Pilgrimage To The Promised Land
Across all religions there are holy places that call the faithful on a spiritual journey. Mine was to the gates of Augusta National. I would challenge any golf agnostic not to be converted. I have whittled this exquisite experience into pimento cheese flavoured chunks:
The seating arrangement is perfection. Most people buy or already own a Masters foldable deck chair. You simply put your business card in a handy little poly slip at the back and place it down wherever you please. What results is an ageing population of speed walkers (no running allowed, sir) making a beeline for a spot behind the 12th tee. Once your seat is down, you effectively own that piece of real estate. You can go and get lunch, empty your wallet in the merchandise tent or grab a beer, and whilst you’re doing it someone else is more than welcome to sit in your seat. But once you return, you simply tap the temporary occupant on the shoulder and reclaim your hard earned spot.
What results is a grandstand like sea of green Masters chairs that fit perfectly with the aesthetic of the course. From the washed out pastel greens of vintage ‘Masters 1992’ renditions, to the fresh out the wrapper darker tones, the fairways are lined with an archive of memorabilia. Each chair playing its part in the legendary Masters story.
The seating etiquette encourages interaction too, which, after telling fellow patrons that I was from Scotchland, AND that right there is my friend playing in the bloody event, became almost overwhelming. As I prized my way out of the grasp of another Barbara from *insert country club name* I thought it better to keep my accent, and my friends, to myself.
Everyone there is happier than they were on their wedding day. They literally wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But maybe that's the Georgian disposition. If the entire world existed within the grounds of Augusta National during Masters week, Putin would be high fiving Zelensky over a holed Rory McIlroy bunker shot whilst Sunak sipped a lemonade on his new Masters deck chair.
You can buy beer from multiple points on the golf course (I recommend keeping hold of the empty cups) and yet no one misbehaves. It's as if the cumulative history of the event and the course resides permanently at the back of everyone’s minds. You wouldn’t dare put a foot out of line within view of where Tiger holed the most famous chip of all time, would you?! These legendary moments, and the historical figures that orchestrated them, fill the air with a feeling of grandeur, to which everyone happily adheres.
Elevation Changes (forgive me)
Yes I know, I know, I haven’t even mentioned the elevation changes yet. All the rumours are true. Despite being prepared at length by every single past patron I encountered before my travels, I still gave the elevation changes an approving tip of the hat: ‘sizable’ I muttered. Most notably from the 6th tee to the 16th green, oh brother! And not to mention the entire 10th hole which encompasses a 110 foot drop from tee to green. That's like, totally a big elevation change folks! Like almost as tall the statue of Trafalgar in London!
But what’s the town of Augusta actually like?! Tell us what’s going on outside those dark green gates of capitalist tyranny. The contrast isn’t as stark as you might think. A far cry from the front cover of your high school Geography textbook where the infinity pool of the 5 star hotel laps into the favelas below. The surroundings were very commercial. Wide American grid pattern roads lined with a minefield of enormous supermarkets (along with multiple camped out ticket touts). Half a mile down the road the local Hooters installed a temporary gazebo. John Daly was in town flogging his highly anticipated SS22 line to the unassuming beer and chicken wing consumers. The road sign read ‘MEET JOHN DALY HERE ALL WEEK’. I wondered if they were referring to this week or if that was a permanent arrangement. My Hooters virginity remains intact.
The Masters can seem pretentious; the guests are called patrons, the exclusivity of the place borders on elitism and they have a chequered past to say the least. But truthfully, it's difficult not to get swept up in the magic of it all.
Every detail, from the staff to the spectators, from the par 3 competition to the manicured grass creates this otherworldly feeling of escapism. Whether its memories of hazy Georgian sunsets glinting on dewy foreheads, the Golden Bear raising his putter in anticipation of victory or azalea pollen drifting across the frame as Tiger stalks his landing zone: somehow that visceral hair-standing-on-end feeling of nostalgia and legacy and excitement imparted by decades of TV footage is all packaged up in the place. To go there is to be in it.
A place that has the ability to make grown men shed a tear (I saw it) is probably worth checking out.