Augusta National. The holy grail of golf. The hills, the bunkers, the trees – it’s breathtaking. It can also be a little overwhelming for a first time visitor.
This past spring, I was given the opportunity to travel to Augusta National with my husband and my two adult sons. We are a, “golfing family,” as they say, so as you can image our excitement levels were through the roof. Did you know, there’s only one way in and one way out of this Golf Mecca? No, we didn’t either! Here are a few more helpful tips and tricks you’ll need to know before your first trip to Augusta!
- Prepare well in advance. Wear comfortable shoes, purchase a digital camera as NO CELL PHONES are allowed. Bring sunscreen, layer clothing as it is cool in the morning. Bring small binoculars, wear a watch in case you need to pick a meeting place as there are NO CELL PHONES allowed. Bring phone numbers of loved ones so you can call them from the bank of phones provided on the course. Did I mention there are NO CELL PHONES allowed?
- Get there early. Can’t emphasize that enough. Get there early. Parking is free and there’s only one road in and out of Golf Mecca. And since you will arrive early, the parking attendants will make you park near the North Gate, so then you need to go to step 3.
- Enter at the South Gate. Yes, that’s right. And here’s why… The masses line up at the North Gate. They publish that the course opens at 8, but the South Gate opens at 7. As you walk through the gate onto the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, notice the beautifully landscaped grounds on the access road. Now for tip 4 and 5.
- Head immediately to the Merchandise Shop. Buy the armless Masters’ chairs. (The only ones allowed are the armless ones) Part of your group can shop while the other part of your group can take the chairs to step 7.
- Bring something to attach to your new chairs to identify which ones are yours. THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME. (suggestions: a lanyard, ribbon, something colorful – even a business card to place in the slot that is provided on the chair). Now head to the Merchandise Shop to meet with the others in your party.
- Take your time in the Merchandise Shop. You will see there is not another store where you will have the same shopping experience. EVERYONE in the shop is smiling and willing to help you spend money. Buy a ridiculous amount of merchandise for all of your friends and family and do not look at the price tags. You can’t get the Masters’ logo anywhere else but there. And they have the logo on everything. Even a dog dish.
- While your party shops, head towards the entrance marked “15th-16th-17th holes”. Follow down the path of meticulously landscaped pathways to the entrance of the course. You’ll have to wait until about 7:45 when the Course Marshalls will let you in. And WALK (no running is allowed at Augusta) directly to the back of the 16th green. Set up your chairs ON THE ROPES and you can leave them there all day and NO ONE will move them. Another Masters’ tradition.
- Ship your goodies home. Right adjacent to the Merchandise Shop, UPS has conveniently set up a pop-up store to manage your purchases. It’s quick and convenient and you will not regret lugging your bags around the course.
- Enter the course and head over to Amen Corner. Walk the course backwards from the 13th hole to the #10 tee watching players and taking in the beauty of the azaleas and the undulations of the greens on this most difficult golf course. See if you can find a weed anywhere. Or a squirrel.
- Try everything on the menu. It is ridiculously cheap to eat at Augusta. Also, wait in line to take a picture in front of the Clubhouse on Magnolia Lane. The wait might look long, but the line moves fast and you will get a picture taken by a professional. It is also free.
In the end, take it all in. There’s a reason this place is as magical as the TV makes it seem. This will be a family vacation we’ll talk about for years and we hope to make it back again someday!