Note this is a repost of my impressions from our one trip to the Masters, but thought it appropriate for today – the final day of the Masters tournament.
Walking through the gates of Augusta National Golf Club, and by the way your badge is scanned, one first sees the practice area and range on the left. Perfectly green mowed grass and the really white sand in the practice bunkers. Having attended both US Opens and PGA Championships as I walked on to Augusta I was struck by the palpable difference between those major championships and The Masters. For starters you are struck by the absence of any corporate, or any other kind for that matter, tents. All you see is golf course and the buildings necessary to host an event of this magnitude, and those are painted a dark green to make them as unobtrusive as possible, the clubhouse and a few other tasteful white buildings.
At other major championships, or regular tour events for that matter, the photographers are inside the ropes and particularly as the leaders or high profile players reach a point they swarm around the green and make it nearly impossible for the fans waiting there to see anything. Not at the Masters – the photographers are outside the ropes. The only ones inside the ropes are the players, caddies, a few rules officials and sometimes a TV cameraman out in the fairway. Another difference, and in this case something I missed, there are no sign bearers with each group detailing that group’s players standing vs. par.
Those of you that have been to any Disney facility know that they are noted for their regimented line standing. Well, I know where they got the idea, it was at the Masters! One might argue the other way around but the Masters has been around longer than Disney. Standing in line is necessary for most everything, the concession stands, the restrooms, the merchandise building and it is regimented. In many cases there will be someone standing with a sign letting you know how much time is left from that point. In the men’s restrooms, I did not do any research in the women’s, there are people directing traffic along and as you reach the top of the line. Also, and this is a mind blower, after each use of one of the regular toilettes someone actually cleans and disinfects the seat!
Television cannot convey the majesty, scale or conditioning of the Augusta Golf Course. On television one does not get any sense for the elevation changes on the course and they are substantial. I walked up the hill to the ninth green a couple of times and had no wonder why Craig Stadler and some others took it slowly. Similarly, there is a large, hundreds of yards across, open area in the middle of the course. Of course, that area is as perfectly maintained as the rest of the grounds. As one looks at the fairways it appears as if no one has ever played golf there, it is that perfect. Augusta is known for its lack of rough and for all practical purposes there is none – what would be called rough is about one-half inch longer than the tight fairways.
Food at Augusta is cheap! The famed Pimento Cheese sandwich, I had one – it is a must – is $1.50. Sodas are $1.50, beer is $3.00, $4.00 if you want imported, a chicken wrap is $3.00 and snacks are $1.00. The items in the merchandise building tend to make up for it but after all it is the Masters at Augusta!
Enough about the plumbing. How about the experience? I think that CBS uses a line something like “The Masters a place like no other” and that is an apt description. And they intend to keep it that way. CBS is I think it’s 40th something one year contract to televise the tournament – no multi-year contracts here – its our way or the highway. We can all remember Gary McCord. It has been said that Augusta marches to it’s own drummer and that is what makes this place and event so special. No big electronic scoreboards here – they do it the old fashioned way with people on tall ladders and plastic numbers that change constantly. It is difficult in words to explain how special this place is and how one feels that while on the grounds but hopefully I have provided at least a glimpse.
The outside world however is a mess. The course is in the middle of Augusta and the traffic is terrible. We were staying less than a mile from the entrance but as we left the course the only way the police would let us go sent us on a journey that was something over ten miles – that’s right over ten miles to accomplish a less than one mile trip. And you are going to walk. Parking as one might expect is hard to find and not generally close to your destination. For those of you from Minnesota who have attended the State Fair will be familiar with people renting out their front yards for parking. If you are planning to attend the Masters and have not done so be advised to secure lodging NOW and expect to pay through the nose no matter what level of accommodations you can find. We talked with people who were staying in Columbia South Carolina – over 73 miles away and that was the best they could do.
As we watch Professional Golf Tournaments on television we hear the announcers talk about slow play but until you actually see it in action it can be hard to comprehend. With TV we are almost always watching action as they move between holes. However, when you are on one hole watching the players come through – we were set-up at the ninth green and am here to tell you these guys are SLOW! Try two and one-half hours to two hours forty minutes to cover the front nine. I guess four hours for 18 holes is not so bad.
Would I go again? In a heartbeat. Even with the traffic snarls, overpriced accommodations and other hassles the Masters is truly a place like no other.