Augusta National Golf Club summed up in one word, unworldly, and in a couple of words, “out of this world”. Even with that lofty praise, word’s just don’t do it justice.
While, watching the Masters Tournament on a grainy tube TV with my dad, there was no real way to grasp just how beautiful and special this place was. We all have heard the stories of Jones, Mackenzie, Hogan, Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Crenshaw, Mize, Faldo, and Woods, but you really can’t feel the power of the place until you have been there. So for 25 years of my life I have lived without understanding what makes Augusta so special, until Tuesday April 9th, 2019.
I could barely sleep the night prior to our Tuesday practice round, large in part to pure excitement, anxiety of a potential rain out, and the less than ideal hotel arrangements at the lovely Baymont Inn. We arrived at the gates to golf heaven, and were welcomed with open arms by smiling faced employees who could have easily passed as angels. The long walk from the North Gate to the course teases you, with the media building popping up over the bushes to your left, “authorized personnel” buildings to the right, and then you catch a glimpse of the range. I needed a forklift to lift my jaw off the ground just to walk a few steps into the merchandise line. We made our way thru the a line that felt like something from Disney World and into the greatest golf shop in the world. I was Charlie running around Wanka’s Chocolate Factory, filling my green shopping bag with everything in sight. Hats and golf shirts in lieu of Gobstoppers and Wanka Bars. Pops and I had our fill and our bags scheduled for shipping back home in under an hour.
A pimento cheese sandwich, “blue sports drink” and a cup of coffee was our breakfast of champions served by yet again wide eyed and cheerful employees who had been up as early as we had. Finally, with all of the must do’s checked off, we walked out of the trees and under the scoreboard on #1. There she was, like a ripe fruit ready to be picked. That view you see behind Todd Lewis on Golf Central is that much better in person. This is where you get that first glimpse of the shear scale and elevation changes on this golf course. As the rain fell, we made our way around the first four holes taking it all in. Like how it’s very easy to see how Ernie could 5 putt the green on #1 last year, and how in the world are you going to get it close on #4 from 240 yards.
A camera is a must, and a DSLR is even better to attempt capturing the course in all of its glory. Fill the SD card up, but don’t live thru the lens, because your eyes are the only thing that can really grasp all of the nuances. As you slip thru behind 16, past the concessions hidden within the pines, and catch your first glimpse of Amen Corner, it all hits you. With the blink of an eye, I flashed back to Sunday’s on the couch with dad, cheering for Tiger, and as I opened my eyes, we are standing there together among the Azaleas on the greatest golf hole in the world.
The 4 hole stretch from 10-13 may be the best 4 holes I have every seen. #10 gets over looked but it is one of my favorite holes on the course. Standing at the tee you feel like you are about to hit the ball off of the planet. A drive down the left side is favorable as the fairway pitches severely right to left as it turns the corner. More than likely you will be left with a down hill lie, but usually also with the ball above your feet. Left is jail for a pin on the left side and the right bunker leaves you in a world of hurt if the pin is on the right. That is a recurring theme across the golf course, it is all about playing to the correct side and portion of the greens as to not leave yourself in even more trouble. Watching on TV this year will be a much different experience having stood where they have stood just a few days ago.
There were plenty of pinch me moments that day, first of all was getting to return to the course after the rain delay, to 5 hours of sunshine. We saw the course during rainy overcast conditions, but something about blue sky and sunshine, makes those rolling fairways light up to a different hue of green. There was seeing my golf idol Tiger Woods, with the only thing separating us being a 1/4″ rope and 8′, hearing Kiz trash talk Kevin Na for being late for their late afternoon tee time, or even hearing the Sub Air system that sucks the water out of the golf course like a 737 jet engine.There are too many to count and every time I think about Tuesday, something else pops into my mind that makes me smile.
My final testament is this, find a way to get to Augusta because it will exceed any possible expectations you could have. Forget the money, forget the travel, forget all of the reason’s why not to go, and start thinking about all of the reasons “to go”. See one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the world, be apart of the most important event in our sport, see your hero’s in person, see how an operation of this magnitude flows and for me do something special with a loved one. This was a chance, at a time in my life where my Dad is my boss and I am an employee, for us to be father and son just like the good old days. I’ll drink an “American Craft Beer” to that.