telecast each day through live streaming on the website, along with live video of Amen Corner and the 15th and 16th holes.
Augusta National and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club also collaborated in creating the Asia Pacific Amateur, in which the winner is awarded an invitation to the Masters.
The Masters has donated more than $36 million to charities over the last decade. Payne was not specific about what projects would be funded by the new Masters Tournament Foundation.
Moore declined to discuss conditions of the deal with Augusta National, only that the hope is to continue with new editions.
"The focus is on whatever proceeds they're plowing into the foundation," Moore said. "It's unusual for a licensee to publicly state that."