Entering the grounds of Augusta National is a religious experience.
We’re welcoming of readers’ contributions to Aussie Golfer and we’re excited to share this piece from Scott Warren.
Scott recently attended the Masters and we can attest to the fact it’s an incredible, almost religious experience for a golf fan to finally step foot inside Augusta National.
Make it your goal to get to The Masters one day. These tips from Scott will only enhance your experience.
Words by Scott Warren
It was the 1997 Masters that started my obsession.
And it wasn’t even the scenes of a 21-year-old Tiger Woods strutting to a 12-shot victory to smash all sorts of records and cultural barriers, as much as the fact that during the final round of that historic tournament was when a Foxtel technician arrived at our house to put a satellite dish on the roof and change my sports-watching forever.
Growing up in regional NSW in the ‘90s meant the TV reception was grainy and the colours dull, but as Tiger moved through Amen Corner that Monday morning, the Foxtel bloke flicked a switch and all of a sudden Tiger’s Titleist Professional 90 was sharper, his shirt a deeper red and the golf course, THE GOLF COURSE… Augusta National jumped at me like nothing I had seen before, and I knew I had to experience it with my own eyes one day.
It took 25 years, but I finally walked through the gates of Augusta National Golf Club this April. After a quarter of a century of building it up in my head, it should have been impossible for The Masters to meet the ridiculous expectations I had created, but somehow it exceeded them.
If you’re dreaming of one day making the pilgrimage yourself, here are seven tips (one for every Georgia Pecan Cookie I ate each day…) to make the most of the experience.
Walk the back nine before the first groups reach the turn
Most of us will never play at Augusta National, so exploring the back nine before there are players on it will give you the most detailed look at the holes and a relatively quiet atmosphere to worship and reminisce.
Because (extreme weather situations aside) all play at The Masters is from the 1st tee, there are several hours each morning where the back nine is an empty museum to be explored.
You can stand just steps behind the 12th tee and size up the most famous shot in golf and hug the rope line on 13 and wonder how the pros hit high, soft shots from the downhill hook lies they encounter.
As well as that, while you’ll be hurried along by a marshal if you linger too long crossing a fairway during play before any players reach a certain hole (or after the last group has gone through in the case of the front nine) the crosswalks remain open so you can stand for a while in the middle of the fairways and get a players’ view of iconic shots like the pitch into the 15th green.
And yes, the 10th and 18th fairways are pretty steep. I bet no one’s ever told you that before! In reality, if you’ve walked up or down the 5th at New South Wales, the 12th at Bonnie Doon or any of a handful of holes at Mollymook, it’s probably not going to shock you.
The way these guys rip driver defies description
Even just one time, you need to be standing at a tee box to experience the ridiculous physics of Bryson DeChambeau or Rory McIlroy ripping a full-blooded drive, even though standing at tees is a comparatively poor way to catch the action.
The ball speeds the pros achieve off the tee make following the ball in the air pretty hard, but also the glacial pace of professional golf is laid bare when you’re sitting there for 15 minutes waiting for someone else to come along and hit a shot.
But when they do… it’s one of the most remarkable things to see in sport, and because everyone is on their best behaviour lest they be thrown out, you don’t even have to endure any “BABABOOEY” or “MASHED POTATOES!” calls from morons.
Sit behind greens to get the most bang-for-buck
Sitting behind or beside a green not only makes it easy to watch the ball through the air, but it means you can see all the approach shots, greenside recoveries and putts from one vantage point, and when each group moves on to the next hole, you’re only moments away from more action.
And those iconic Augusta roars? They’re typically the result of a stiffed approach, heroic recovery shot or 60-foot bomb.
Behind the 2nd, 9th and 10th greens were favourite spots of mine across the two days I spent at the tournament, but the absolute gold medal may be behind or left of the 7th green, from where you can see all of the play on that hole, and also drives on the 3rd and 8th and approaches to the par five 2nd.
Follow some of the amateurs or up-and-coming foreigners for a few holes
If you’re at the tournament on Thursday or Friday, there will be a host of players in the field for whom playing in The Masters is the pinnacle of their golf life, and their family and friends too.
By accident I found myself among the entourage of family and friends following both US Amateur runner-up Austin Greaser and up-and-coming South African Garrick Higgo and their pure excitement and reactions to good and bad shots were incredible to observe.
Higgo’s dad exhibited every emotion known to man as his son combined a drive into the right trees, a punch over the green, and a delicate up-and-down to save par at the 14th and then made back-to-back birdies on the next two holes.
Fairway crossings can take forever
During play, you can expect fairway crossings to be closed from when a group is in position to hit their shot that will go past the crossing until all players and caddies have walked past it. If they’re waiting for the group in front that can be a really long time (these guys are good, but they’re also slow!).
Have a look at the course map in advance and devise routes that minimise the number of crossings you need to use. In a lot of cases, walking up to the 18th and 9th greens and then making your way down the open field between them will get you where you want to go faster than a route that involves crossing three or four fairways.
From Amen Corner, there’s a direct walk up the right-hand side of the 11th hole, behind the 15th tee and then between the 10th and 18th holes that will save you ample time if you’re trying to get over near the 2nd and 7th holes.
Shop early if you’re there from overseas
The Masters’ shop is an attraction in its own right, and it’s true that there’s a facility to either check your purchases for collection later in the day or ship them home, but the checking centre fills up quickly in my experience and the shipping back to Sydney for my humble US$200 worth of merchandise was going to be US$130.
In the end, I missed 40 minutes of action to walk back to my car and leave my shopping there, which could have been avoided.
The pimento cheese sandwich is terrible
I’m sorry to those who are fans of it, but it’s true. The Georgia Pecan Cookie on the other hand…
But a very enthusiastic but polite golf clap to the Green Jackets for the prices. Sandwiches up to $3, and drinks (in commemorative thick plastic cups that you can keep as a free memento) are $1 for a softy and up to $5 for a beer. I bought myself and a friend breakfast and lunch for $24.
The Masters organising committee has apparently studied Disneyland to ensure the tournament grounds are set up to ensure patrons have the greatest day of their lives when they come to The Masters. It’s to be commended when everywhere else the on-grounds experience is tailored around getting every last cent out of your pocket.
I had two of the greatest days of my life at The Masters, and whether you follow my tips above or not, I am sure you will too.