I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in golf for a long time, worked with people, organizations and courses that most golf fans know. With all of my years being in golf, without fail, the question I always get when I meet a fellow golf enthusiast is: “Have you been to Augusta?”
To play? Not yet, though I know a few employees and members. (So seriously, what’s up with that?) But, to The Masters (or the “tooh-nah-ment” as some of the locals call it)? Yes, I have been over a dozen times. And to answer the next question:
No, it never gets old, and I’m not sure how I get so lucky to keep getting invitations, but I just do. And I’m not apologizing for it.
I do understand that despite my ridiculous streak of luck, going to The Masters is a lifetime dream for many. For my fellow Golf GameBook friends, who are hoping to attend one day, I’d love to set the scene and tell you what to expect, and how I think you should best enjoy your time.
Here are four ways and tips for your Masters trip, even if you’ve been a few times before
Practice Round days are the best
I generally like to go on Practice Round days. The atmosphere is obviously more relaxed. Players smile more, often interacting with the patrons while on the tee or moving between holes. And you can take a camera (no cell phones though!) And getting a photo at Founders Circle or at Amen Corner. That’s a lifetime of memories right there, isn’t it? The Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday is so much fun. Seeing players and their wives, kids or celebrity friends caddie for them is always good for smiles and laughs. But here’s a little secret. If you go on Wednesday, and DON’T go to the Par 3 Tournament, you have the course basically to yourself. You can get some amazing photos and memories walking around a more serene Augusta National.
The concessions won’t empty your wallet
The food is inexpensive, really good and the lines move fast. But be prepared to return to various concession stands quite a bit. The hot Georgia sun takes a toll, and you are going to want a few of the most coveted souvenir there is, the iconic Masters cup. I’m never going to admit to digging through the many green trash bags looking for more cups, but I will say that I probably have 50 of those cups from my various trips to Augusta. And I probably didn’t stand in line for all of them. (My wife walks very fast and far away from me any time I start talking wanting more cups.)
Soak in the sights
The course is greener than it looks on TV (is that even possible?), and the hills are so much bigger than you realize. On No. 10 the fairway from the tee box down to the green could probably be an Olympic ski venue – it is that steep (okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s really a drop). Do not plan on walking around this course more than once or so, unless you are in great shape — and have great shoes for it.
Plenty of merchandise to be had
Bring money. Of course you’re going to hit the tent. If you arrive early in the week, go on your way out. You don’t want to carry all those bags around those hills. But if you are coming later in the week, go here first. They order a lot of stuff, and they sell it out every year. The average spend in the Merchandise area is around $500 a person I’m told. I met a college kid who spent $1200 and was going to go back for more. They have Masters branded everything, and if you’re like me, you’ll want it all.
That was the high level version of making the most of your trip to Augusta, but there’s so much in detail that will compliment and even make your experience.
Here are five spots you have to visit
Duh! Maybe the most iconic spot in golf. Prettier than any picture you’ve ever seen of it too.
Hole No. 16
For practice rounds, this is where players walk up to the front of the tee box and entertain the patrons by skipping shots across the pond onto the green. During tournament days, this is where most aces seem to occur. Also the site of the famous Tiger Woods chip in 2005 – “In Your Life – Have You Seen Anything Like That!”
The Big Oak Tree
This is near the clubhouse and where media, players and other VIPs gather for interviews, to say hello and to generally be seen. If you want to see celebrities and such, this is a good spot to be.
Founders Circle / Magnolia Lane
Another iconic spot. Don’t step on the flowers, but you can line up and get a photo holding the flag in the flower bed shaped like the United States. This is the spot people see when they drive up Magnolia Lane. Obviously, if you turn around after your photo at Founders Circle, you can get a picture with Magnolia Lane behind you.
Ok, this is bratty of me to include because this is the toughest ticket in sports. Period. Rumored to go for about $8000, it’s basically an all-inclusive resort within Augusta National. I lucked into a ticket, and it spoiled me forever. How do you top this place? You can order all you can eat entrees at three restaurants, buy exclusive merchandise and even putt on replica greens of holes 7, 14 and 16. I spent a few minutes talking to Lynn Swann (former NFL player with the Pittsburgh Steelers) here. A friend selected his putter from Condoleeza Rice. This is the heaven within heaven. If I’m ever having a bad day, I look at the Berckman’s Place ticket on my wall, and I think:
Yeah, I’ve got it pretty good.
Obviously, I could write a book, and hundreds have, on The Masters. But if you were lucky enough to get a ticket, and asked me to help make a game plan, these would be my thoughts. I hope you get that chance and make some lifetime golf memories. There’s not a better spot for it on earth.
@johnkim on Twitter
john.s.kim on Golf GameBook
John Kim is an avid golfer and Golf GameBook Ambassador. He started playing golf at 18 and is currently Senior Director of Communications and Media for U.S. Kids Golf. He once shot 36 on the front nine at Pebble Beach while playing with their head pro – only to shoot 46 on the back. Worst way to lose a lunch bet. John shares most of his current golf shenanigans on Twitter.