Augusta National Golf Club is a special place, especially to men and women who have an addiction to golf. Watching Dustin Johnson play Augusta brought back memories that I have, and will always have, of playing Augusta, not once, but twice. I fully realized what a privilege this was at the time, but as I am approaching my twilight years, I understand the importance of this singular honor. Playing Augusta was an experience I wish every man or woman who loves golf could enjoy.
I was invited to play Augusta by a friend of an Augusta National member. I did not fully understand the significance of the invitation to play Augusta until later. I never fully understood how exclusive the golf course and its associated infrastructure had become.
Not until progressing through the front gate at Augusta, down the tree lined primary boulevard, and exiting our vehicle in front of the Old South structure, did I realize the full extent of what I was about to witness. I had just arrived at Golf Heaven. But first, a little history of this fabled piece of lore.
Augusta National, unlike most private clubs in the United States, is a for-profit corporation. The corporation is not required to disclose income, financial structure, membership, or even ticket sales to the general public for any golfing events. The golf course and facilities are owned by Augusta National Incorporated and located in Augusta, Georgia. The corporation hosts two golf tournaments each year, the Masters Tournament and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The course was designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, the club founders. The club hosts the annual Masters Tournament, one of four major championships in professional, and the only major played at the same course every year.
When we arrived at Augusta National, entrance was easy because the guards knew our host. The member was required to wear his green jacket as long as he had guests on the premises, and since we were spending the night, even though he was a local member, he was required to stay on premises.
One of my favorite stories told to us was about the bridge across Rae’s Creek. One day a member entered the bar at the club and said in a very loud voice, “It looks to me like a club as prestigious as Augusta could have a decent bridge across Rae’s Creek to number 12 green.” A couple weeks later a construction crew showed up at number 12, built a coffer dam, destroyed the old bridge, and built the new bridge so famous today. The loud-mouthed member was sent a bill for the improvements to number 12. The end of the story is, he paid the bill for several thousand dollars.
We were scheduled to play the three-par course in the morning and the Masters Course in the afternoon. After being escorted to our rooms and a quick change, we proceeded to the first tee of the three-par course. The three-par course is fun to play, but I couldn’t wait to play the main course.
I have been fortunate to play a lot of well-known courses, Pebble Beach and Cypress Point in California, Pine Valley in New Jersey, Pinehurst in North Carolina, and Firestone Country Club in Ohio, but to compare Augusta with any of them is just not possible. The golf courses I named are all wonderful examples of architectural genius, but they don’t have the ambience of Augusta National. I remember every shot I hit on every hole at Augusta, whereas at the other courses it was just not that important.
Just walking around the Augusta National is an incredible experience. The tall pines, the bountiful and beautiful azaleas, azure lakes and even the pine straw create unforgettable memories. You were required to play with a caddy and no tipping whatsoever. The association with the caddies was priceless. After a night of dinner at the club and long conversations at the bar, we retired to our rooms getting ready to play the course the next morning, creating more wonderful and enduring memories.
I have played golf since I was 12 years old. I have never had a hole-in-one. But I have had the ultimate, golf at Augusta.