America’s Greatest Sports Venues: Augusta National Golf Club

It better be. If you’re not a member or haven’t won a lottery, prepare to pay dearly. A four-day badge to enter golf paradise costs $11,588 on a secondary ticket market. Clear motels charge more than $300 per night. night.

But once inside Augusta National Golf Club, concession prices are cheap. A cup of beer with the Masters logo is $5. The famous pimento sandwiches are $1.50. Masters Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich is $2.50. Today they are sold out at 10:00 a.m

Fans are only allowed to bring electronics onto the field during practice rounds.

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Do you think Augusta’s grounds look good on TV? It’s even better in person.

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Amateur Sam Bennett played in the Par 3 competition, which is held on the Wednesday before the Masters.

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Golfers treasure their chance to play Augusta, and fans flock for a chance to watch.

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During practice rounds, golfers are encouraged to bounce the ball over the pond at the 16th hole and onto the green.

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Sahith Theegala in the Par 3 competition. Theegala finished a surprising ninth in the 2023 Masters, winning more than $500,000 in prize money.

It’s definitely old school here, with cigar-smoking patrons and armies of smiling volunteers (they get a free pass after 25 years). There are thousands of people and not a single cell phone. They are prohibited on the property.

Outside the fourth hole is a nondescript kiosk with banks of phones that you can use to call anywhere without charge.

It feels like 1934, when the first Masters took place. Huge scoreboards are operated manually. There is no advertising.

The Masters even has its own language – there are no “fans”, only “patrons” – and many, many rules. No running allowed, no bare feet, no sitting on the grass, no standing in seating areas, no hats worn backwards and no cameras except on practice days. News photographers must use electronic cameras set to silent.

The area around Augusta National is a stark contrast, a mix of fast-food restaurants, a Hooters with a “Come Meet John Daly” sign, the obligatory You’re-Gonna-Rot-in-Hell scapegoat, a Trump flag-waving cart and tents with “We Buy and Sell” signs.

No one seems to be selling.

Greg Fisher, 50, of Washington state stands in front of the entrance before sunrise. He has wanted to come here since he was 5.

“This is No. 1 on my bucket list,” he says. “Just the tradition, the history, the beauty, the mystery, the magic.”

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People watch Rory McIlroy send a tee shot straight up the fairway on the 18th during a practice round.

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Tiger Woods (right) is always tied at Augusta. He has won the Masters five times. He joins Fred Couples, who won the Masters in 1992.

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The crowds in the stands at the 16th hole are reflected in the water hazard. Cut the greens to 1/8 inch.

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Fans are not called fans at Augusta. They are patrons.

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Want some Masters gear? You will have to shell out some of your own greens.

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No faces on the phones at Augusta. Everyone watches golf – and is happy about it.

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Even the press building looks to Augusta.

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The green jacket is awarded to the winner, but he can only keep it for one year. It must be returned to Augusta when the next tournament arrives.

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Beers are only $5 at Augusta. They sell a lot of it.

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Step out of the grounds and down Washington Road and you’ll realize that the idyllic setting of the club doesn’t apply to the rest of the city.

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The Big Oak Tree dwarfs a security guard who patrols near the clubhouse.

TV doesn’t do it justice. It’s beautiful, even this year when a heat wave caused the iconic azaleas to bloom early. You will never see a weed. Mosquitoes, squirrels and all kinds of pests are also missing. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the chirping of birds is piped, but this is difficult to verify. Golf Digest once tested the water from a pond on the 15th hole and found it had food coloring in it.

The manicured greens are cut to an 1/8 inch. Sandwich bags are green in color, just like the gravel. If you go into the gift shop, you lose a lot of green.

The giant store sells an estimated $69 million in merchandise, according to Forbes magazine. Souvenirs are not sold online, only at The Masters.

Almost everything with a Masters logo on it is for sale, except for the green jacket awarded to the winner. The Masters champion wears it for one year, then must keep it on Augusta National Golf Club property.

Customers line up early to buy Masters goblins, which quickly sell out and appear on eBay for eight times the price.

Golfers cannot apply for membership – they must be invited. They didn’t invite a black man to compete until Lee Elder in 1975, and there were no female members until 2012 (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice).

Patrons can purchase a Masters lawn chair for $40, line up behind the ropes around the greens and come and go as they please. When they return, they’ll have first dibs on it.

There is no boo. Everyone is civilized – even patrons who drink beer all day and have a stack of souvenir cups are polite.

“They get drunker on Masters than beer,” says one sheriff.

On practice days, the fun is at No. 16. Here the crowd shouts “skip it” and the pros try to skim the ball across the pond up a steep hill and onto the green. Some balls land on the green and stick, others roll back into the drink.

On Amen Corner’s famous 13th hole, a doctor and her husband, a nurse, couldn’t believe their luck. There was a spot nestled in the pines with shade and close access to concession stands and bathrooms. The pros land their tee shots with surgical precision between them and Rae’s Creek.

The couple didn’t want to give their names — maybe they were calling in sick — but after the COVID pandemic, the air was sweet and the beer was cold, so who could blame them?

“This is heaven,” they said in unison.

Read more in this series

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at [email protected].

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