An insight into Augusta
Walking through the magical gates of Augusta for the first time is a little like being a 6 year old kid waking up on Christmas Day. You cannot believe its actually happening and you smile and giggle as you imagine what is about to be revealed.
The Augusta turf is so lush and green that it actually looks fake. In fact walking onto the right of the 1st fairway which is the first time you get a glimpse of the course I actually thought it was a bit odd that they had laid synthetic turf through this area, but just assumed that it was due to the high traffic. Take a closer look and scratch your shoes on the grass you quickly realise that this is not fake, but the best looking grass you have ever seen. Try and find a weed at Augusta? You have no chance. Seriously – there is not one.
The great thing about Augusta is there are two parts. The back nine which we all know intimately and the front nine which is far less known. In fact ask most people about the front 9 and they may recall the drive on 1, the 8th and 9th as that is about all we see. The rest of the front is possibly not as spectacular and beautiful but they are still awesome holes with green complexes that will blow your mind.
Feeling hungry or thirsty then you’re in luck. Keep your hands free though as its very likely the welcoming staff at the entry will want to high five you or give you knuckles as you arrive. The Masters is known for their very affordable “concessions”. Why is it called concessions? Maybe because its so heavily discounted that its like you are still in the 60’s. Take for example the Pimento Cheese Sandwich that I couldn’t wait to try. Just $1.50. Its not the prettiest looking thing you will ever see. Its simple, fresh and bloody tasty which is pretty much the standard they live to.
Want a beer? they are a bit more expensive ranging from $4 - $5 but the good news is that you get a collectable cup with the beer that is not quite Tupperware quality but not far off. You see the young blokes through the day that are obviously enjoying themselves with a stack as long as their arm and there are even people looking through the trash for the cups at the end of the day. What a great way to reduce waste, make the cups collectable..
We managed to see the Par 3 competition on Wednesday which was phenomenal. The highlight somewhere between Tony Finau’s hole in one followed by a dislocated ankle and then popping it back in, and Jack Nicklaus’ caddy who holed out late in the day on the 9th for a one. The roar that the Augusta crowd creates is something that is completely unique to anything I have heard. Maybe it’s the way the roar is contained with the Pines but it’s one of the coolest noises you will ever hear.
Another interesting moment occurred for us on the Thursday as we sat behind the 12th tee. We got in early and had our chairs in great position looking at the 12th tee and 11th green only 3 rows back from ropeline. We heard from a couple of neighbours that someone may have moved some chairs. Not a big deal I thought but at Augusta that is not on. So a secret service looking dude starting an investigation. With his earpiece in and reflective aviator sunnies he looked the part. He sat down next to one guy who had his son with him and asked him if he would come up to the back of the section so they could have a little talk. Rather than follow him he asked him to wait a minute so as not to draw attention to the situation.
So he did what he was told and they had the chat. Eventually the man returned to his seat. The secret service dude eventually returned to talk to some other people in the area as part of his investigation. At one stage he pointed to the tops of some pine trees, some 25m up in the air and we heard “we have eyes in the sky”. At the top of the trees there must have been 5-6 CCTV cameras watching everything. Incredible we thought! So after working out the issue, he approached the man sitting with his son who had plonked their chairs down in the middle of a full area and caused the problem for everyone else. Mr Secret Service was overhead saying “now I’m gonna get up now and leave. In about 4 or 5 minutes you are also gonna get up, and you are gonna find somewhere else to sit. Thank you Sir, Appreciate it”. With a tap on the back he left. And a few minutes later the father and son left as they were told and the issue was sorted. It was a great illustration of how Augusta handles issues, and all with a smile.
So while you are at The Masters you have to go to the Golf Shop which is the Merchandising area. This is a permanent, air-conditioned building that is designed for the week. Apparently the one we saw was just opened after being constructed in 255 days since the 2017 Masters. It has 67 cash registers with 2 staff at each one. You would think it would be easy in and easy out? But no. Its probably the size of a Woolworths Supermarket and I heard guesses of the weekly turnover ranging from $70 Million - $100 Million USD. When you consider a Woolworths is probably turning over $1-1.5M per week this gives you some idea of the volume they put through.
What do they sell. Well not everything but heaps of stuff you would not have guessed. In fact my miniature schnauzer is now wearing a bloody awesome looking Masters collar. Not for his benefit but for everyone looking at him. Everything they sell is a great quality and whilst not that cheap, certainly not excessive. You will blow your budget though and I would easily expect to blow $1000 in there without trying.
In all of the great, the awesome and the memorable there is one thing that they could do better. There is no way to know what is happening on course. There are a few leaderboards around but unless the player/s that you want to follow are on there you don’t know. They do put the scores of the next players approaching on most greens as well but that means you still have little idea of 90% of the field. They love the tradition but to me the Australian Open Radio concept could add to the patron experience just a little.
There a no phones at Augusta and no cameras except on practice days which is why you never see much coming out of there when your friends go. You certainly don’t see selfies as even selfie sticks are banned. If you lose someone good luck and hope you have a pre-determined meeting place sorted. Its old school but to be honest that is all good with me. I enjoyed not having a phone and I’m sure many did as well.
You will hear birds at Augusta but you won’t see any. Its an interesting phenomena that only became obvious to me after 2 days and talking with more experienced patrons. Apparently, they have some way of keeping the birds away from Augusta, and they then have speakers playing within the trees to add that sense of wildlife and atmosphere. Even CBS apparently overlays these sounds onto the telecast. What that tells you is that there is nothing left to chance at Augusta. Yes, its weird, but that is the attention to detail that only Augusta can do.
I can now tick “Attending the Masters” off the bucket list, but I am hopeful its not the only time I can get there as if that’s what Heaven looks like then sign me up!
Patron - The Masters