I was in front of a bathroom condominium, looking straight down at the course layout on the back page of the 2014 Masters’ pairings for the Sunday afternoon of golf. I rose my eyes to see where the 13th green was, still basking in the glory that Augusta National Golf Club presented. In an effort to further my search for a greater glory, I asked the volunteer, trying to fit in with my fake Southern accent, where Azalea’s Par 5, 510-yard was. Pointing straight ahead, quite possibly realizing my eyes were bigger than a bug’s, he replied: “It’s like you died and went to heaven.”
The prestigious golf tournament that calls Augusta National home is everything advertised and then some. They say the grass is greener on the other side, and it certainly is at the Masters. The fairways are pure carpet. In fact, they aren’t like any normal fairways. It’s surprisingly filled with mini peaks and valleys with each hole hosting a deceiving bunker, save the 14th.
The scent lushly smells like summer. It’s almost like you’re walking through one of the best gardens the country has ever seen, filled with flowers and shrubs to denote each particular hole. Walking the entire 7,435 yards, roughly four miles, seemed effortless. I could have walked the course three times through without a care in the world as the Southern heat beamed down on me; the scenes were that beautiful.
Prior to my experience, I knew how exclusive a membership was, but seeing it in person gave me a whole new perspective on the matter. The members were all walking around with their green jackets on the greatest day of the only major that is held at the same course year after year. (I was thinking about pulling a Happy Gilmore and asked where they got those jackets, but I felt like saving myself the embarrassment.) The exclusive nature further came to fruition on one of the many free handouts provided with a quote by Robert Tyre Jones, President In Perpetuity of Augusta National Golf Club, in 1967.
“Most distressing to those who love the game of golf is the applauding or cheering of misplays of misfortunes of a player. Such occurrences have been rare at the Masters, but we must eliminate them entirely if our patrons are to continue to merit their reputation as the most knowledgeable and considerate in the world.”
The overall business model Augusta utilizes for their patrons is ingenious. Sure, the original ticket for entrance is on the steeper end of pricing, but the prices inside with the Southern hospitality is delivered masterfully. My dad and I got a sandwich, bag of BBQ chips, a Coke (to no surprise, the only soda products they had were Coke because the company originated there in 1892) and a Snickers bar each. The total? Eleven dollars — and that is no typo.
Though, I was far more impressed with the Southern hospitality from the minute we walked in the entrance to the end and everywhere in between, it is at a premium. I had a little taste of the service in the Deep South with my sister and her soon-to-be husband living in Charlotte, N.C., but this taste did not suffice compared to Augusta’s. It’s always thank you, sir; thank you, ma’am.
The best, and funniest for that matter, act of hospitality was when I went to the bathroom. A teenager asked if I needed a stall, in which I nodded my head. He then proceeded to spray the toilet seat with a disinfectant spray. I felt at the top of the world.
We had to catch a flight at 7:49 p.m. back in Charlotte, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Augusta, so we weren’t able to catch Bubba Watson sporting his second green jacket in three years. We still caught Wisconsin native Steve Stricker finish up on No.10 and tee off on No.11, responding to a “Go Badgers” with a frustrating smile. I could have been at the course for an hour and still experienced the best day of my life.
Sorry, Bubba, but the golf didn’t make the Masters a tradition unlike any other; instead, spending this once-in-a-lifetime experience with my father fit the bill.