The First Timer’s Guide to the Masters
I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Master’s twice in my life.
Last year I went for the first time during the Friday round and had an incredible time. I likened it to being Disneyland for adults – however this year while still having amusement park-esque features, I realized it was probably more like Las Vegas than Disneyland.
Let me explain.
In Vegas people three steps away from broke are casually rubbing elbows with others wearing $50k watches. The Masters is no different. A lot of local Augusta residents have had tickets passed down in their family for generations, so it’s not all money and flash like you might think.
Everywhere you walk you experience the smell of suntan lotion and cigar smoke.
Almost everyone has a beer in their hand many have no problem throwing a few back at 8:30 in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just all part of the Masters experience.
So this year perhaps you had a stroke of good fortune and found yourself with a one day ticket to the Masters. Congratulations, you’re in for one of the best experiences of your life.
But if you only have 12 hours in which to enjoy golf’s holy grail, what do you do? Where do you go?
Well my friend, let me shed some light on where to go and what to do in this Master’s guide so you can truly enjoy your experience at the Mecca of golf.
The Day Before
Find a local store in Augusta and go buy a couple armless, collapsable sports chairs. Each person is allowed to bring one chair in to setup on the grounds, and this has the potential to be the best seat you’ll ever get for any sporting event – ever.
Also pick up some sunscreen. This year I forgot to put some on, and my forehead is still peeling a week later.
Review this list of Masters Dos and Don’ts to get a sense of other things you might need, and those things you absolutely should never bring (ie, your cell phone).
Last year I saw a guy getting escorted out for having his phone on the grounds – and once you’re gone, you are not coming back. Ever.
The Morning Of
The gates usually open around 7:00-7:15 on Thursday/Friday and a little bit later for the weekend rounds.
If it’s your first time at Augusta National, you’ll want to spend as much time on the course as possible, so get there early and be prepare to line up to get entrance.
It’s here that you’ll begin to witness the most well oiled machine in all of sports, nay, in all of the world.
Seriously, it’s amazing how well the Masters is run. Even lines that seem huge will fly by.
If you’re going on Thursday, as soon as you get in pick up a coffee (or beer if you really want to get after it) and breakfast sandwich – total cost: $2.50.
Take your breakfast and head directly over to the first tee on your left, grab a spot right in front of the name cards and hang out for awhile in order to get a great view of the ceremonial tee off. Seriously, when else will you get to see Arnold, Jack, and Gary all tee off on a course together?
Definitely a highlight of the trip for me.
If you’re not going on Thursday or don’t care about watching them hit, then you’re going to want to ditch your chair.
Finding the Perfect Place to Put Your Chair
So you went out and bought that chair yesterday, right?
One of the great things about the Masters is the fact you can setup you chair almost anywhere on the course, leave it there, and no one will touch it.
You have a few great options for where to setup shop in order to get really close to the action.
During year one, we were about 3 rows back of the 12th tee right at Amen Corner.
This is probably the most popular spot on the course for spectators because it’s so well known. You can see them coming in at 11, playing 12, and then teeing off at 13.
The reality though is that there are grandstands right behind these holes that offer better viewing, and even then, you’re so far away from the action that it isn’t the best spot to be.
If I were you, I’d head to 16 and setup your chair either along the water or right at the green. You’ll have an incredible view of the tee shot, the green, and then depending on the specific spot, you can also see the approach and green at 15, or the 6th green as well.
A much better spot than Amen Corner in my mind and one that will maximize your golf viewing pleasure if you only have one day.
- 18th green – If you’re coming on a weekend round, this will be a great spot to see some action, however during the early rounds there’s not as much excitement.
- 2nd green – One of the best viewing spots on the whole course. You get to watch the approach shot and get right up against the green.
- 7th green – Really close to #2 and slightly elevated so you can see the action on two and the tee shot at 3
Bottom line there are a lot of good spots, and even if you don’t bring a chair there’s standing room in each of these spots as well that make for great viewing.
8:00 AM – Where to Next?
If you’re anything like me, half the fun of being at Augusta National is just being able to see and walk the course. If I were you I’d take your breakfast and walk the back 9. There won’t be anyone out there yet, so the crowds will be minimal. This will give you a chance to go see the spot where Bubba hit his amazing shot in 2012, and where Phil got out of the trees on 13 in 2010.
You’ll be able to get a sense of just how much elevation change there is on the course, and take in all the glory of Amen corner.
After taking half an hour or so to walk the back, I’d head back to #2 where there should be a steady stream of golfers coming through by now. Each year I’ve spent at least an hour standing behind the people sitting on 2, as it’s one the best vantage points on the course. Go spend some time there, and if you find a player you particularly like then just walk over and watch them tee off on three as well.
10:00am – Exploring the Front 9
Once you’ve had your fill at #2, watch at least one group tee off at three and then head down the 3rd fairway to #4.
This year I saw Tiger knock a beer cup out of a dude’s hand on his drive down three – not even sure he realized it happened.
If you can get close enough, the third green can be a fun place to watch from as you’ll get some people that layup and have an easy approach, where as others will try and hit the crap out of the ball and end up in or near the traps over on the left side.
Watch a group or two and then head up to the 4th tee -one of my favorite spots on the course.
The 240 yard par 4 puts things in perspective for you. The pros will pull out mid irons and just laaaaunch the ball from the elevated tee onto the green, pretty remarkable. It’s also fun up at the tee box because they usually have to wait until the group below finishes the hole, so you can hear the chatter and often they’ll interact with the fans as Phil was doing during my round in 2012.
You can watch from here for awhile if you want or try and snag a spot in the small grandstand down towards the green.
Once done, head to the nearby concession stop and get more cheap pimento sandwiches and drinks – this should be a regular thing for you, as when else will you be at a major sporting event with $1.50 sandwiches and $3 beers?
You can walk down 5 from there if you want, but I didn’t find it to be the most exciting hole to watch.
11:00am – Head to 7
At this point you have a choice, you’ll be right at the par 3 #6 which is a really cool hole. You can sit on the hill and have the pros hit their balls over your head and watch them land the green, but nothing will be happening on 16 yet, so it’s worth waiting to do that until you can get a good view of both.
I’d head to 7 because there will still be a lot of action on the front 9 and some great opportunities for spectating.
Noon – Grab Lunch, Have a Seat
By now you’re going to be tired off all the standing and walking, and if it’s a hot day, you’ll be ready for a place to sit.
At this point, things should be cranking on the back 9, so I’d grab lunch, a cold drink and go head to one of the grandstands on the 13th green/14th tee.
This was one of my favorite places to watch all day. You get the full approach on 13, green on 13, and the tee on 14.
These were some of the most well positioned grandstands for watching, so take some time and hang out here.
1:00 – Head to Amen Corner
Simply because it’s so legendary in the world of golf you need to spend some time at Amen Corner. Often there’s a mid morning set of groups that will be worth watching that will cruise around Amen around this time.
This year we saw Bubba, followed by Tiger, and then Ricky Fowler in the 3rd group.
You really get a sense of just how difficult 12 is, as we saw very few people actually play the hole well, and even watched Stewart Cink drop one in Rae’s Creek.
2:30 – Take a Break, Get a Souvenir
By now you’ve seen a lot of golf, and you’ve been sitting for awhile at 14 and Amen Corner.
I’d head back up the hill to experience some of the rest of the culture of the course and the tournament. Go explore a little and check out the putting green, and the media buildings where there will undoubtedly be some people doing interviews.
You can also watch some of the pros who have finished their rounds on the putting green or perhaps the driving range as well.
But the real benefit of heading up here is for one of the best kept secrets at the Masters: The Photo.
As you know, during tournament days, you can’t bring a camera of any sort onto the grounds. So really you have no physical evidence with which you can use to brag to your friends about your time there.
Ah, but you can.
Walk around the clubhouse towards the par 3 course and continue around until you get to the front of the building. There you can get your photo taken on Founders Circle in front of the Masters flower bed, as well as get a killer view down Magnolia Lane. My host who had been going to the Masters for decades didn’t even know about this. So I was pretty happy to snag this photo while we were there:
In the middle of the afternoon the wait shouldn’t be bad, we had to wait less than 10 minutes to get our photo, and frankly it was a nice break from the crowds.
If you want, at this time you can also head to the souvenir shop and pick up your horde of gifts for friends and family, but if I were you I’d wait until you’re getting ready to leave.
We did it on our way out around 7pm and while it was crowded in there, I didn’t have to wait in any line to get in, pay, or get sample shirts to try on.
It’s so much easier than having to carry everything around with you.
3:30 – The Final Push
Remember those chairs you put down in the morning? Well, if you haven’t found them already now is a great time to head back to 16, setup shop, and enjoy a few solid hours of golf.
This is an excellent place to be late in the afternoon as you start to get some of the notable players coming through, and it’s one of the most picturesque spots on the entire course.
5:30 – What Have You Missed?
It’s been a crazy, exciting, memorable day of golf – but what haven’t you seen yet? Have you walked the whole course? Do you know every hole back and front now? This is a great time to go see anything you missed, and enjoy your last hour at the National.
Go grab a pinecone from Ike’s Tree or spend some time on the 18th green if you haven’t yet, as come Sunday, you’ll want to make sure you have a picture perfect memory of those holes for when the drama begins.
“Shake it, Don’t Break It!” – A Few More Things to Keep in Mind
If I were heading back to the Masters for the first time (or the fifth) that is how I would structure my day. If you’re there all weekend, then don’t worry about it as you’ll have plenty of time to watch golf and see everything Augusta National Golf Club has to offer.
That being said, there are a few other things that you should keep in mind or make sure to see as your experiencing the tournament.
- “Shake it, Don’t Break it!” – Pretty much everyone who works at the Master is like a Disney or casino employee – they’re trained to enterain. You’ll meet dozens of greeters and people there just to improve your experience, not the least of which is the bathroom attendants. You’ll wonder why the bathroom line is going so quick, until you get inside and the attendents have turned into hilarious traffic cops yelling things like “The first shake is free, after that we’ll start chargin’ ya!” or “Shake it, don’t break it!” – you can’t miss that while you’re there.
- Grab a Cup, or 5! – All of the drinks come in awesome plastic cups with the Masters logo and year on it. Grab a bag and save these as they make great take home gifts. I still have multiple from each year I’ve attended.
- People Watching – One thing that many people who attend the Masters don’t realize is just how much of a social event this is for a lot of people. Up at the clubhouse, there are throngs of people eating lunch outside, doing media interviews and just kind of hanging out. If you’ve ever wanted to meet a member of Augusta National, watch a legend on the putting green, or rub shoulders with some of the World’s elite (I was standing right next to Dr. J for awhile), hanging out up near the clubhouse is the place to do it.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes – I wore golf shoes to the tournament which was probably a mistake. Wear comfortable walking or running shoes as you’ll be on your feat a lot, and you’ll be doing a lot of trekking around the course.
However, if there’s one thing to keep in mind during all of this, it’s simply ENJOY IT! You’re at the Masters, and who knows when you’ll have the chance to be back.