Masters blog: First impressions of Augusta

Golf News

10 observations from a day at the Masters

1) The staff are very helpful
Within 30 seconds of entering the property one of us (Tom) had lost our wallet. Money, bank cards and a lifetime membership to Blockbuster were all retrieved half an hour later from a very friendly gate attendant.

2) The opening hole
We all hear about the hills and the climbs but you don’t hear too much about the carry to the brow of the 1st fairway. First up you face a carry of around 260 yards to reach it, for the less athletic amongst us you then might struggle to get up the hill to the ball.

3) Three holes from one spot

Augusta National boasts vast rolling swathes of land but it’s not the biggest area and you can move from one spot to the other very easily. From the top of the grandstand at the 12th you can see the 11th and all the way down the 13th.

From the 16th you can make out eight holes and have a perfect view of both the 6th and 15th greens.

4) Access is incredible

Little is done from afar, there are two putting greens which are circled by patrons and a grandstanded practice ground which is like no other. Roped areas surround every green for those sitting, behind there is ample room so you don’t spend your day craning your neck at every corner.

Leave your chair, with business card tucked into the back, and you can expect to return to it hours later and resume your place.

The course was designed with the patrons in mind and this remains the case today.

5) Greens are plenty quick enough

There is a notion that the greens are nothing like those of yesteryear but they still stimp at around 12. So basically unlike anything most of us experience at any point.

The reason they are ‘only’ that figure is because of the slopes. A 40-foot putt, for example, from the right to left of the 15th green should be struck at about the pace you would for a 10-footer at home. And even then you will likely finish off the putting surface.

And supposedly they are noticeably quicker from Thursday onwards.

A 40-foot putt from the right to left of the 15th green should be struck at about the pace you would for a 10-footer at home 6) Don’t expect any run
At 7,435 yards this is a bomber’s course. Short(er) knockers have done well here but they are the exception to the rule. The fairways are mowed into you from the tee so the ball will stop very abruptly, there are a number of carries around the 280-yard mark and nine of the par 4s are 440 yards or over. And there are four par 5s to go at.

7) The 16th is where it’s at in practice
One tradition at the Masters is to try and skip your ball across the water from the front of the tee at the 16th. 
Any player is roundly booed at even the faintest suggestion that they won’t give it a go, other groups take it on as a four in unison.
Rory McIlroy gave it his best three times and never emerged from the water. Throughout the day huge roars echo around the grounds from the same area and you know someone else made their way on to the dance floor. 
Last year Martin Kaymer holed out here.

8) Where dreams are made

It might not be the strongest or deepest field but for the
amateur golfer it is an unforgettable week. Take the case of TJ Vogel who won the US Amateur Public Links Championship last year after a 12&10 win in the final.
His practice day was spent with Jim Furyk, Fred Couples and Steve Stricker.
Fourteen year old Guan Tianlang enjoyed a practice round with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson on Monday, then had nine holes with Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson and is planning on playing with Watson and Nick Faldo in the Par 3 contest.

9) The whole thing feels like going to Alton Towers

The Masters feels a bit like a theme park – you enter through a grand but understated permanent ticketing and security check, and make your way to the practice ground on the left. The course is off to the right but before you get there you pass through permanent and discreet merchandising and food and beverage buildings – before you arrive where you should arrive – by the 1st tee.
As with the Tea Cups ride at Alton Towers, you are eased into this overwhelming experience before you hurry to the white-knuckle stuff around Amen Corner.

10) It’s unlike anything else

It also has the feel of going to the Melbourne Cup or Royal Ascot but without the suits and high heels. There is a garden party-like atmosphere to the place but without the stuffiness.
Everything is easy, there are ‘rest rooms’ dotted evry few holes, likewise food and drink stalls, everything is particularly cheap and everyone is beamingly happy.
And so they should be.

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