An invitation to the Masters is a cherished, physical and practical memento, open to all who receive it, usually around the start of the year. Although in most cases it is expected and formal, it denotes something special: the chance to play in one of golf’s most revered tournaments.
But there’s another perk that comes with it, one that gets less attention but is quite welcomed by those who are able to take advantage of it: the ability to play Augusta National, basically, whenever the club door opener.
Tiger Woods visited the club on Saturday, returning to sacred ground for the first time since the 2019 Masters win, helping him win his fifth green jacket and his 15th major championship.
A handful of other players have been to the club since it reopened on October 12 before the first fall Masters next week, but the numbers were much less than usual, a byproduct. Another pandemic coronavirus. The club was closed in March, before the scheduled Masters date in April, and the short time before the Masters made it difficult for many players to get there.
However, it’s an opportunity that people who have had the chance to experience it say they love it.
“It’s a surreal place,” said Patrick Reed, who won the 2018 Masters. “When there are no stands, there are no people and the sun is setting over those trees, you just have to get golden views throughout the building and see the entire land.
“It’s an unbelievable sight and something you never see. I think it’s something that this year is going to be very special. You will have all the scenes that you normally wouldn’t have. can see all the holes. All the green grass through the trees. It would be wonderful. “
The Masters champions are considered honorary members and can set up a visit and play the pitch whenever it’s open for regular play. The player must be accompanied by an Augusta caddy, although his own caddy is allowed to attend and watch. The Masters champions also had some time with a drop in visitors.
Tournament qualifiers can also take part in tournaments at Augusta National, but if they want to bring a guest, they need to be hosted by a club member. This is usually not an issue.
Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion who was fifth at the Masters last year, said: “I did an overnight trip maybe five times. “I just love everything about it. I love going to dinner; you have to wear a coat and tie. Good wine. Play Par-3. [course]. I love being there, whether it’s serious or relaxed. Any trip there is great. “
Simpson, who lives in Charlotte and is a member of the Quail Club there, said he knew some Augusta National members were also on his course. He also got acquainted with Jeff Knox, a member of Augusta National who became famous as the club’s best player.
Organizing a player means team members and can join players for other activities, such as dining or playing adjacent Par-3 Course. The trip includes staying in one of the many cabins on site.
“Members take care of everything,” said Simpson. “The only awkward thing is when they don’t let me pay. I try to say I’ll take care of everything. Your food, everything. They don’t usually let me do it, but they can let me. take care of the caddy. That way, I feel better. That way I can ask them again. “
Simpson couldn’t read the exact number, but guessed staying in one of the cabins cost “a little bit more” than a regular hotel room. No passenger fees, caddy fees, dinner fees, etc., and he estimates a two-day trip at around $ 2,000.
“It’s special,” said Simpson. “I feel like walking around Augusta, the kid inside me admires Masters. You have Masters on every TV. And I stay up late and watch it. Two places I feel something special on. The pitch is St. Andrews and Augusta It’s not a certain mystical feeling, but you know that history has been made there. You know who played there. And not much has changed there in The Assembly is still there. They make subtle changes to many, but we don’t ‘know that everything has been changed.’
One of the obvious aspects of privilege, Simpson says, is that it can be given to others who may not have had the experience. His longtime Caddy, Paul Tesori, accompanied him on one of the trips.
Tesori, a professional golfer who tried to enter the tournament at the same time, defeated Simpson.
“He beat me straight,” Simpson said. “Give it to me. Birdied 18.”
As you can imagine, Tesori has good memories.
“He took me to my birthday party in 2015,” said Tesori, who said they were there for two days in February, playing Par-3 and main subjects on the first day before playing 18 days. two. “He approached me on the first day 69-79. Those people with their backs were brutal.
“It was an amazing time. We stayed on the site. [On the second day,] I shot 74 to 75 of him. It was the 40s and windy. I ranked 13th, 14th and 15th and up 1 out of 18. He didn’t know where we stood, but I told him.
“We both hit good drives. The bolt turned to the right. I hit a 4 iron on the top floor, about 20 feet high and to the left. He hit a 5 iron on one foot. I have to hit him and pour it right in. I think he’s more excited than me. “
Stories like that are what makes the experience so special.
“Everyone goes there [has that feeling]”Said Phil Mickelson, who says he usually has a friendly outing at least once a year.” From my father and brother [Tim, now his caddie] come [agent] Steve Loy and my lawyer, Glenn Cohen. That is really a special thing. If you love playing golf the way we do, playing Augusta National and being on the course is a very spiritual experience.
“It’s like being on the St. Andrews field. You can’t help but feel something different. You can’t help but feel the history of the Masters. Bobby Jones, [President Dwight] Eisenhower [who was a member and has a cabin named for him on the grounds]. You just feel what history happened there. If you love golf, it’s just a spiritual experience. “
And sometimes some business happens. Mickelson says his “Coffee for Wellness” venture, which he has been promoting for over a year, originated in Augusta National in the spring of 2019 when he visited the club.
Mickelson’s partner, Dave Phillips, was on the trip and they ended up playing golf with Augusta’s member Scott Ford, who ran a large coffee distribution company. One thing led to another, and this past summer Mickelson filed a trademark application.
“It was just a little bit of randomness that started there,” Mickelson said.
Many people use opportunity simply as a scouting mission. Amateurs John Augenstein, who finished second at US Amateur 2019, was on the pitch in March knowing that not only was the remainder of the college season canceled at Vanderbilt but the Masters as well was postponed.
These perks are especially useful for amateurs that qualify for the Master. Not only did they get a remarkable opportunity to compete in the tournament, but they also enjoyed the same perks as the Masters pre-Masters training sessions before the week.
After winning the 2015 US Amateur – meaning he qualifies for the 2016 Masters – Bryson DeChambeau went to Augusta more than 10 times before the Masters week. It seems the club has set limits on those visits now, as Matt Parziale – who qualified for the 2018 Masters thanks to his 2017 US Mid-Amateur win – has been notified of the visits. His out of Masters week will be limited to five.
For many, a trip down Magnolia Lane will be plenty.
And to established players, beauty seems more inclined to being experienced than gaining experience.
“My favorite time in Augusta wasn’t Master,” says Rory McIlroy. “My favorite time is we did a couple of paternity trips (with his dad, Gerry), it was amazing. It was the best thing – I think for one person. to play golf, the best experience in golf is being invited to join a member’s Augusta, stay in one of the cabins, have dinner at night, go down to the cellar, pick your wine bottle, all of that. Those are the interesting things about Augusta that many people don’t see.
“Those experiences in Augusta when you’re there and nothing but just having a good time, those are the best.”