It hardly needs to be stated that Augusta National is a special place for anyone who enjoys the game of golf. For more than 80 years, legends of the sport have made their names and accomplishments immortal with what they have achieved on the course at Augusta.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to walk the grounds – be it during the early days of practice or a tournament round –knows there is something a little different about Augusta National.
The history hangs over the course like early morning fog, but it is also the sights and sounds – or lack thereof – that truly make the Masters unique from every other event on the golfing calendar.
Here is a sample of what you will and won’t experience during a day at Augusta:
WHAT YOU SEE:
The first thing that jumps out to anyone making their way from Washington Road to the course is the color. Sure, golf courses are supposed to be green, but there is something different going on here. The fairways and greens are so perfectly manicured that you would swear they were painted on if not for your ability to stand in the middle of it all and look down at a patch of turf that looks better than the carpet in your own living room.
The next thing that immediately stands out is the vastness of the course. Partially due to the layout, patrons standing around the first tee are at one of the highest points on the course, with portions of at least half a dozen holes visible. Augusta National is also elevated in relation to surrounding property, providing a view that stretches out over the treetops looking south.
WHAT YOU DON’T SEE
The most obvious omission from any day at Augusta is that of cell phones. Even those who haven’t yet had a chance to walk through the gates know very well that cell phones are not permitted on the course and can lead to dismissal. In a time where everyone from preteens to older businessmen are seemingly beholden to the battery life remaining on their phone, spending a day at Augusta comes with the price – or, as I would argue, the privilege – of putting the rest of the world on hold for a while.
The lack of modern technology doesn’t stop there.
Look in the background of any other tournament and you’ll see ever-growing video scoreboards that rattle off player pictures, scores and stats. At the Masters, scores are still put up manually as several large scoreboards throughout the course constantly update the hole-by-hole results of those near the top of the leaderboard. Of course, there is also another way of communication. Huge roars down in the depths of Amen Corner can be heard all the way up at the clubhouse, making the slight delay before the manual scoreboards are updated more of an instrument of drama than of inconvenience.
WHAT YOU HEAR
At times, you hear nothing. At others, deafening roars. Nearly everyone in the gallery appreciates the gravity of this tournament and is nearly as invested in it as the players. The patrons in attendance are knowledgeable and respectful of the etiquette originally stressed by Bobby Jones upon founding the club and the relevance remains in full force nearly a century later.
Another thing you’re bound to hear is a friendly hello – not just from others in the crowd, but from everyone involved with running the tournament. Course staff, concession and gift shop personnel, and holemarshalls are all unfailingly polite and do their best to answer any questions to ensure that a good time is had by all.
The club makes it known that patrons are their guests and the red – or maybe, green – carpet is rolled out.
WHAT YOU DON’T HEAR
Adding to the respect patrons have for the game is what isn’t added to their cheers and shouts. Watch just a few minutes of most tournaments and you’ll see a big drive on a par-5 immediately followed by an anonymous “Mashed potatoes!” or something of that persuasion coming from the crowd. At Augusta, those types of outbursts aren’t looked upon favorably and could even result in an unwanted meeting with course security.
And don’t think that the club isn’t keeping up on its pop culture. On Tuesday, word came down that marshals on the course don’t want to hear the jovial “Dilly, Dilly!” shout that has become popular in early season events.
The course is flanked by practice areas to the north and east, by Augusta Country Club to the south, and by the club’s par-3 course to the west. While set right in the middle of Augusta, no off-grounds buildings are visible, nor is the traffic on the city streets. If not for the occasional plane flying overhead, it would be easy to think that you have slipped off into your own little slice of heaven.
And maybe you have.
– Mike Anthony