I was lucky enough to spend a glorious week in April a The Masters a couple of years ago and it was a truly tremendous experience. I've been to Opens, Ryder Cups, the US Open and many national tournaments but, as you would probably imagine, Augusta National was something quite different. So, if you are lucky enough to be planning a trip here are a few tips which may help you get the most out of it -
1. Consider staying in Augusta - it's cheaper than you think.
A lot of the tours from the UK will have you staying in places like or . These are up to a couple of hours out of Augusta and as such the days will be very long and the time you can spend on the course will be partly influenced by your organiser's transport schedules.
We rented a house within 20 minutes walk of the first tee. It was a fantastic feeling to wake up knowing that you are a mere stroll from going to watch the Masters.
The Friday evening was the most magical experience. Rory Mcilroy was one of the very last out and battling to make the cut. The course really emptied for the last hour or so and my friend and I walked around with just a handful of people - including Rory's Dad and tennis playing girlfriend at the time. They were more than happy to chat away as the sun set and had we been scrabbling to get out of the car park or onto a bus we would have missed out.
Hotels are famously expensive but check out Airbnb or the official rental service for some options.
2. If you go on a practice day don't forget your camera.
Cameras are forbidden on every day of the tournament - this is the only event that holds out against them. However, on a practice day you are allowed to snap away to your heart's desire and the pictures sure make a nice screensaver!
3. Don't just stay in our place - walk the course.
One of the great things about the Masters is that the course is far from busy at any time. They don't say how many patrons/punters are on the course at any one time but at no time did we ever feel we couldn't see the action. Indeed at times it was slightly surreal just how close you can get to the action.
The other fantastic thing which you don't really appreciate on the TV is that only the players, caddies and a scorer are allowed inside the ropes at any time - that means that you don't run the risk of having James Nesbitt or any similar hanger-on blocking your view.
There are stands/bleachers on several holes on the course and again these are really accessible. I have spent days at the Open behind a stand hearing the cheers going up trying to work out what is going on. No such concern here, we wandered down to the stand behind the 12th tee, overlooking the 11th green, with a couple of groups to come through on the Sunday with no problem before nipping over to the stand behind the 13th.
Also, there are fantastic vantage points all over the course. You have probably heard the course is more hilly than it is on TV (!) and that really lends itself to many great spots to watch a few groups coming through.
4. Get the most from the green seats
This takes a bit of getting used to. Most patrons will have a green seat clutched in their hand as they enter the gates, if you don't have one you can buy one inside. It's best to put an identifier on your seat (there is a little place at the back for a business card, how quaint!). Anyway, you basically go and put your seat down anywhere you want on the course (we did manage to get by the 18th green on Sunday but it was an early start....) and then feel free to either sit in it or just leave it until you want to use it. It will be there, unmoved, and waiting for you to claim it.
When you get back to your seat you may well find someone else sitting in it. That's the done thing, you just politely let them know that's your seat and they will move on with a smile and find the next empty seat. This is very powerful information because it obviously works both ways. When you are out on the course and you fancy a sit down just sit in a green seat.
As I say, it does take a bit of getting used to but when you get in the habit it's great!
5. Keep you eyes open and chat away
Without a doubt Augusta has a very interesting bunch of spectators and as such you can have some great conversations. On the very first day we were there, before even going out to the course we were getting some breakfast and struck up conversation with the couple next to me. I explained that it was my first time and the gentleman explained he had been coming for over 50 years and his father, Claude Harmon, had won it back in
If you're following Lee Westwood the odds are Ant, Dec and Alan Shearer will be nearby and more than happy to have a chat. Well Ant and Dec were, Shearer was a bit miserable.
If you are a golf dweeb then there are plenty of golf journalists to spot out there and most were really happy to discuss what was going on or indeed anything else. Alan Shipnuck was particularly animated about his trip to the Scottish Links.
The members stand out because of their green jackets, which they wear regardless of the temperature and are more than happy to tell you some anecdotes about the course, although no invitation was forthcoming to join them for a round which was weird.
6. Enjoy the food and hang on to your beer cup.
You will have read about how cheap the food is on the course. This is true, although when you are there for 5 days it is safe to say it becomes a little bit samey! We got through a few beers over the course of the week but on the last day we collected a fair few of the hard plastics cups they were served in - I think I came home for a dozen. They are quite substantial cups and three years later are still pressed into daily service in my household. Nice and showy for summer barbecues too....
7. Check your shopping into the 'pick up' queue
The merchandise tent is everything you have heard it is and more. The selection of goods is phenomenal and the quality is excellent. It is impossible not to get the credit cards out and spend more than you had intended. However, do not make the mistake of then having to carry a plastic bag around for the entire round, you will grow to hate it. You can instead leave it at a shopping check-in queue and pick it up at the end of the day, the queues weren't toohorrible
8. Enjoy being out of contact for the day
9. Book restaurants in advance
10. Get to Palmetto