For someone who has been most fortunate to attend the Masters for close on 25-years, and has played Augusta National twice including breaking 100 on both occasions, here’s a few observations that I hope may whet your appetite a little ahead of this week’s 87th hosting of The Masters.
JUST TWO MASTERS NOT FULLY IN APRIL – We know the Masters is always held in April and while there has been the odd occasion when it commenced in March, it would still finish in April. However there have been just two occasions when the Masters has not been held fully in the month of April and that was the scenario more recently after the COVID pandemic pushed the 2020 Masters back to November. Though it did not deter Dustin Johnson.
AZALEAS ON ICE – A new Masters drink? No, but there’s been this long-time rumour that there’s a reason why the Augusta azaleas always bloom in April and the answer is ice beds. Ice beds? No, before you start saying ice would kill off the plants or melt should there be warm weather, the rumour seemed factual given Augusta has its own ice-making facility. No, it’s all a fallacy as the only ice on the property is used in finding its way into cocktails and not flower bed
NO BIRDS, NO INSECTS, NOT EVEN A STRAY DOG – Ever wondered when you’re sitting back watching the Masters why there’s no birdlife, yet you can hear birds chirping away. Whatever Augusta does, you won’t see birds flying about Augusta National nor will you see squirrels scooting up trees or the players being bothered by insects As for chirping birds? It’s known CBS blended bird sounds into their golf coverage until they got caught out by Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick who happened to love his golf though the bird sounds he was identifying during the CBS coverage at the 2000 PGA Championship were not common to the host region at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.
$20,000 FOR A CUP OF AUGUSTA SAND – An Augusta patron didn’t think anyone would mind if he snuck under the ropes to souvenir a plastic cup full of sand. Ohio native Clayton Baker was on a mission to collect grass, dirt, sand or whatever from some from a number of top US sporting venues. It was 2012 and Baker was walking back up the 10th hole after Bubba Watson won his first of two Masters. Well Augusta security staff were waiting with handcuffs to arrest Baker. The now banned patron had flown by a private jet from Ohio to Augusta and while the pilot waited, Baker was holed up in jail. He was later released and then a few weeks later a judge dismissed the charge though it cost Baker almost $20,000 in legal expenses.
AUGUSTA NATIONAL SAND IS NOT SAND – The sand that Clayton Baker tried to souvenir is not sand. The Augusta bunkers are filled with granulated quartz (known as “Spruce Pine sand” and SP55) which is produced as a by-product during work at feldspar mines in the Spruce Pine Mining District in and around Spruce Pine, North Carolina. If only, Baker knew that!
AUGUSTA ARCHITECTS APLENTY – We know Alister MacKenzie, who designed Augusta National, sadly passed away some three months before Augusta played host to the inaugural 1934 Masters. Well, since then there have been no fewer than 10 other trained architects and seven consultants who have made documented contributions to the ever-evolving design of Augusta National. The only thing that has not changed in 89-years is the routing of the holes. The first remains the first, the 10th the 10th and the 18th still the final hole.
CADDY NUMBERING – The numbers appearing on the white overalls of the Masters caddies simply represent the order in which the players register. However, No. 1 is always reserved for the defending champion. As well, unlike the past, the caddie outfit nowadays are made of a lighter material (65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton) along with being wrinkle-resistant and a brighter white. Speaking of Augusta caddies, Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts is reputed to have said, “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black”, Since 1983—six years after Roberts’s death in 1977—players have been allowed the option of bringing their own caddie to the tournament.
AUGUSTA NATIONAL SKI SLOPES – If snow covered Augusta National, and that often happens during an Augusta winter, then the 10th hole and tee adjacent 18th green are steep enough to be intermediate ski runs. The steepness of both holes doesn’t really show this in the annual TV coverage. And in talking steepness, the official distance from the highest point to the lowest point at Augusta National is 175-feet.
NO DIFFERENT TO ANY OTHER USA MAIN STREET – 2604 Washington Rd, Augusta, GA 30904, USA is the address of Augusta National GC. Unlike the great majority of golf clubs in the US, it is right on a main road and if not for a sign saying: “Augusta National GC – Members Only,” you’d miss it. However, you only need to walk a wedge-shot distance down Washington Road from Augusta National and someone could blindfold you, and then in taking off the blindfold you would not have a clue what town you were in. It’s just your typical US country street lined with shops/restaurants/bars and so on. If you’re visiting Augusta outside of Masters week, the best sights are to be enjoyed in the old part of the town, laid out alongside the Savannah River.
MEDIA CENTRE AKIN TO A GOVERNOR’S MANSION – Being the only major championship to remain at the same venue favours the media accredited to attend the Masters. A few years ago, a new ‘governor’s mansion’ multi-story structure was built for the media, albeit some distance from the championship course, located at the top left-hand corner of the practice range. After parking your car just metres away from the centre’s entrance, you’re greeted by a porch featuring rocking chairs and hanging baskets. Inside the media centre there’s a sit-down restaurant that most-often requires a booking at the height of lunch, a grab-and-go food facility and, of course, a bar that opens late in the day to keep the media ‘watered’. What is extra special within the media centre is that there are so many Masters exhibits on display, and more akin to a museum than a working media centre. And speaking of the Augusta accredited media as the Masters proudly remembers those long-time media members who may have passed away in the ensuing 12 months. They do so by keeping their seat vacant and usually place the person’s cap on a small hat stand on the table where he or she would have been seated.
FORE PLEASE, MEDIA NOW DRIVING – The accredited Masters media also get to go into a ‘ballot’ each year to play Augusta National the day after The Masters. You play off a forward tee but it’s the same course, same pin placements and everything the same, except there are no patrons. You receive an invitation, just like players, but you can’t bring your wife/husband/friend or anybody other than yourself. If you’re fortunate enough to have your name drawn in the ballot then you must wait seven-years before being eligible to go back into the ballot. I’ve been privileged to play Augusta National twice – 1998 and 2006. Managed to also break 100 on both occasions with a highlight par at ‘Golden Bell’ – par-3 12th.
ACROSS THE ROAD, PLEASE – It’s common at all big tournaments for the factory equipment representatives to be on-site in assisting players with the various needs. No, not at Augusta National as the 18-wheelers carrying the best golf equipment a player can have access to must park across Washington Road in a car park opposite a Scottish Rite of FreeMasonry. And not all equipment staff are allowed inside the Augusta National front gates, with only a designated few afforded passes.
THE OTHER GREEN JACKET CEREMONY – There’s not just one green jacket fitting ceremony in Augusta during Masters week. And you also don’t require a Masters patron’s badge to attend the annual Hooters Miss Green Jacket Swimsuit Contest. But before uncovering full-colour details, I am going to tease you in directing you to this eye-popping piece of the ‘other’ green jacket ceremony in Augusta during Masters week: http://www.golfbytourmiss.com/2020/04/whats-happening-with-augustas-other-green-jacket-ceremony/
Enjoy the Masters.
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