Insider’s Guide to the Ultimate Masters Tournament Experience!

Insider’s Guide to the Ultimate Masters Tournament Experience!

First, let me say welcome to Augusta! We are so glad you are here.

My name is Tripp, and I pretty much grew up at Augusta National, home of the Masters, and have spent many of my days behind the scenes on those hallowed grounds. If you are fortunate enough to have tickets in hand, be they practice rounds or daily badges, then here are a few MUST DOs that will make your Masters experience as unforgettable as your wedding day, the birth of your first child, the memory of your first kiss. This is my 40th Masters in a row, and I can’t wait to share my inside nuggets of navigation with you. I so wish I could be there with you as your tour guide, but since I can’t, these little tidbits should suffice, at least I hope so. Might I recommend printing this guide and taking it with you when you go? If so, let’s rock and roll. No one knows the Nash like I do!

1. Let’s start with the basics, a little inside the gates of Augusta, 101. Leave your cell phone and anything electronic back at the house before you even think about walking out the door of wherever you are staying. They won’t tell you to turn it off. They won’t confiscate it. They won’t hold it for you. They will send you back to the car (or to the corner of Wicklow and Heath), and that is a Walk of Shame you do not want to take. Lastly, no cameras of any kind, except during the practice rounds. Also, if you have golf shoes, wear ‘em. The hills and slopes at Augusta are slicker than a used car salesman if you catch ‘em before the sun burns off the dew!

2. Don’t be a rookie and enter through the main gate, which is Gate 6, near Washington Road. Yes, there is the new State of the Art practice facility along the entry way—and it’s unlike any other practice facility in the world. It is also the reason the main entrance off Washington Road is no longer open to the public. That new facility is over 20 million dollars worth of grass and trees and sand, and since most golf courses don’t cost half that to build, it’s definitely worth a look. Heck, it’s worth 2 looks. But go back later to check out this 8th wonder of the world, and when you do, notice the greens the players are hitting into. They are exact replicas of the ones on the course! This is a wonderful, and I mean a wonderful place to watch the players hone their game. But, believe it or not, it is only used twice a year: The Jamboree—aka the Opening Party—and The Masters. How wild is that! I also like to spend time on the East Practice Tee, opposite the old practice to the right of Magnolia Lane, to watch the players work on their short game. It’s seldom ever crowded, as most folks don’t know it is even there.

3. I want you to enter my favorite gate, which is gate 9. Might I suggest going with uber, having your driver drop you off at the corner of Wicklow and Heath, walk 50 short yards to the stop sign on Berkmans Road take a left, follow the sidewalk to the tunnel, and keep walking until you are at the entrance of the course, where they will scan your ticket. Have it in your hand, smile and say yes ma’am and sir. Then pin it back on your button loop on your shirt, pullover or belt loop. If you plan on leaving Augusta with a souvenir or two, and I reckon you are, I highly suggest shopping early. As I imagine you’ve heard, they sell stuff out of those pro shops so fast you’d think it had the word FREE written on it! Well guess what? This gate 9 opens up to, in my mind, the best outdoor pro shop on the course. And if you’re looking for a certain item—but don’t see it, ask an employee with one of those dangling ear piece “thingys”. They look like secret service men. He’s your connection to every pro shop on the course, and there’s a good chance he can find what you’re looking for, if it’s not already sold out. Don’t hesitate to ask—they are nice as they can be. But of course—they’re southerners.

4. After you’ve spent your mortgage on shirts and hats, make sure you check your goodies at the check-stand just to the right of the pro shop. You don’t want to lug all that stuff around the golf course. And if you want to ship it home, they can make that happen. Trust me—that Bobby Jones mercerized cotton golf shirt and Tervis Tumbler is a lot heavier than it looks, especially when you’re trying to navigate 4 beers and a BBQ sandwich!

5. Which brings me to perhaps my favorite Masters tradition: THE FOOD. But before we get into one of my favorite subjects, I want to point out that the main concession stand (the one that sits about a hundred yards to the right of the main scoreboard) now sits where the original caddy house used to be. Sadly, the old caddy yard is the ghost of Christmas past, but I would like to share with you a story from the book that shines a little light on how much fun we had in that old cinder block building. Remind me to tell it to you over a frosty one, if we ever get a chance to meet.

6. Back to the food, in particular the egg salad sandwiches on squishy white bread. My, oh my. I do want to note that for just the second time in over 60 years the same family will not be making the sandwiches. How’s this for a job? The same guy made all the sandwiches for the tournament year after year until he retired in 2008. Though I’m not real sure what he retired from, since he only worked one week a year: Masters Week. Now that is a good gig. S0, unless you’re a vegetarian, you must eat at least one of the following:

• Egg salad sandwich, Pimento cheese sandwich, BBQ, Ham on Rye

BBQ potato chips—not plain. BBQ.

When you get your bag of chips, note the Masters logo on the front and then flip it over. Note the Cape Cod logo. Lay’s used to be the chip of choice, but they wouldn’t agree to let Augusta put the Masters logo on their bag. So bye-bye Lays. As for the beer, well, there’s no such thing as a bad beer. At Augusta, the only bad thing about the beer is they stop selling ‘em at 4 o’clock. And when they say 4 they mean 4. If you get in the beer line at 4:01 you’re walking out with lemonade.

7. Now, back to the golf course. Make sure you grab a pairing sheet. Matter of fact, grab two, ‘cause you’re gonna lose one. They’ll be in the little green boxes as soon as you walk in, and also near the main scoreboard, which is where I’m taking you next. The pairing sheets will tell you who’s playing with who and when, and on the back is a neat, little map of the course that will help you navigate your way around. Also, make sure you stop at the little green booth where they hand out the programs—they’re free. These are great for getting interesting information and tidbits on each player—how they qualified for the Masters, where they’re from, etc., as well as a few history lessons on the tournament. Or as we say in the South, the “Toonament.”

8. The last thing I want you to do before you leave the course is spend a moment or two at the Main Scoreboard the one at the jut of the hill on number 1. It’s the oldest of its kind, and the last remaining manual scoreboard in the Majors. How cool is that? If you look up top, you’ll see flags representing all the different countries where all the players are from. It’s amazing how diverse the Masters field truly is. I think it is a beautiful thing.

9. OK, now that we’re back on the course, I want to share with you my favorite places to soak it all up, whether you are looking to see incredible golf on a level unimaginable, a beautiful view of brilliant flowers in bloom, tall loblolly pines swaying in a cool southern breeze, or a place to stop for lunch or just the shortest line to the bathroom. It’s time to soak it all in.

In no particular order, these are MASTERS MUST DOS.

1. Walk the first hole. Walk all the holes. Walk the course backwards, starting on 18. This way you can truly appreciate how darn hilly Augusta National really is. You certainly can’t tell that from TV, even in the age of HD. But before you do that, take the short jaunt up the hill from the scoreboard to the pro shop. Note the Bobby Jones sundial. That’s where Legendary Caddy Master Freddie Bennett drove # 2 green, wearing bedroom slippers, of all things! (It’s in my book Freddie & Me. Chapter 7: Magic from the Bobby Jones Sundial.) Ask the guard if you can touch it. She or he will say yes.

2. The back of number 2 tee is a great, and I mean a great place to get close to your favorite player. You’ll need to go down from 1 green, maybe 100 yards to the cross walk and then walk back up and around, but it’s not that far and totally worth it. You’ll be as close to the players as you are to this glossy sheet of paper.

3. There is a new concession stand just opposite this cross walk, and it’s off the beaten path, so the lines are shorter. These new concession stands are referred to as non-permanent permanent structures, and cost $250,000 each! Yowza! There’s a nice bathroom as well—heck, all the bathrooms at Augusta are nice, and the lines are shorter there, too. I highly recommend stopping here to refresh and replenish.

4. The grandstand to the right of 5 green delivers a breathtaking vista of the fairway, and is the perfect spot for watching players hit their approach shots, pitch shots, bunker shots, and roll the flat stack. Five green is a great place to take it all in.

5. For those who have been here before, you may notice the concession stand to the right of 6 fairway and behind 16 green is gone. In fact, upon closer look you’ll see azalea beds and pine trees have taken its place. Look up and you’ll see these pine trees are in fact loblollies and are over 40 feet tall. Imagine what must it cost to plant those babies? I don’t think they sell ‘em at the Home Depot, either. I’ve often wondered—Who do you call when you’re looking for a 50 foot pine tree? Seriously— who has that in stock? Also, up on the high left hill, left of the green, is now cleared of said Azaleas and pine trees, and is also a great place to watch 16. Fantastic, actually.

6. The fairly new tee box on 7 is an absolutely awesome place to see your favorite player crack one down the middle. You can get almost as close as you can on 2 tee, as few people know it’s back there and it’s never crowded. It’s also the perfect place to take a load off and have lunch, a snack, or chill or what not.

7. My favorite place of all to watch the players grip it and rip it up close and personal, at least for the WOW factor of it all, is #8. The snap of the swing, the crack of the ball, to watch it arc into the sky like a diver and bound down the fairway, ready to go for the green in two. And to know that you will never, ever, not in a million years, hit a golf shot even remotely close to what you just witnessed. It’s humbling, in an oddly gratifying way. Eight tee box is also the best place to say, “Hey, let’s meet up here!” in case you get lost or separated from your buddies or family, because it’s very open and everybody can see everybody. It’s also close to a concessions stand and bathroom.

8. My all-time place to take someone who wants to see their favorite players up close and personal has to be the 11th tee. It’s to the left of 10 green, down a short hill, never crowded, and there’s almost always a delay in the action, 8-10 minutes or so, so it’s the perfect spot to do some player watching. You’ll be so close to the players here you’ll feel like you’re in the same group with ‘em!

9. Of course, Amen Corner is a must, if only for the sake of tradition. It’s always crowded as a WHO concert, but certainly worth the trip. I’ve got a little Amen Corner story for you I’d like to share, so remind me of that, should we get the chance to meet. The Indian burial ground stories are true.

10. Speaking of the chance of a lifetime, which is what this is for you, if I were you, I wouldn’t leave the course until they kick you out, which will be around 8:00 P.M. Walk around and soak it all in, even after all the players have left the course. I love Masters Week. More than my birthday, more than Christmas. IN fact, to me, the only thing bigger than Masters Week is my wife’s birthday, and I’m only saying that in case my wife reads this. Kidding of course. Her birthday means the most.

11. Long and the short, Masters Week is a very, very special time. Take these tidbits and make it your own, my friends. I would love to be a fly on the wall for your ride home, and I would love to hear your story of your experience at Augusta, should you be fortunate to get there. You can find me at trippster@comcast.net. Holler!

Tripp Bowden

About Tripp Bowden

Tripp Bowden is a former Augusta National Caddy, the first full time white caddy in the history of the elite private club. Tripp is also a former collegiate golfer and alum of Augusta University and a former copy writer, first with McCann Erickson New York and later with his own company, Creative Wizards. The author of The New York Times praised Freddie & Me: Life Lessons from Freddie, Augusta National’s Legendary Caddy Master, Tripp is a frequent speaker at prominent golf clubs across America and beyond. He lives with his wife Fletch and children Arrie B. and Holly Mac in Augusta, Georgia.