It’s “A Tradition Unlike Any Other” in a place unlike any other, and unfortunately, it’s an experience most people only get to see through the screens of their televisions.
I’m originally from Dublin, Georgia, which is about two hours away from where Augusta National’s resides, but like most of you, I have never been to the Master’s Tournament.
Not only have I never been to the tournament, but I have yet to see even the slightest glimpse of the miraculous green grass and azaleas, and I’ve been to Augusta, Georgia, countless times in my life.
There really are no signs of the immaculate course anywhere when you’re riding through the city. It’s almost as if it’s an invisible destination even though that’s technically impossible since it is a 365-acre stretch of land that sits in the middle of Augusta. I assure you it’s there, but if you ever visit Augusta, you’ll understand why there’s confusion that such a paradise exists.
My dad and my brother, Chan, have both been to the Master’s, and I have a friend named Kayla that’s from Augusta, so I hope through some of the stories they’ve shared with me that I can paint a picture for you of just how prestigious this event is and hopefully give you a fuller appreciation of the broadcast you watch this weekend.
I Don’t Think We’re in Augusta Anymore
Let’s start with Washington Road; it’s a main road in Augusta that takes you all the way through the city, and it also happens to be the road you turn onto to drive down historic Magnolia Lane.
Driving down Washington Road, you might expect to see southern mansions sprinkled across from where Augusta National’s sits, but you’ll be in for a surprise with those expectations. Houses of normal stature are across from the course, which helps disguise the almost 84-year-old landmark. If it weren’t for the ten-foot-tall green fences on the side of the road, you really would question if Augusta National’s even exists.
But what’s on the other side of the green fence? And what’s it like driving down Magnolia Lane? Well, those that have been would say it’s somewhat of a divine experience, and once you start the drive down the iconic lane, you won’t even feel like you’re in Augusta or in the middle of a city.
Tradition that Dates Back to Robert
This Major is built on tradition, and it’s tradition alone that makes it unique. The Master’s is the only major that never moves courses. Every other major rotates locations each year.
It’s a golf professional’s oasis, it’s an amateur’s dream, and it’s a patron’s paradise. The fans really are called patrons, and you’ll never hear them referred to as crowds, spectators, or viewers. Old school? Maybe. Tradition? Absolutely.
The Master’s has a very strong tie to amateur players, and that's because of Bobby Jones. Jones was one of the greatest amateurs ever to play the game of golf. He also founded Augusta National’s and is responsible for helping start The Master’s Tournament.
That’s why amateurs get treated somewhat like royalty during Master’s week. They get the privilege of staying in the “Crow’s Nest,” which is right next to the clubhouse. It’s also why the US Amateur always gets paired with the previous Master’s winner. It all goes back to Bobby Jones’ affiliation.
**A side note - I actually babysat for the 2006 Georgia Amateur winner when I was in high school. Seeing the Georgia Am trophy and touching the name of the 1916 winner, Robert Tyre Jones (Bobby Jones), is a pretty surreal experience.**
As far as the actual course, most know that every hole is named after a plant or a shrub. Flowering Peach (No. 3), Carolina Cherry (No.9), and White Dogwood (No.9) just to name a few.
But the names of holes are just one small detail to the Georgia masterpiece. Really every part of the course captures what Georgia agriculture can look like when a group of people commit to treating their environment the very best that they can.
Something you might not know - members aren’t allowed to play the course during the summer. The reason? Augusta National’s uses a winter grass (rye grass), which means it dies and turns an ugly brown in the summer. So the beauty that you see this weekend will all fade in a few months.
The Augusta National’s staff is able to control when the flowers bloom so that each flower perfectly opens during the Master’s week. There’s only been a few times blooms have been ruined by a late frost or torrential down pour.
My friend, Kayla, is from Augusta, Georgia, and after 27 years of living there, she just now got to see what was on the other side of the fence this week. She said even her imagination couldn’t have prepared her for what the course is actually like.
As an Augustan during Master’s week, Kayla says traffic is unbelievable. Hence, the “Golf Traffic” signs pictured below.
Although traffic is a nightmare, having the Master’s in your hometown is not. A lot of locals rent their homes out for the week and take a vacation themselves. Others stay and find ways to work at the course, but everyone agrees the Master’s gives Augusta a reason to host a big party.
Want to Work at the Masters?
If you want to work at the Master’s, you’ll likely agree to work for free. That might not sound like much fun to some of you, but their compensation is pretty enticing. After the tournament, workers get to play the course. I’d say that’s worth the work even if you don’t include tips.
Kayla says she’s even had friends who were “chair runners” for the week, and that name is an accurate job description. Patrons pay others to run their chairs to specific holes so that the chairs are waiting on them when they arrive.
Practice Makes Perfect Fun
There’s nothing like Sunday at the Master’s, but patrons don’t take the practice rounds for granted. Some of the players’ and patrons’ favorite memories take place on the days leading up to Thursday.
The Par 3 contest takes place on a separate course consisting of nine straight par 3s. No player that has ever won the Par 3 contest has won the Master’s Tournament. So many players believe the Wednesday contest is a jinx and therefore use the time to let their families get involved in difficult putts or tee shots. That typically creates a comical scene and also insures pros they don’t win the ill-fated competition.
Number 16 or Redbud is the well-known Par 3 where Tiger holed a shot out of the bunker back in 2005, but it’s also known for a different tradition during the practice rounds. Players will hit their normal tee shot, but as they walk up toward the green, you’ll see them stop at the pond. They get as close as they can to the edge without falling in, take their 5/6 iron out and try to skip a ball off the water. It’s so much of a tradition during practice rounds that if players refuse to participate in ball-skipping duties, they’re booed.
Lastly, if you ever get the chance to go to a practice round, you’ll likely see younger players practicing with older legends. That’s not by happenstance. It, too, is a part of tradition. You never know which seasoned veteran will approach a rookie, but you can be sure that their conversations are full of stories, knowledge, and wisdom. It’s common courtesy that all veterans use the week to pass down professional insight to young players. That’s one of the reasons that players like Tiger go back to the major each year even if they choose not to play.
Master’s Week brings out the best in people from Augusta and all of Georgia. This weekend you’ll hear announcers treat the event with such class and care. Not many people use old school etiquette anymore, but it’s these details that make this major make sense, from the green jackets to Jim Nantz greeting us with “Hello Friends.”
Not everyone can go, but everyone is welcomed. Augusta National’s is a secluded piece of heaven and reminds players and patrons alike to exercise a deeper level of respect that we often forget to practice.