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Although hidden behind fences and bushes, The Augusta National is Augusta's greatest treasures. Designed by Bobby Jones between 1931-34 as his dream course, it is considered one of the most prestigious and beautiful courses in the world. The Masters is the annual tournament held on this course in the first week of April every year. The prize, in addition to cash, is the legendary green jacket, worn with the utmost pride by each year's recipient.
Winners are a veritable who's who of the greats in golf. Tiger Woods was the youngest winner, at age 21 in 1997. He and Arnold Palmer are the only 4-time winners, only trumped by Jack Nickolaus, who has won 6 times and is also the oldest winner, at age 46 in 1986.
Augusta literally doubles in size during the Masters, as the hard-to-come-by tickets are held by members and patrons from around the world. A handful of tickets are distributed via lottery each year, but the majority belong to members or are passed down via the generations. Watching the course is both exhilerating for the heat of the competition as well as breath-taking for the beauty of the course.
Traveling to Augusta during the Masters must be planned months in advance. Flights and hotels book early and restaurants are often reserved for private parties. The traffic will increase dramatically and it is helpful to have a local guide you through the side streets.
But if one is lucky enough to score a ticket to even one of the days or the practice rounds, it's an experience not to miss.
Specific Tips for Negotiating Your Day at the Master's: This is an event at which a lot is going on. Here are some highlights: 1. Go to the large white Master's Board where scores are kept and have your picture taken with the board in the background. 2. Definitely go to the area where the golfers are practicing teeing off. Here one will see golfers you recognize. The caddies in white have the name of the player they are assisting on the back of their white outfit: Ben Crenshaw, Freddie Couples, Earnie Els, and several others.
When you have your fill of those two stops, you may want to ask around and see where the "name" golfer you want to see is playing. You will definitely want to see "Amen Corner" with its remarkable holes bedecked with the signature azaleas. You will want to see the clubhouse, the cabins, and the bridges. Note the pinestraw which is a challenge for many a golfer, but do particularly enjoy the azaleas. Ask about the whole with the water feature in which golfers playfully try to skip their golf balls over the water. It's a sort of fun tradtition, and it is enjoyable to watch.
This tournament and practice rounds are very crowded. Be prepared for that. The good thing is that the facility has done this for many years and is well-versed in crowd managements. Lines are long, but they move fairly quickly. This is true of the restrooms, the pro shop (where you can pick up a shirt or other item), and the food concessions. A traditional offering is the egg or egg salad sandwich.The gallery bleachers is a fine place to sit, eat, and enjoy the golfers. It was a treat.
Ample free parking is provided by Augusta National Golf Club on their newly-required acreage along Berkmans Road, within walking distance of the gate. If you're fortunate, you'll get a day in which there is no rain. Then, you are off to the races...or, rather, THE MASTERS!