You know when you are anticipating something so much that you over hype it and it lets you down once it becomes reality? Well, Augusta National and the Masters is the opposite and will exceed any of your expectations or the wildest dreams you may have imagined.
I have had the privilege of strolling the impeccable grounds of Augusta National, soaking up the mythical and magical atmosphere of the Masters, on four different occasions and it has never ceased to amaze me. Here are five things that make the Masters, well …. The Masters.
Your reserved seat is ready
Only at Augusta National and the Masters can you place your seat somewhere, leave it for half the day and it will still be waiting for you when you come back. That’s right, even in a prime position on Sunday. Here’s what you do. Purchase a Masters logoed green directors style chair at one of the concession stands (yes these are as great a bargain as the food and other merchandise) and then walk quickly, as there is no running on the grounds of Augusta National, find the perfect spot to set up your chair, place your name or business card in the little space provided in the back of the chair, and then go explore.
I usually place mine by the pond to the left of the 16th green first thing in the morning and then go see the players warming up on the range, watch a few tee off number one and then stroll around soaking up the action on various holes. When I return to my spot, I am greeted by my neighbouring patrons and can enjoy my very own reserved “best seat in the house”.
Anywhere else, my chair would be gone and everyone sitting around the area would have no idea where it went. Yes, only at Augusta and the Masters can you reserve your own spot, walk away and return to a packed viewing area with your empty chair waiting for you.
Pimento cheese sandwiches, beer and other necessities
I know you’ve heard about the prices of food at the Masters and how it remains so inexpensive to all the patrons. It’s true. A sandwich costing only $1.50, an ice Tea for $1.50 and a beer for $3.00 is unimaginable at a sporting event these days. But what you haven’t heard is the experience in getting the food and drinks from the vendors.
As you approach a concession area, you will be joining hundreds of other hungry patrons and think “this could take a while”, but as you keep strolling ahead, marvelling at the green Masters logoed wrappers of all the goodies, and grabbing your favourites while reaching for your fifth collectible logo plastic cup of beer, you amazingly just keep moving forward. You reach the cashier without ever waiting and you are back out to the encompassing roars of action before you realise what magic just happened.
You and hundreds of others walked in one end of the concession tent, chose what you wanted by simply grabbing your favourites, stacked and waiting for you, paid and walked out with zero waiting time. I have marvelled at this every time and it’s just another reason why the Masters is cloaked in folklore.
The roars tell the story
Wherever you happen to be on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National during the Masters, you will feel goose bumps as the noise starts as faint applause and then keeps building to a crescendo of a roar. You immediately look for one of the iconic score boards and scan for who did what magic and on what hole.
This is one of the things that make the Masters special. You can be sitting or strolling around a perfectly manicured specimen of golf wonderland with leaves rustling from the gentle breeze and birds chirping a peaceful melody, and then out of the quietness you hear it slowly building. You know that something meaningful has just happened and even though you aren’t at that spot and will have to wait to see the highlights on CBS or Golf Channel when you get back to your hotel, you were there. You felt it, you heard it, and you just experienced an iconic Masters roar echoing amongst the pines and azaleas of Augusta.
Am I in Heaven?
This is your thought after coming through the gates as you start living, breathing and experiencing the Masters first hand. You’ve seen the course on TV countless times. You know exactly where Hogan’s Bridge is on Amen Corner, you can tell your friends the exact location of the fallen Eisenhower Tree and could be a tour guide from all the times you’ve watched it from home but nothing, I mean nothing, has prepared your senses and inner soul for the energy and electricity that encompasses the fabled grounds of Augusta and the Masters.
The hills are incredible and it is true that TV does not give the undulations justice. When you see the bunker on 18 where Sandy Lyle hit his winning approach shot from, you marvel at the glaring quartz-like sand and the incredible blindness of the shot out, up and into the unknown towards the green perched well up the fairway into what feels like the heavens.
You stroll over to the tenth hole and can picture the slope in front of you being just as much a black diamond ski slope as it is a golf hole, gently bending to the left and dropping out of site. You can’t help but notice that everything is a shade of green that you have never witnessed before and beautifully accented by the whitest bunkering you have ever seen, with the fresh aroma of flowers in the air of this previous nursery turned into a golf wonderland.
The golf course is beyond perfection and you have to rub your eyes to make sure that you are actually seeing what you think you are. Even the range looks better than most golf holes you have played with its fairway-like look and small white bunkers dotted around, giving you the feel that the players are warming up on another golf hole and not a range. Also, the perfect short game area with replicas of the iconic bunkering and slick paced greens that provide a perfect glimpse of what’s to come.
Yes, the Masters looks great on TV but it’s simply a spiritual experience for all your senses in person. The hair on your body seems to stand on end from the time you walk through the gates in the morning until you leave the hallowed grounds in the evening. This is not a golf tournament; it truly is “a tradition like no other”.
Parking: this is going to take a while
The tournament is over and now you and thousands of other patrons walk out the gates reminiscing about what you have witnessed and not really wanting this fairy tale to end. Then it dawns on you, everyone is leaving at the same time! It’s going to be gridlock! Maybe we should have left earlier to beat the crowd.
Those are the thoughts going through your head at every other sporting event I have attended. Walking to your car, parked in an overpriced lot, you know you will be inching forward and stopping, going nowhere fast. The sights and sounds of frustration – honking, yelling, fists and other fingers in the air – of people just wanting to get home after a long day.
However, this is the Masters and you are about to experience something unexplainable. You walk out with a sea of people, everyone getting in their vehicles and all of a sudden you find yourself in a moving line of cars. Yes, moving! You are not breaking speed limits but you are steadily moving forward and being ushered out by the security guards waving you this way and that.
The next thing you realise is that you are on Washington Avenue heading out of town. How is this even possible? No yelling, no honking, no frustrations, except that you have to wait another year for a pimento cheese sandwich. Yes, this is one aspect I have no words for. It is unexplainable.
I hope everyone can experience Disneyland for golf
The Masters experience is truly like no other and the organizers and committee have every detail down to an art form. Nothing at the Masters can be duplicated, many will try, but once you have been you realise that this is Disneyland for golf.
For anyone who is going this year, enjoy every moment of the experience. For those who have been before, pull your souvenir Masters logoed directors chair up to your flat screen TV, have a cold beverage out of one of your many collectible plastic logoed cups and try to duplicate the pimento cheese sandwich and reminisce about the time you were there. For those that have not been, enter the lottery and make as many calls to connections as you can, and maybe you too will soon be lost in the magical world that is the Masters at Augusta National.
See you in the fairway.