The mystique of the Masters and Augusta National


Everybody knows that Augusta National Golf Club is not your normal golf club, and that the Masters is not your normal golf tournament.

Here’s a few of the quirks that make ANGC and the Masters Tournament just that little bit special.

== Billy Payne, the chairman

Chairman Payne, as he likes to be called, rarely does interviews. And when he does, he holds the room like few can. Few question his approach or dare to. He has the uncanny habit of batting off a question others in his position would attempt to navigate round. It says much of his respect, and the fear factor that he holds in what many believe is the most distinguished post in golf. Payne will turn out for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship – more on that later – on the Sunday, then disappear. He’ll then attend the Champions Dinner on the Tuesday night, then disappear. That dinner, incidentally, involves him being invited by the players. Of course, we all know that’s not the case, but he doesn’t mess with the politics of the evening. “I have never won the Masters,” he said. With that, he rarely divulges information gleaned on the evening. Instead, he says, ask the players.

== The club’s rules

• You can’t run. You may waddle quickly to get to your destination, but you may not run.

• You can’t bring your phone. It stays in your car.

• You may not bring a large backpack (small ones are fine) and you certainly mustn’t bring your own food in the bag you do bring.

• You can put your seat down and it’s your spot for the day, regardless of whether you sit it in or not.

Think that’s out of line? The flipside is this: everybody toes the line. Everybody. You never hear anyone complain.

== It’s cheap, seriously cheap

Outside the gates you’ll get ripped off. The hotels up the prices dramatically for one week, and who can blame them. Inside the gates it’s a different story. Parking is free, the food is cheap, ridiculously cheap, and a beer will set you back $5. There are no queues for food, either. Just stay away from the Pimento Cheese sandwiches. Seriously. They taste like feet.

== The ‘patron’ experience

Nobody is allowed inside the ropes. Only players, caddies, TV cameras, and tournament officials (when required). This means paying patrons get to see all the action, just like they should. It is the annual proof, if needed, that what happens inside the ropes at the Open Championship every year (and the Ryder Cup) is an unnecessary farce.

== That kids event

It has an odd title, but the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship continues to get a bad rap from some. One former golf writer called it a “marketing exercise”. Fair enough, but if all marketing exercises in golf such as this had over 200 events across the country for all kids, not just those who excel at the game – anyone can enter – then we need more of them. You don’t get awards for being cynical.

== That media centre

It apparently cost $62million and they built it in ten months. That’s impressive, even for Augusta National standards. But, one problem, it sits at the end of the driving range, some 400 yards away. If the R&A and USGA knuckle down and sort driving distances, ANGC bosses will need to do a Basil Fawlty and ‘move the building to the left a bit’ to avoid getting clattered by balls. They could probably do that in ten months, too.

Front Outside

== It’s quirky cool

Everything is green. And I mean everything. Even the stones are green. The gravel they put down to stop people sliding in wet weather? It’s green. All food wrappers, drinks cups and general potential waste?  Green, or ‘Augusta Green’, as Chairman Payne might say.

== Masters week is a ‘thing’

If you’re in town, you get a Masters rate for a haircut, discounts on gyros, invites to special Masters bible classes, and two-for-ones on fire prevention kits. One local business has ‘Happy Masters Week’ in their email signature. “It’s tradition, every year,” an employee working at ANGC told me this week. “It’s a great week for local businesses.” That certainly seems to be the case. The Masters is worth $125m to the local economy.

== The ballot

Ah, the famed Masters ticket ballot. One patron this week said he’d been trying for years but with no success. Now he’s come out three years on the spin. “I think it’s a case of once you’re in, you’re in,” he said. This apparently isn’t the case, I’m told. He’s just lucky. So if you’ve been trying for years with no luck, don’t give up, because this is the greatest place on earth.

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