I am at best a casual fan of Golf and Golfer. I know the big names, and that is about it. I follow the results of two of the four Modern Majors. I tend to forget about the British Open and the PGA because I’m American and I’m busy. However I always watch the Masters. So when my older sister offered the chance to go and watch the Masters in person I couldn’t pass it up. The experience was sublime.
There are things you will hear people talk about with Augusta. Mostly about it’s beauty and it’s azaleas in bloom. They will talk about how well manicured it is, and it’s all true. If the Garden of Eden were still on earth, I imagine it would look a lot like those 60 acres in Georgia with the addition of a few more fruit trees.
What is harder to describe are the sweeping views that are offered at many points on the course, and how open the course is as a whole. There are many spots from which the course lays open to you and you can see much of the action. It’s a course upon which a great tournament was designed to be watched.
Additionally, what is particularly difficult to put into words is how demanding the course is with your approach shots. You must be accurate or disaster awaits. If you didn’t put it in the right place par is a great score and a bogey is almost certainly realistic. That these players can shoot so low is a testament to their extreme skill.
While any of the most avid fans of the Masters certainly know the holes that befuddle the best in the world, the truth is that almost any hole offers the chance for you to blow it by simply being on the wrong side of the hole with your shot into the green. You have to know the right distance, the particular spot on the green that your ball will land, and where it will roll to in order to get close to the pin. Then you have to execute it.
It was amazing to watch these guys do it time and time again. It was amazing to see them miss it badly too, and then somehow, beyond belief, recover and do something amazing. When watching from home it is easy to get the impression that they are simply lucky, but a day at the masters, watching group after group play their approaches into number two, made me realize that these guys are absolutely awesome at hitting it perfectly. Or hitting it perfectly on the next shot to save the hole.
If you get a chance to go there are 3 things you absolutely must do:
Stay as Late as You Can
First make sure you stay until the last group plays their final hole. Then walk from 18 to the South Gate. This was probably my favorite part of the whole experience. There was no one on the course but my brother and I. We got to see the greens up close, and take our time near the tee boxes. On top of that the scene in the sky matched the beauty of the course. The clouds were turning their hues of pink and orange as the sun slipped below the western trees. It was a lovely sight to behold.
Get There Early
Second, get there early to take part in the greatest group of speed walkers you will ever see trying to secure their spots around their favorite green or tee box. Since you are allowed to bring armless folding chairs into the tournament, and you can leave them there without fear of anyone daring to move them, it sets up a race for the best seats at the tournament. The catch is they kick you out if you run. So everyone has to do their best impression of an olympic speed walker.
They allow you on to the course around 7:30 but people start arriving around 5:30, I’m told, to get their place in line for the speed walking contest. You go through security around 7 AM. Then try to beat as many people as you can to just outside the course where they then hold you for another 30 minutes or so. Then you’re off as fast as your stubby little legs can carry you to try to place down your chairs in your coveted spots.
It’s great fun trying to out walk all these people, but the bigger thing is, once you have your chairs down, you get to walk the course with no one on it. You can grab a chicken biscuit, with a coffee, at the concession stand, and walk up to a crook of chairs at 14 tee to get as close as you will ever get to 13 green. You can walk Amen Corner, and see the sweep of 13 fairway without having to fight someone for the view. You can see the dreaded number 12 green from the players point of view, and maybe finally understand why it gives them so much trouble. You get to be on one of the most beautiful stretches of grass, looking at the views the competitors will soon have in the silence of the morning; knowing that soon this place will soon be filled with excited roars of the patrons as the beauty of the course is matched by beauty of the golf being played.
After you have done all that you have your chairs to come back to at any point, hopefully set-up so you can watch the action up close, and watch your favorite golfers play through. Even your not so favorite golfers. One thing that is different about golf from other sports is that it really is the golfer versus the course and not each other. So in that way the patrons really do pull for every golfer. It doesn’t really matter if you like them or not. Seeing someone you don’t even know sink a shot of a sand trap will get you screaming at the top of your lungs, while you jump and pump your fist in the air.
Last, everyone talks about the pimento cheese sandwiches for $1.50. They are great. Eat a few of them, but please do yourself a favor and eat a egg salad sandwich too! And you have to try the Peach Ice Cream cookie sandwich. Incredible! Oh yea, don’t forget to watch the golf. It’s all incredible.