Nick Bonfield asks how to qualify for the Masters. With such a small field each year, just making it down Magnolia Lane is a huge achievement

The Masters is golf’s most exclusive major championship, and possesses the smallest field of any of golf’s big four events.

Only three times at the Masters has the field been in excess of 100 players, with the largest coming in 1962. On that occasion, 109 players took part.

The small field means that many highly acomplished golfers throughout the ages have never actually made it through the front gates and down Magnolia Lane. Of course, this only adds to the sense of occasion.

So, how do you earn a place at the Masters? If you fulfil the following criteria, you will be invited:

– Former winners of The Masters

– Winners of the last five U.S. Opens

– Winners of the last five British Opens

– Winners of the last five PGA Championships

– Winners of the last three Players Championships

– Winner and runner-up from the last U.S. Amateur Championship

– Winner of the last British Amateur Championship

– Winner of the last Asian Amateur Championship

– Winner of the last U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship

– Winner of the last U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship

– The top 16 finishers (including ties) from last year’s Masters tournament

– The top 8 finishers (including ties), from the 2012 U.S. Open

– The top 4 finishers (including ties) from the 2012 Open

– The top four finishers (including ties) from the 2012 PGA Championship

– The top 30 finishers on the PGA Tour money list

– Winners of PGA Tour events from the 2012 Masters to this year’s Masters

– All players who qualified for the 2012 Tour Championship

– The Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2013

– The Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking published in the week prior to the 2013 Masters

As you can see, the qualification criteria is tight and the only way to ensure an invitation is to win it!

Those lucky enough to meet the above criteria receive an invitation in the post from the Matsers committee. This is yet another Masters tradition that makes this a special event for those lucky enough to be able to compete.