'An 18 Handicap Should Be Ecstatic To Break 100' - What Amateur Golfers Shot At Augusta National

Three Golf Monthly staff members describe their once-in-a-lifetime rounds at Augusta National Golf Club

Montage of Golf Monthly staff members playing Augusta National
(Image credit: Future)

Getting to play Augusta National Golf Club is at the top of every golfer's bucket list but as it's one of the world's most exclusive clubs, it's a very tricky thing to achieve.

However, one way to get a game at the iconic home of The Masters is to get a press pass as an on-site journalist during the tournament week, with a media lottery allowing lucky reporters and photographers the chance to gain a tee time the morning after the winning putt is holed and the champion slips the Green Jacket on.

A number of Golf Monthly staff members have played Augusta through the years (not me sadly despite entering the media lottery last year at The Masters) and they each explain what their day at golf's Disneyland was like...

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke

Handicap: 18

Score: 113

Tom Clarke and caddie Drake on the 12th hole at Augusta National

Tom played in 2018, the day after Patrick Reed won the Green Jacket

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How much am I going to shoot round Augusta National… that is not the question I asked myself on the morning of my tee time.

In 2018 when I was picked to play the day after Patrick Reed had slid on the Green Jacket I simply wanted to make sure I got there on time, didn’t crash my car into a tree on Magnolia Lane, and basically just got round and didn’t embarrass myself.

As an 18-handicap cricketer who had never even played a round with a caddie before, I was bricking it. I had a set of clubs that I had never used, in a massive Tour Bag (thank you again TaylorMade) - and I was extremely nervous.

On the driving range beforehand I met my caddie Drake, a former PGA Tour looper, who was an absolute legend, very chilled and understood my situation.

1st tee… I was in the first media group out, and I bravely (or perhaps foolishly)  stood up first, smashed one down the middle, and thought - yes I have made it. Amazingly though I actually got more and more nervous the more holes I played.

Tom Clarke at The Masters in front of the leaderboard on 18

(Image credit: Future)

My game was hardly on point, and although I drove the ball pretty well I didn’t have a clue what to do around the greens. I didn’t hit a green in regulation, my best chances were on 12 where I evaded Rae’s creek, to then three-jab from the fringe.

And that is what the issue is, you know this is likely to be your only chance to ever play a round on this hallowed turf, and you want to take it all in, and play well, and for some people that is obviously too much.

I did very nearly hole my greenside bunker shot on 18 a la Rory McIlroy in 2022. But unlike Rory it was for par.

Did I play my best? No. Did I make a par? No. Do I care? Not at all. This amateur shot 113 - which would have worked out as about 17 Stableford points.

Not the best day at the office…but also THE BEST DAY AT THE OFFICE!

David Taylor
David Taylor

Handicap: 18

Score: 105

David Taylor and his caddie on the 12th at Augusta National

David played the day after Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title

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My one and only regret about my round at Augusta was the amount of time I spent on the practice putting green before my round.

I’d borrowed some clubs that morning and spent most of my allotted practice session failing to get to grips with them on the range under the watchful eye of my caddie. I left enough time for one single putt which I saw sail 30 feet past the hole before being ushered onto the 1st tee.

I’m not sure if it was due to the surreal nature of the day, but once on the course I managed to forget my range troubles and I got my opening drive away without too much of an issue.

I was overcome with a strange sense of serenity, which I put down to a mix of the dream-like scenario I found myself in and some calming words from my caddie, Duncan. I clearly wasn’t the first high-handicapper he’d had to take under his wing.

The 1st hole ended up being a bit of a shocker. I found a greenside bunker in two, took three more shots to reach the green and then carded a nine. Thankfully the wide-open par-5 2nd came along just in time and I managed to find the green in regulation before three putting. This turned out to be a bit of a theme.

The surprising thing was there’s not much rough to contend with and, from the members’ tees at least, the course is very playable for the average golfer. However, the greens are a different story.

David Taylor hitting his tee shot on the 4th at Augusta National

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Even with Duncan guiding me through every shot, I just couldn’t come to terms with the speed. It was a completely different game to the one I’m used to and my dodgy putting stroke was no match.

I ended the day with nine bogeys, six doubles and a score of 105. I couldn’t have hoped to play much better from tee to green but the fact I registered no pars was all down to my putting.

The highlight for me was a run of four bogeys from 10 through to 13 which included a career 5-iron to the heart of the 11th green. Three putts followed, obviously.

The lowpoint (beyond the 1st green) was shanking a pitching wedge from a downhill lie on the 15th, although I was lucky it was so bad it found the bunker and not the water.

Overall the experience was obviously incredible. To play the course the day after Tiger won is something I’ll never forget and I’ll continue to bore friends and family with it for years to come.

If only I’d spent another five minutes on that putting green…

Joel Tadman headshot
Joel Tadman

Handicap: 4

Score: 87

Joel Tadman on the 12th green at Augusta National

Joel's round at Augusta came in 2012, following Bubba Watson's first Masters triumph

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I was fortunate enough to be drawn out in 2012, my first and only Masters - the year Bubba Watson won his first Green Jacket. I had no clubs with me, so cue a frantic and aimless drive early on the Monday morning trying to find a golf shop. Having eventually found one, I turned up with 11 questionable clubs.

The drive down Magnolia Lane was truly a spine-tingling experience that set the pulse racing from the get-go.

The weather was hot and humid, the pins were in their Sunday positions and the greens were running firm and fast. My local caddie, Ed, put my nerves somewhat at ease on the range but by the time I arrived on the first tee they were borderline uncontrollable.

Driving accuracy is an underrated quality required to score well around Augusta. There's very little rough between the fairway and pine straw and if you find the latter, you'll almost certainly be blocked out by trees or overhanging branches. The 7th hole is one of the narrowest drives you'll face and many holes, like 10, 14 and 17 require a draw to find them - a shot many amateurs don't have in their locker.

Course length was admittedly less of a factor. I was playing off the members tees, which on some holes were up to 60 yards in front of the pro tees. I would say on average each hole played around 30 yards shorter.

The greens, of course, are extremely treacherous, which not only makes them difficult to putt on but also very tricky to chip on to. Miss the green on the wrong side and you have basically no chance of getting it close, and you have to be so precise with your contact on those delicate wedge shots from the tight lies.

Joel Tadman hitting his approach into the 10th at Augusta National

(Image credit: Future)

Factor in the aforementioned nerves and it's just another reason why good scoring is hard. Really hard. When I played Augusta National I had a handicap of 4, so was confident I could get it round. You cannot appreciate the nerves you will feel on all the iconic holes (basically every hole at Augusta) and they will inevitably get the better of you.

All the way round I was constantly affected by the question I knew people would ask me on my return. "What did you do on the 12th?" Sure enough, I hit the ground two inches behind the ball, dumped it into Rae's Creek.

Hit good shots, though, and you'll be rewarded with good results, and I made four birdies (and just one par) which demonstrates that. But the margin for error is so tiny. You can look like making a birdie and walk off with a bogey in the blink of an eye.

On the 13th I hit a career 3-iron for my second shot straight at the pin (I pushed it by five yards) and it hung on the top of the bank for a couple of seconds before trickling back into Rae's Creek for the second-successive hole. Fine margins indeed.

I ended up shooting 87. That's 15-over par.. It doesn't sound great, but I was fairly content - especially since I walked off having compiled four birdies, evenly split between the two nines. But with a medal card in your hand, disastrous doubles or worse are too easy to make. For the average golfer, they would be commonplace.

Scorecard from Augusta National

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Putting off the green would be a frequent occurrence, as would duffed iron shots because the fairways are mown back towards the tee. Errant drives are punished more than you think and most club golfers don't spin the ball enough on short game shots, or have the confidence to play high shots from tight lies, to recover from a missed green.

I would predict that single-figure players would shoot between 80-88 while mid handicappers would do well to break 90. Anyone with a handicap of 18 or more should be ecstatic to break 100.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV

With contributions from