To me spring really begins the first week of April, when The Masters Tournament is held in Augusta, GA.
It is truly amazing that we southerners get to exclusively hold the most prestigious golf tournament in the world each and every year. I highly recommend everybody, whether golf fan or not, to try to attend this event at least once in their lives. It really is “A Tradition Like no Other”, as Jim Nantz says on the CBS telecast.
The Masters consists of three days of practice rounds (Monday – Wednesday), and four days of competitive rounds (Thursday – Sunday). Attending either is great, but there are differences in your approach as a first time spectator.
These tickets are easier to get, and often ticket holders won’t spend the entire day on the course, so it is possible to head over near the grounds and score a few of these for $60 or so, usually after noon. If you already have tickets, I recommend planning on being on the grounds by 8am, and then leaving mid afternoon, to keep your traffic experiences to a minimum.
These are more difficult tickets to obtain. If you get these tickets you really need to get to The National by 7am, to beat the crowds.
The National is off Washington Road, but since parking is a problem, I recommend getting of I-20 at the next exit (when heading east), Riverwatch Parkway. From here I have had success parking at the Marriot Courtyard, and taking advantage of their shuttle to the grounds. I have never been towed by the hotel, but this is a risk that you are taking by heeding this advice.
Once you get to “The National”
You should immediately go into the golf shop and purchase any merchandise that you are interested in. You can check any bags you accumulate, so lugging them around the course isn’t mandatory. I should also say that attending The Masters isn’t like a rock concert, where it is bad form to where the concert shirt to the event. If you buy a hat or visor and want to wear it on the grounds, it is perfectly acceptable. I should warn you, if you are attending a weekend round, the golf shop may be out of many of the more popular items, so be prepared to be disappointed if you are dead set on getting a particular visor or golf shirt.
When you are ready to tour the course
I would advise against trying to follow a particular player, as there are no formal tee times, and popular players are difficult to actually view due to large crowds. My advice is to walk the course, from 1 to 18 to simply soak in the beauty of what you are witnessing, it is truly amazing. I would use this time to determine a nice place to sit and watch any action that comes through. For me, I love sitting in the bleachers to the left of 16 tee. From here you can watch approaches into 15 and tee shots on 16. During practice rounds, the players often stop and hit trick shots across the pond on 16, which adds to the fun of sitting there. I have been to two final rounds, and have had a great time sitting on 16, because there is so much action to take in, and there is a huge scoreboard adjacent that allows you to keep up with the other action. Also, one of the great aspects of The Masters is that if you set your chair on a hole, but want to walk the course, the other fellow patrons will respect your saved seat, and it will be waiting for you unused when you are ready to sit there.
Some final tips for a trip to The Masters:
DO NOT BRING YOUR CELLPHONE ON THE COURSE! You will be asked to leave if an official sees you with a phone. Also, food and beverage prices are very reasonable, so bring your appetite and try the great sandwich offerings.
The Masters represent all that is good about golf and is a great advertisement for the state of Georgia. Again, have a great time and soak in the most beautiful piece of property on Earth!