Yes, bootylicious is the word that best describes Augusta National Golf Course, with its fairways and greens having the bumps and curves of a voluptuous woman. While spectators (oops patrons) like me couldn’t get on the greens, you could tell they were as smooth as the skin of a Paris model. In addition, the golf course has had more “facelifts” than an aging movie star.
Augusta is well-manicured, even the pine needles under the trees have been combed so they are neat and tidy. The reds and pinks of the flowers resemble the lipsticks found in an upscale cosmetic boutique.
The untouched white sand traps that dot the fairways and guard the greens look ornamental, like a broach or necklace. The smooth mirror-like ponds add a definite narcissistic element to the golf course.
Vixen or Siren?
Some might even call Augusta a vixen, with holes that can be both seductive and ill-tempered. Others might say she is a siren for her seductive beauty that entices men to go for shots they shouldn’t.
In 1994, pro golfer and CBS commentator Garry McCord got banned from Augusta for saying “Augusta's 17th green was so fast it could have been bikini-waxed.” Ironically, when I first arrived and walked on the fairways they looked and felt like artificial turf so I immediately reached down to feel the grass. Indeed, it had a very waxy, plastic feel. McCord’s comment rang true to me.
After spending a day at Augusta National for a practice round and then watching The Masters the next weekend I have a much greater appreciation for the sensuality and seductiveness of the golf course. Augusta is drop-dead gorgeous; definitely eye-candy.
I expect I too will be banned for life, if any of the Board Members read this blog.
Practice Round Surprises
The crowd was overwhelming for me; it was like Disneyland for golfers. It took me awhile to get use to the masses of people swarming everywhere (40,000 I think). I found it difficult to really appreciate the course with so many people on it.
I also found it hard to appreciate the fairways looking at them from the sides. To me you have to walk down the middle of the fairways and onto the greens to really understand the golf course terrain.
Unlike a tournament day where most patrons would sit and watch, on practice days it is chaos as people walk all over the golf course. The same was true of the players - they wandered all over the course hitting balls from different spots on the fairway and greens.
There wasn’t the intensity I expected - I saw players bouncing balls up and down off their club as then walked down the fairway. For me there was more intensity on the driving range as players worked with their coaches on their swing. I was also intrigued by all the swing aides used on the driving range and putting green.
The pro shop was an amazing experience. Patrons were herded through a maze to get into the shop as they control how many people are inside at any one time. Once in, it is a feeding frenzy as people are literally running around grabbing things and throwing them into their shopping bags. I heard the average person spends $700 US buying hats, shirts, balls etc etc etc., which means the course takes in about $25 million per day just in souvenirs.
Practice Makes Perfect
I watched several of the players routinely miss 4 footers on the practice green. I didn’t see anyone sink 10 in a row like you often see on TV. I would also say most of the players spent little time on the chipping area, which surprised me.
While I knew the rough was short at Augusta I was surprised at how little difference there is and that is what makes the fairways look so wide open.
I was also surprised that the shots off the tee boxes are not as narrow as they look on TV. Jordan Spieth might not agree with me.
However, the elevation changes along the fairways and into the greens are more severe than what you see on TV. I tried to capture the changes on camera but could not.
And don’t let them tell you how hard it is to hit off the pine needles under the trees! They have been raked and cleaned so that golfers are almost guaranteed a good lie. As well, the lower tree branches have been cut to allow room for a good swing.
Amen Corner is just as pretty as it looks on TV. I found out it used to be called Water Loop, before the term Amen Corner was coined. I am thinking a better term might be Cemetery Corner as it is where many a golfer’s dream of winning The Masters dies. All the beautiful flowers reminded me of a funeral home.
FYI. The $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches are disgusting and unless you have a special pass the best you can do is cafeteria food.
The strangest experience I had was, while standing on the 18th fairway watching Tiger, Phil and Freddie walk by I heard the camera guy in front of me say “We’ve got this shot. Now, let’s get some footage of the flowers.” I asked “Do you have a secret spot? I love flowers.” Then another guy behind me says “Can I chat with you?” I hadn’t realized it was a local TV crew doing a story about the flowers at Augusta. I ended up doing an interview. Once a media slut, always a media slut.
The most unique experience was having an Augusta member (yes, one of those guys in the infamous green jackets) kindly ask me, “Do you want me to take a picture of you?” I happened to be taking a picture the Eisenhower cabin (one of several houses on the course, this one was where President Eisenhower stayed when he played Augusta) and he saw me and thought I’d probably like a selfie.
There are no cell phones allowed on the course and taking a selfie with a camera isn’t easy. Though not a big a fan of getting my picture taken, it was kinda cool to be asked by an Augusta Member to take your picture. We chatted a bit, he told me that normally going even on the front yard is out of bounds for the patrons, yet he allowed me to go up to the porch.
I should also mention there were many young people in green golf shirts asking if we were having a good time. Indeed, for one week of the year, Augusta is a welcoming place for those lucky enough to win the lottery. Yes, they hold a lottery to issue tickets to the public each year.
I would like to thank my golf buddy RS who won the lottery last year and asked me if I wanted to join him and two other buddies from our home course Redwood Golf and Country Club. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime for me, although RS only ranked it #4 of his lifetime golf experiences.
Golf Lesson Learned
Forget the drives; forget the putting. I am going to work on my swagger this year. All of the young players have very cocky, confident swagger as they move around the golf course. It has got to be easier than trying to emulate their swings. Isn’t golf a game of confidence?
On the back of my day pass, I noticed a quote from Bobby Jones co-founder of Augusta National that reads “In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play. It is appropriate for spectators to applaud strokes in proportion to difficulty but excess demonstration by a player or his partisans are not proper because of the possible effect upon other competitors.”
So, if the term “spectators” is good enough for Jones, I wonder why the Augusta Board demand they be called “patrons.”
If you like this blog, you will like these blogs: