The Masters is without a doubt the best golf tournament that exists, and it’s not close. It’s played the second weekend in April each year (right after the NCAA Basketball Final Four – not a bad two week stretch) at Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia. The Masters is the first of the four golf ‘Majors’ (the big tournaments that matter) in a year, and the unofficial start of the golf season. It has a unique, historical feel grounded in tradition and southern dignity. You should go in your lifetime if you can find a ticket, and if not, flip over to ESPN for the first two days of coverage on April 9-10 before CBS covers the weekend.
The traditions behind the Tradition
Being the champ – a Green Jacket, a lifetime invitation, and a Champion’s Dinner
Winning the Masters comes with one of the coolest trophies in sports – a Green Jacket that is a hallmark of Augusta National Golf Club and worn only by members and, more awesomely, past champions. The previous year’s champion puts the jacket on this year’s winner in a cool ceremony (see below).
Winners also get invited to play in the tournament for life without having to qualify, which makes it great to pass along the history of the greats to a younger generation of fans. Even when they can no longer compete for a full four days, the legends will hit a ceremonial ‘first drive,’ like 4-time winner Arnold Palmer did in this picture.
Lastly, the champ decides what’s cooking. Each year, on the Tuesday before the tournament, all the champions get together for dinner at the Club, and last year’s winner picks the menu.
A commitment to Amateur Play
Golf legend and Masters founder Bobby Jones was an amateur golfer, and the tournament has always celebrated those who have yet to turn pro. The Masters typically welcomes 6 amateurs each year: the Amateur Champions from the US, Britain, Asia-Pacific, the US Amateur Public Links, the US Mid-Amateur, and Latin America.
The ‘low-amateur,’ or amateur that makes the cut and has the lowest (best) score, is recognized with a silver medal. Also, the group of amateurs sleep in the ‘Crow’s Nest’ during the tournament – a 1,200 sq ft space atop the Clubhouse. We’re sure that helps with nerves.
While all of the holes are beautiful and uniquely named after elements of nature (click for hole by hole guide), the 3-hole stretch 11-12-13 is particularly scenic and challenging (a picture of hole 12 sits in the Primer Sports HQ, in case you were wondering). All three holes have water hazards that threaten the shot, and any golfer who gets through unscathed might utter… yeah, you get the reference.
The Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday
We love this event, now televised annually on ESPN. The pros, often caddied for by their children, play a relaxed round on Augusta’s par-3 course the day before the actual tournament. But is event cursed? No winner of the par 3 tournament has ever gone on to capture the Green Jacket. Nevertheless, it’s a fun family affair with loads of pictures taken – here’s Phil Mickelson with his offspring caddies.
Enough about golf – how about those concession stands!
Perhaps our favorite part of the Masters spectacle is the food, famous for their pimento cheese sandwiches and amazing prices. Seriously – for $15 you can get a BBQ sandwich (3), a pimento cheese sandwich (1.50), a chicken biscuit (1.50), an ice cream sandwich (2) and a beer (3) and still have $4 left over because, let’s be serious, you don’t need more food than that.
Who are the people to know?
The legendary commentator for CBS has an enviable job, one we might want if not running Primer. His is the voice of the Masters, right after it’s done being the voice of the NCAA tournament… well played, Jim.
Billy Payne has been the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club since 2006, and oversaw the intro of the first woman into the membership (more on this in a second). Prior to that, Billy was responsible for bringing the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996.
So how do I get tickets?
If you don’t already have em, good luck. The Masters runs on a lottery system for both practice rounds (Monday-Wednesday) and the actual tournament days. You can buy on the re-sale market, but it may cost you an arm and a leg.
The other way to go is to know somebody that has family tickets. Before the Masters was the icon it is today, tickets were awarded to families, with the option to renew for life(!). Ticket holders are able to sell their passes (and rent out their houses) for thousands of dollars each year. Who knew the lotto paid out every April in Augusta?!
Seems too good to be true – any controversies?
Augusta National Golf Club was long criticized for a lack of diversity as it did not admit female members. The institution finally relented in August 2012 when it admitted Condoleezza Rice (also on the College Football Playoff Committee) and Darla Moore (not on any cool committees that we know of, no offense Darla).
The final word
The Masters is one of the events circled on our sports calendar each year. It’s a hallmark of the spring and a southern jewel, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!