Going to the Masters for the first time

Congratulations! You get to go to the Masters this year for the first time! If you are so fortunate, here are a few hints about where to go, what to see and do. Here also are some ideas about where to park, what airport to use and where to stay.

Tickets to practice rounds can be more easily obtained than tournament rounds. This is a great time to see the course and take pictures. The crowds are spread out and you can get up close to some of the best players in the world. Be aware cameras are only allowed during practice rounds, and cell phones are never allowed on the course.

Walk as much of the golf course as you can, especially the Front Nine. TV coverage has only recently included these holes, but the cameras don’t show everything. Check out the severity of the green on the short par 4 Third; see for yourself the difficulty of the tee shot at the 240 yard par 3 Fourth. Note the “elephant” buried in the green at the par 3 Sixth hole. Oh, and the green at number Nine is diabolical.

The wonders of the golf course don’t stop there. The second shot at number 10 is like threading a needle. Number 11 is a beast and the rest of Amen Corner is larger than life.

The Par 3 Contest is the highlight before the Championship begins. As soon as the gates open, hundreds of people rush to park small camp chairs along the ropes on the Par 3 course. As they head off to explore the rest of the property they know they have a front row seat waiting for them. The crowds swell when the contest begins at 1pm. Of course they sell these chairs with The Masters logo. It makes for a functional souvenir, and you can easily ship it home.

The roars from the galleries at The Masters are famous, and you can hear these crowds cheer even during the practice rounds. The atmosphere is casual and boisterous and a huge crowd traditionally surrounds the par three 16th hole. Every group that comes through is goaded into hitting a shot that skims across the pond toward the green. Poor attempts are met with collective groans and lighthearted boos. The skipped shots that find the green are treated to “Championship Sized” cheers that echo through the property.

If you get the chance to attend one of the competitive rounds, take it! The competitive energy permeates the grounds, the crowds are huge. There is no mistaking the fact that this is a major and the course is set up to really show its teeth.

Don’t worry about packing a lunch. Tournament organizers at The Masters have the concessions down to a science. The food is very simple, the prices are downright cheap and the concession areas are centrally located. The flow of traffic through these areas allows spectators to get what they need without missing a lot of the action.

Parking is something to consider. If you have to use the main gate and you get to the course early in the day, save yourself a few steps and consider paid parking. For $20, close in parking is available along Washington Road near Magnolia Lane. If your ticket does not mandate you enter via the main gate, you can park off Berckman’s Road along the Western boundary of the golf course for $5 to $10. Keep in mind the closer you park to the main gates, the more traffic you will have to fight at the end of the day. Keep a street map of the Augusta area handy, as you may be able to access side streets to evacuate the event area.

Many attendees fly into Atlanta, approximately 2 hours from Augusta. Another alternative is to fly in and out of Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia is about an hour East of Augusta. If you plan to attend The Masters for more than 1 day, Columbia is a reasonable point from which to commute back and forth to the tournament.

If you plan to stay in Augusta, book early and expect to pay a lot for a simple roadside motel room. Many local homeowners rent their houses for the week. If you are travelling with a group, this could be a great option. There are rooms in Columbia, but beware that you get what you pay for. Look for newer hotels and prominent hotel chains to ensure a clean and comfortable place to get some rest. Read customer reviews if they are available.

More information about attending the Masters Golf tournament can be found at www.masters.org. There you will find internet links to the local Chamber of Commerce, information about the waiting list for tickets that is closed will never reopen, Augusta housing and transportation. Have a great trip!!