Like many of you I sat at home and watched the little known Sheffield boy Danny Willet win The Masters last night with a confounded cheeky smile on his face. His own personal week was one that are dreamt not made. Meanwhile Jordan Spieth’s baby face told a very different story. Spieth is just 22 and will be back, but the young American will have to fend off a whole host of exciting young British golfers.
For me watching on TV last night made it all the more dramatic as I was at Augusta 24 hours previously. Watching the cameras pan around that historic course made it so much more for me after walking around it the day before.
The Masters should be on every sports fans bucket list and I was privileged to be able to attend on Saturday. Mind you, it is long old drive from Atlanta, almost 3 hours each way and Augusta itself is situated east of Atlanta nestled on the border of golf-course laden South Carolina, touched by southern charm and blessed with history.
Augusta National meanwhile is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the world and hosted it’s first championship in 1934. But the beauty of the place is not in it’s ancient history but in the way that it still nurtures it. Augusta is the most non-American sports arena in America. There is not an advertising billboard in sight, nor a branded label. Nor is there shouting and screaming. Just cheers and polite clapping reverberate around the course.
Fans are known as patrons but are ordered to leave almost every personal item at the gate. No flags, no cameras, no phones, no running, no lying on the grass, no packed lunches or picnics.
But it is extraordinarily cheap inside the lush green boundary. A beer, either in a clear pint plastic glass (Bud) or a green plastic glass (Stella) is only $5 a pint. A sandwich, including the legendary pimento cheese, just $1.50. A packet of crisps, Masters ones of course, a dollar. An entrance ticket for a day is cheaper than a seat at The Emirates.
Beware the golf shops scattered cleverly all around. Patrons are in there getting their Christmas presents for every member of their family and it seemed all of their neighbours. Yes, of course you can’t go to The Masters and not buy anything. That would be just wrong.
The golf course is perfection though. Not a blade of grass out of place, and stunning scrubs and flowers populate every vista. And if those beautiful azalea’s bloom a bit early in the spring, the are iced every day to slow their growth spurts down. True. Oh, I wish I had my camera!
Every hole is named after a tree or shrub. Tea Olive (1), Pink Dogwood (2), Juniper (6), Golden Bell (12) and so on. The iconic par 5 13th, is the Azalea. There are 3 bridges, all as old as Bobby Jones and at Amen corner, where there is a perfect view of the 11th fairway, all of the 12th, and the tee and fairway of the 510-yard 13th, it really is heaven on earth.
Augusta National, only open to the public for one week a year, is not just a golf course or even an iconic world sporting venue. It is how I imagine the walk up to the pearly gates to looks like. Just hope I can take my camera in.