AUGUSTA, GA – I’m lucky. I know it.
Working in golf has given me the opportunity to travel to some of the game’s most iconic venues. But there is none more difficult to visit, desired or appreciated than a trip to Augusta National Golf Club.
Tuesday I was fortunate enough to make my sixth trip to the Masters, not as a member of the media, but as a fan – just like you. Here’s a look at a day in life of this Masters patron.
Each year, the LPGA rents a house a short 10-minute drive from Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a great home away from home from members of the LPGA and staff members during Masters week. This was my first stop Tuesday morning to pick up my badge on the way to the course.
Entering through the South Gate at Augusta National Golf Club, you’ll immediately walk out onto the course behind the 14th tee, just to the right of the 13th green and the end of Amen Corner. It was my first stop of the day. There, one of the marshals manning the cross way at the 14th fairway offered to take a photo at the iconic par five. This is a “must” for any patron at the Masters!
From there, I headed backwards through Amen Corner and took a seat in front of the grandstands at the par three, 12th. As you’ve probably already realized from the lack of color in the photos – the azaleas already bloomed. With abnormally warm temperatures, the azaleas bloomed ahead of this week’s tournament and just a few flowers remain throughout the course. At the famous par three, I sat and watched as several players play through, including Phil Mickelson in the morning and in the afternoon saw Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar.
As I made my way around the course I passed the often talked about chairs of the Masters. There’s an unspoken rule that has come to be associated with the golf chairs. Once they’ve been placed in their chosen location for the day, they’re never disturbed or moved by other patrons. Even for a practice round day, dozens of the green chairs were set around the par three, 16th and other greens around the course.
I continued my journey, winding up the 11th hole, cut across a path I didn’t remember before crossing the 18th hole just beyond the tee box, and then up through the middle of the course towards the clubhouse. The first tee was farther back than I remembered and extended all the way in front of the clubhouse. I had to walk around the tee box to the right, which was now quite close to the practice putting green, to take my photo. I’m starting to sound old here – but wow! The length of these holes get longer with each trip I make to the course. Anyway, back to the clubhouse. It was as beautiful as I remembered with swarms of media beneath the huge oak tree with others lunching under the green and white umbrellas nearby.
I was starting to get hungry for lunch. I knew there was a concession area near the large golf shop and began heading that direction. On my way, I passed the huge Masters leaderboard just to the right of the first fairway. There, groups of friends stopped to take photos and I posed for one of my own – another "must" for patrons!
Back to lunch now. The insanely low prices at the Masters have remained unchanged. I was able to buy a BBQ sandwich, bag of chips, a chocolate chip cookie, bottle of water and a soda with a cup I can take home as a souvenir, all for $9.00. Incredible. Sandwich was delicious too!
When it comes to shopping at the Masters, patrons go crazy! In my five previous trips to the event, I have never seen people buy more merchandise than I have this year. As I was arriving at 10 o’clock in the morning, people carrying armfuls of souvenirs were passing me heading to the parking lot with their finds. I have been known to go a little overboard in the golf shop myself, but this year kept it to just under $100 in gifts for friends and family.
From the golf shop I made my way to the practice facility. There, I saw defending champion Danny Willett on the putting green and former champion Jordan Spieth hitting balls on the range. But it was right out in the open sun and temperatures began climbing into the mid-80s so I didn’t sit around long. For those of you with little ones, there are designated areas around the practice facility for juniors to get autographs from the pros without getting mobbed by older autograph seekers.
At the back of the practice facility as patrons make their way towards the gate closest to Washington Road is the TV studio building. From there you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the back of the sets from Golf Channel’s Live From shows that broadcast from the facility throughout the week of the Masters.
I’ve seen some incredible photos this week of the new press building at Augusta National. I was excited to at least be able to do a walk-by since I don’t have a credential this week. Unfortunately, some beautiful landscaping heavily covers the area surrounding the new facility and this photo below shows as close as I was able to get.
At the press building, I was as far as I could possibly get from the opposite end of the course where I entered for the day. I turned around and began heading back that direction. On my way, I stopped at the 16th and 17th holes to check out the plaques honoring Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. There is another displaying the Tournament record just near the 17th tee.
Back at the par three, 16th a huge crowd was forming and I could hear the cheers and roars that have become famous at the Masters. There, Jordan Spieth, playing alongside Bubba Watson, made their way to the par three where they indulged patrons in trying to skip their golf ball across the water – a longtime tradition at the hole.
From behind the grandstands at the 16th tee I was able to make my way back down towards Amen Corner and the South Gate. I made one last stop at the 13th hole, my favorite on the course, where I sat and watched on the green the group of Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. Then I headed for the exit. It's always sad to leave. I consoled myself with one last stop at the smaller golf shop near the South Exit. Don't judge, they might have had something different from the other shop. I didn't buy anything.
The forecast looks pretty bad for Wednesday but I'm excited to have the opportunity to visit for a second straight day - weather permitting. Rain or shine, I'll be sharing my day here on LPGA.com.