Augusta National Golf Club
March 27, 2017
“Any day but Sunday.”
If someone says, “If you could go to The Masters for a day, which day would you choose?” don’t answer it the way I did… especially if that person is planning on taking you to the final round as your college graduation gift. In hindsight, I should have stopped talking after my first two words, but a casual November conversation with my grandfather got the better of me. I had never experienced such a high level of excitement coupled with extreme embarrassment. Catching wind of the surprise, my mom had to capture the moment.
It’s not often that I get excited for a 5am alarm, but April 13, 2014 was an exception. Master’s champion, Bubba Watson, was tied for the lead with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth at Augusta National. I woke up with a plan: Get to the gate before it opened and claim a spot behind the 16th green, alongside long-time CBS announcer, Verne Lundquist. Hole 16, also known as Redbud, is a 170-yard par 3 whose green is guarded by a pond and three bunkers. Redbud's history is well documented, with Tiger’s birdie chip-in in 2005 serving as the most famous. The plan worked out and we were able to plant our Masters folding chairs in a prime position.
With nearly six hours until any players would reach 16, I chose to wander the course and begin to build my own perception of Augusta National. Walking the course in reverse from 16, I stopped at the first concession stand, behind 16’s tee box, to get a taste of Augusta. I had to take advantage of the cheapest food prices in sports. I began to taste test seemingly every item on the menu, starting with the $1.50 chicken biscuit. A BBQ sandwich and famous pimento cheese sandwich at 10:30am, why not?
As I walked through Amen Corner (holes 11-13) with my egg salad sandwich, I was in awe of the setting. Every blade of grass was pristine and the azaleas watched with poise. One thing that surprised me about Augusta National was the elevation. Television and photos do it no justice. As fatigue set in after a few hours of walking, I decided to head for the merchandise shop.
Since The Masters doesn’t have any retail or online stores, this is the one chance the patrons have to buy Masters branded items – and people take advantage of that. The wait to get inside the shop can be extensive. I saw people buying thousands of dollars worth of swag to ship home. You would be hard-pressed to find a larger group of men shopping for themselves.
As the day moved on, I got to see every hole, meet Verne Lundquist behind 16, envision myself putting on 18, watch the best players in the world struggle to make par and witness Bubba win his second Masters. Having the opportunity to walk the famous grounds of Augusta National was an honor and a privilege. Sharing that moment with my grandfather was even more special.
If you get the chance to attend The Masters, I would encourage you to arrive early, eat up and enjoy the beauty. If you spend a little bit more than you budgeted for at the merchandise shop, it’s okay. You’re not alone. When choosing a spot to set up your chair, I’d encourage you to pick a place that you can see multiple shots. From my experience, 16 was the perfect hole. I saw Miguel Angel Jimenez nearly make a hole in one and Bubba all but solidify his victory. Each hole has its own story. Find the story that you want to be a part of.
Lastly, if you get the chance to visit Augusta National, I dare you to find a weed on the course. Seriously, good luck!