The first time I watched The Masters Tournament was in 1987, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Larry Mize springing into the air with joy after chipping in on the 11th hole to defeat Greg Norman in a playoff. I was spellbound by the beautiful golf course and how it produced such amazing sporting drama. Since then I have watched the tournament every year on television.
This year was different. This year I got the chance to experience the tournament first hand and visit the hallowed turf that is The Augusta National Golf Club. This was a dream turning into reality, and it certainly did not let me down.
I knew already that cameras are not allowed onto the premises during the tournament days of tournament, so booked tickets for two days, Tuesday practice round and Sunday. This gave the chance to take some photographs and take in the golf course before watching the action on Sunday.
As we passed through the entrance and walked, like an excited child, pass the practice ground, to the course, the first thing I noticed was the condition of the grass. It was just pristine; perfect! As were the pitch shots being practice by pretty good golfer (Justin Thomas)!
Our first stop was the merchandise shop. I’ve seen nothing like this before! Tuned like a well-oiled machine, the patrons (The National doesn’t call them spectators!) flowed in, bought their fill, and flowed out. The turnover must be incredible, even with the prices being very fair.
Then it was onto the course. And yes, it is exactly as stunning as it appears on television. I would say grander and more dramatic in real life, especially the 10th hole. It’s just wonderful. We walked the 18 holes, enjoying a Pimento cheese and a peach ice cream sandwich along the way, before placing our chairs behind the 18th green. This was a magical moment, sat looking over the green where so much has taken place. And then who played up the last hole? Tiger, Phil, Freddy Couples and Thomas Peters – it was just perfect.
After our overnight stay in Augusta, we headed to South Carolina and enjoyed three days of golf at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. All of the course were great, but the Ocean Course (home of the 1991 Ryder Cup) was fantastic. We were lucky with the weather and enjoyed a very memorable day.
We returned back to Augusta on the Saturday and entered the gates of the Augusta National early on Sunday morning and placed our seats close to the 18th Green. It was fresh but the sky was clear. The golf course still in the same condition as Tuesday.
There is so much to take in on a day like that, but a few things stood out. First it was watching Tiger Woods warm up and admiring the quality of his pitching. The ball was struck so purely and it appeared to fly in slow motion. He had the ball completely under control. Secondly is how popular Tiger is still. He played early on Sunday and drew, without doubt the biggest gallery of the entire field. You could see him play, but would need to choose your spots.
Finally it was the excitement around the final green. There is a score board placed just below the green, and as no electronic devised are allowed on the grounds, the only way to know the state of play is either to see it live, or wait for the manual leaderboard. The cheers could be heard all around the course when a birdie was made and then the cheer was repeated as the scoreboards were updated. The clear fans favourites were Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, but the gallery was very fair when Patrick Reed two putted for victory on the last. It wasn’t easy and the spectators knew it.
The Augusta National Golf Club is a very special place and the Masters Tournament 2018 was a wonderful experience. The memories will stay with me for life. I can only recommend you to take the chance and visit one year.