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Sunday, 19 May 2013

My Masters Adventure 2013


For over 30 years I have watched the Masters on tv and have been fascinated by the event, place, tradition and mystique of Augusta National.

Last September my dream of one day visiting the Masters became a reality, what started off as a phone conversation about a golf trip I was organising to Lumine in Barcelona ended up with a "once in a lifetime" trip to Augusta..........how could you say no!

The adventure began and within about 3 days Fraser and I had flights, tickets, hotel and car all sorted.....we just had to wait for 6 months before we set off!!


Day 1 - Friday 12th April 2013







London Heathrow, British Airways flight to Atlanta Georgia.

We landed in Atlanta at around 8pm local time and quickly found our car and headed east to Augusta...just under 3 hours and we were checking in to our hotel and eagerly anticipating the days ahead.

Day 2 - Sat 13th April 2013


No surprise but we woke up early on Saturday morning and figured out the best way to spend our day before watching the event live on the Sunday.  First things first, when in the US you have to experience a full US style diner breakfast!  We drove the 5 min trip to Washington Road (home of Augusta National) and found the Augusta Waffle House, perfect!!

As you can see we followed the mantra that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" and had a real feast.  The 90 minutes spent at the Waffle House was brilliant, not only did we sit at the bar and both entertain (with our English and Scottish accent) and be entertained by all the staff, they were amazing.  We also had a chance to discuss the golf event with some locals, if anyone was going to give us great advice on where to position ourselves on the course for the next day, what times to go and also where to go in down town Augusta for it was them..thank you.

It was now time to drive a mile up the road and find the golf course, with smiles on our faces we headed to Augusta National.  As we got close the road was full of either people looking for tickets, people selling parking for the day or golf patrons...the anticipation was awesome....

suddenly we noticed someone in the road taking a picture and realised that this must be the entrance to Magnolia Lane..to say that the entrance is discreet is a huge understatement, you could drive past it many times and never realise that you had passed the iconic gates to such hallowed grounds.

 You are not allowed any electronic devices into Augusta so we knew that today was the day to get some pics, as the Sunday within the course would be only memories and mementoes to take home.  As you can see you are allowed at the gates to Magnolia Lane and you can take some pics (shown) here and under the members sign.

30 years of memories all came flooding back, the list of golfers who have entered these gates and made that famous trip down the lane to the clubhouse made both us truly realise just how special this place is.

We explored all that you can outside the grounds and this did nothing other than build up the excitement of getting in there on the Sunday.

After leaving the complex we headed into down town Augusta to settle down into a local bar/restaurant and watch the TV coverage of the 3rd rounds play over lunch.

As we passed famous local establishments like TBonz steakhouse and the tented villages that would house live bands in the evenings I noticed a very large motor home parked up at Hooters! I then suddenly remembered that John Daly (2 time major champion & Loudmouth Golf ambassador)  always parks up here when he is not playing to say hi to the patrons and also to sign and sell some merchandise   We popped over and I asked John to sign a "Grip it and Rip it" hat for the academy!

Downtown Augusta is a charming town, that had a feel of times past, almost as if the modern day had passed it by but by no means a disappointment  the traditions of the town and event run true and Fraser and I enjoyed our afternoon watching the golf, eating a small lunch (Fraser's small salad and fries!!!!) building up the excitement for the next day.



Day 3 - Masters Sunday 14th April 2013

Our Masters Sunday Ticket
This is what we came for!  6 months of waiting, 30 years in the making and finally we had our hands on our tickets.

After a quick pit stop in the mechanise area (2 bags full of goodies!) we entered through the extensive security and passed the driving range and TV huts at just after 8.30am....as we approached the putting green at the range we were stopped dead in our tracks as Keegan Bradley hit some putts that rolled, and rolled, and rolled, and then rolled some more before stopping or being stopped by the hole...Wow!! the greens were quite simply PURE.

Following the crowd we were guided into another area surrounded by deep dark green wooden buildings that made up the largest gift shop (and busiest) I have ever seen as well as restaurants etc...so another trip into the gift shop was required to collect and buy our Masters chair.  You cannot go to the Masters without buying your chair, not just a souvenir but also following a patrons tradition of finding your spot on the course where your chair will remain for the day and will not be touched by anyone else but you! There are only 5 grandstands at Augusta (1st green, 8th green, 11thgreen/12th tee, 13th green and 14th green) all of the other patron areas of made up of rows and rows and chairs and then standing room behind them.

From the central courtyard in between these buildings there is a tunnel like explosion of light and colour that catches your eye, you just know that this is it!  You are drawn to the course like a magnet and form the dark rich colours of the gift shop area you eyes bulge as you step out onto the Augusta turf....I have been extremely fortunate to have played some magnificent courses around the world but nothing prepared me for the delight and sheer quality, colour, and velvet like texture of the grass...words pass me by when i imagined just how amazing it would be to play shots from it...you almost felt rude to walk on it.

You enter the field of dreams adjacent to the first tee, to your left are the famous white cabins and the iconic clubhouse and Oak tree (above).  You are drawn to the sheer vista in front of you, you can see all the way down the hill to the 15th green which must be 300 feet below you....I was told before we left that you would never really understand the elevation changes at Augusta until you are there, they were not wrong.  Its incredible just how much of the course you can actually see from the clubhouse.

Here are the key points of the last day for us, I'm sure you watched it on TV so no need for a ball by ball description:

Our Master Chair - As advised we placed this on the hill left of the 16th Green, we had full view of 15th green, 16th green, 17th tee and fairway and also 6th green behind us.

9.30 - We followed every shot of Phil Michelson and Ryan Moore's round basically on the ropes! we literally saw every shot..I'm still amazed that we able to walk the entire course and get a chance to see all the famous holes from tee to green without getting lost in the crowd.  Amen corner is everything that you imagine it would be and more, that tee shots on 11 and 12 are unreal..

Lunch - One of the other interesting facts about the Masters is that all food and drinks inside the gates are very reasonably priced, almost everything was about $3, sandwiches, salads, all drinks inc beer.


The afternoon and the finish!:

  • The Leaders! - Following advice gathered from the Waffle House 24 hours before and also from the previous years guidebook (totally digested by Fraser on the flight to Atlanta) we started off at the back of the 2nd green and watched the last 7 groups all play through, including Westwood's awesome approach to 4 feet and then sadly the missed eagle putt, Jason Day's holes bunker shot for Eagle and Langer's birdie birdie birdie start.
  • 7th Green - A mere 50 yards from the 2nd green took us over to the 7th green, we again watched the last 7 groups play through,  another great viewing spot as we watched the players hit shots into 17 which was the adjacent fairway.
  • 10th Green - We spotted a great little viewing spot for the 10th in the morning and we stood 10 feet from the 15th tee and had a full view down the hill onto the 10th green and fairway..we saw everything from the last 6 groups.
  • 13th Green Grandstand - Unbelievably there were spaces in the grandstand at `3th green/14th tee so we watched all the last 6 groups play through..... difficult to describe how sharp the dogleg is off the tee there, those pine needles are definitely in play with anything hit straight there.
  • 16th Green - Having taken our seats we watched all the last groups play from the fairway on 15th (awesome downhill shot into a very narrow green) and putt out as well as play the fabulous designed 16th.  For me Par 3's don't have to be well over 200 yards to be interesting or exciting, the 12th and 16th at Augusta are proof of this.  130-180 yards with water, good bunkers, swirling winds and sloopy greens are all you need for excitement.
  • The Final Hole - After watching all play 16th including Angel's birdie to tie the lead we packed up our chairs and headed back to the clubhouse, given it was the last hole on the final day we didnt expect to see much more golf but rather grab the atmosphere. Surprisingly as we walked the 17th we saw Scott's birdie put from 20 yards off the green and strolled over the the 18th tee where we watched his tee shot up the last from the ropes, you can see us on the far right of the below image!  We walked up the right hand side of 18 and witnessed Scott's shot into the green and amazing birdie putt, the roar was incredible as he holed his putt and his celebration matched.  Thinking that was the winning putt we raced up towards the clubhouse only to be hit with another roar, Angel had hit his approach to 4 feet, unbelievably a play off beckoned.

  • The Play-off - 15 thousand people and 2 holes, where should be go to try and watch some of the action?  As we looked back down 18 the fairway and green was now really full and a stream of people were heading down towards the 10th green.  We decided that the 10th tee might be a good spot as if it went to a second hole we would see the tee shots and if not we were close enough to watch the green jacket ceremony as the putting green was 20 yards away.  We got a spot on the ropes on the tee and thankfully we were next to Mike, who was the CBS cameraman and as the play-off began he gave us ball by ball commentary of the action, thank you Mike.  As you can see below we were again in the frame (in between Adam and Stevie in the image) to view first hand that iconic drive on 10...As the players disappeared down the hill Mike again took over and kept us informed. As Scott holed the winning putt the roars and cheers flooded up the hill on 10 right back to the tee.  What a finish, what a day, what an experience!


Day 4 - Monday 15th April 2013


Our last day in the US and this was also destined to be a special bonus, in planning the trip we aimed to book a late flight back so that we could play some golf beforehand if possible.  With special thanks to James Haddock (Sky Tv) and Ken Mangham (Course Superintendent  Atlanta Athletic Club) we had a round arranged  at Atlanta Athletic Club, the site of Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship win in 2011.

After the 2 1/2 hour drive from Augusta we arrived at AAC to Bobby Jones's statue welcoming us to his club, what a wonderful link to Augusta as Bobby Jones built Augusta National with Clifford Roberts and also had ties to AAC.

Fraser on the Riverside Course
We actually played 27 holes, 9 on the Riverside (members course) in the morning followed by tackling the Highlands Championship course in the afternoon, the Highlands course has held 1 x US Open and 2 x US PGA Championships as well as more more important Amateur events in its history.  Fraser and I felt very lucky to play it.

The Highlands course was an very challenging design, not only was there plenty of water, fantastic bunkering but also greens running at over 12 on the stimp meter!

The Par 3's alone all measured over 200 yards and each and every one was a tee shot over water, the 15th measuring a mere 265yards shown below form the green was simply spectacular, we both tries to imagine playing that hole under the pressure of a major championship, wow!


17th Green
 The finish at AAC comprised of the 15th (Above), a great par 4 16th all uphill to a tricky green and then a lovely par 3 17th again over the water with the front section of the green carved into the lake.

 The final hole is a long dogleg left par 5 (par 4 in the US PGA) with water all the way down the left side and then also across the front of the green and bunkers all the way down the right side.  You simply have to hit 2 great shots to get onto the green.





The 18th Second shot!
As we packed up the car and headed back to the airport Fraser and I were sad that our adventure that began back in Sept 2012 was coming to an end but equally thrilled that we actually did it!  

Thank you Fraser for your company and sharing this incredible adventure, plus all your help in the planning of our trip, it was a "once in a lifetime experience" for sure.

I hope you have enjoyed a small insight into our Masters adventure.

Cheers

Darren

Masters 2014

Do you fancy joining me next year to visit Augusta?
I'm currently planning my return to Augusta and if you are interested in coming along please contact me directly HERE 

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