• "When you walk through the gates you're in another world"
THE MASTERS | AUGUSTA NATIONAL
Everybody looks immensely calm and I can’t figure out why. This is Augusta National and I’m about to walk through the gates for the first time. I’ll be honest. I’ve been aching for this my whole life.
Like everyone, I have my own Masters memories from watching the TV and I never once thought I’d get to visit Augusta National. That just always seemed a job that someone else did. But not this year.
Driving up Washington Road this morning, it was quite bizarre thinking I was going to fulfil a life-long dream. Washington Road isn’t much to write home about (most people know that already) but the minute you set foot through the gates you’re in another world.
“Have you seen the course yet?” asked a fellow writer before I’d even got my bum on my seat. “Not yet,” I said, “but I can’t wait.”
“Being a first timer at Augusta National is very special,” he replied. “Nothing beats the first time.”
With this in mind, I ventured out of the press tent, ambled down the path and walked out onto the side of the first fairway, up the hill, then took in the full view. From here, you’ve got the tenth tee, the 18th green, ninth green, practice putting green and first tee in full view. To my right, Rory McIlroy walks onto the first tee for a practice round with Chris Wood and promptly smashes one down the middle the fairway. I’m a happy boy right now.
— Bunkered Golf Mag (@BunkeredOnline) April 4, 2016
Rather than take in the entire course in one go, I decided to pick spots I wanted to see and take in the rest later. I haven’t even seen the range, and it’s supposed to be the best in the world. That’s tomorrow’s job.
First impressions of the course? It’s astonishingly green and the fairways are vast. Even I couldn’t miss them. The grass looks longer than I thought, and with zero imperfections. It’s utterly lush, and just so damned green.
I haven’t even seen the range, and it’s supposed to be the best in the world.
The patrons are just as excited and, in fact, the feel good atmosphere is one of the best bits about this place. There’s even a guy taking Masters-branded beer cups out of a bin for his house. Even the rubbish is pretty.
“You like those chips, son?” a dad says to his young boy, who nods appreciatively. “That’s because everything tastes better at the Masters, son.”
I have a chuckle at his comment, to which the dad replies in a thick southern accent, “…but it’s damned true!”
Off I go down the second fairway, immediately trying to negotiate my route to 16. Once thing that stands out is that access to various parts of the course is easy, and everything seems much closer than you would expect. There are no long walks. Every point of interest is easily accessible. At first sight, the 16th green looks much smaller in person than it does on TV, and the grandstands are not as imposing as those at the Open, either. It almost looks like something out of a computer game.
The presentation around the 15th green, guarded by a pond, is remarkable. The marshall on the crossing at 15 clearly sees my mouth wide open and says, “First time at Augusta, sir?”
Inside Augusta National
At this point, you can’t help but notice all the famous holes, tee shots, pin positions and bunkers that you know so well.
• The tee shot at 13 - with its right-to-left dog-leg that feeds into Rae’s Creek - looks tighter than I ever imagined.
• No.12 is the busiest part of the course (no surprise) and the tee-shot looks impossible. Everyone is discussing what club they hit 155 yards. Few have a definite answer!
• The most eye-opening part of Augusta National? The tenth. Now I know why it’s the toughest hole in Masters history. The drop from the tee to the lowest part of the fairway is over 100ft. It’s quite a sight.
Augusta National is heart pumping stuff. Its everything you dream about but better, and it’s even more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
They say you need to keep coming back to get rid of the ‘wow’ factor. I’ll happily keep coming back ’til it’s gone.