This is a guest blog post written by Rob Miller.
Do you remember when you were a kid and that sense of excitement you felt the night before your first trip to Disney World? Think back to that feeling, and the thoughts of meeting Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, and you’ll know the feelings and thoughts I had running through my head this past Sunday night, the night before the first practice round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. I was lucky enough to be given two tickets for the Monday practice round from a friend; his dad had won them in the lottery that Augusta National holds each year for tickets to the tournament. No pictures, or videos, or reading an article about Augusta National could EVER do the course justice, but I will try to provide you with some of my thoughts and insights from my 10 hours on the course.
I arrived with my dad at the course around 7:30 on Monday morning and both of us could barely contain our excitement. After parking, we walked through the main gates, and immediately I felt like I was in a golf-oasis. Being from Boston, I never thought I’d see a shade of green nicer than the color of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, until I entered the gates of Augusta National. The green color of the grass on the course is like nothing I had ever seen before in my life.
We arrived at the course on the early side and not many golfers were on the course when we arrived, so we took the opportunity to walk up the first fairway, then the second, and from there, wandered over to the 7th green, where Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson, being the first twosome onto the course Monday, were playing their approach shots up to the green. As we turned around, Tom Watson was heading up the 2nd fairway, it was a treat to take that scene in. Watson was playing with Russell Henley, and amatuer, Nathan Smith, both of whom Watson was providing course knowledge to from his many trips to the Masters over the past 30+ years.
Our next stop after seeing Watson putt around on the 2nd hole was the 16th hole, which is a par 3 that has a long water hazard which funnels up to the green. This hole is an entertaining one to hang out at during the practice rounds as this is where, after their tee shots during the practice rounds, all of the players are urged by the gallery to proceed to the water’s edge and attempt to skip their ball through the water hazard (as if skipping a stone in a lake) all the way onto the green. I think we saw about 5 or 6 golfers come by, with probably half of them successful in this endeavor, it was quite entertaining.
From that point up until 6:00 PM when the gates closed, we wandered the grounds at Augusta, checking out every hole, and watching whichever golfers were playing the holes when we happened to be around.
After the entertainment at hole 16, we made our way over to the 13th hole, which, if you remember, was the hole at which Phil Mickelson made, in my mind, the most amazing golf shot I’ve ever seen in my life during the 2010 Masters tournament, on his way to victory, and a coveted green jacket. The 13th green, as you can see during the televised tournament, is surrounded by the beautiful white sand traps for which Augusta National is famous.
From the 13th fairway, you can see Amen Corner in the distance, and I was pretty giddy to head about 200 yards closer to the area where the 11th green (par 4), and the 12th tee box (par 3) meet (Amen Corner). One of the largest bleachers on the course is set-up here as it is a great place to take in a few hours of the action at the Masters as there is so much going on in this section of the course.
After enjoying some of the wonderful (and cheap!) food for lunch, we headed over to the 10th green and walked up as Nick Watney, Jason Day, and Lee Westwood were just about reaching the green after their approach shots. As we looked back up the hill at #10 to the area of the tee box, it was evident that someone popular on the tour was about to tee off. A sea of people started making their way down the ropes along the fairway, and it was clear, Tiger Woods was on his way up the 10th. We had a perfect spot to watch Tiger play the 10th, as we were sitting about 10 feet from the green. Tiger was playing with Dustin Johnson and the 14-year old amatuer, Tianlang Guan, the youngest golfer to ever play in the Masters. All I could think about the entire time watching this threesome is how awesome it must be for this kid to play with the legend that is Tiger Woods. (Love him or hate him, he’s unbelievable!)
We watched a few more groups come through on the 10th before wandering around the course for a little while longer. We ended the day watching KJ Choi and John Huh, the last group on the course, teeing off on the 18th. We walked behind the ropes up the fairway with them. Both of these guys had approach shots on the 18th that would have to avoid the sand traps that guard the green. Their shots looked pretty intimidating (to me anyway!). Both of these guys played the hole well, and probably would have ended up with par.
As we headed to the car for our trek back to our hotel, my dad and I talked about how everything on the day was perfect, from the beautiful course, to the professional staff working the tournament. As I stated, no videos, pictures, or descriptions of this course could ever do it justice. I urge each one of you to enter the annual lottery for tickets, because believe me, if you’re a golfer, you’ll never experience anything related to the game we all love, as breathtaking as the most storied golf course I’ve ever walked, Augusta National.
Although they don’t do the course justice, click here are my pictures from the Monday practice round.