Nick Bonfield discusses his first trip to Augusta, Georgia to watch The Masters, and reveals how you could be there next year...
My First Masters – The Trip Of A Lifetime
All you hear before you visit Augusta National for the first time is how spectacular it is. Naturally, I went with stratospheric expectation levels, but most of the time when something is praised so highly you end up being slightly disappointed with what you encounter. That couldn’t be further from the truth here. The Masters is far better than you could possibly imagine.
Simply put, Augusta National is paradise. When money isn’t an object, it’s possible to create both the greatest golf course known to man and a tournament that dwarfs all others, bar The Open Championship, in terms of history, prestige, organisation and excitement.
Nothing can prepare you for seeing Augusta for the first time. You genuinely have to pinch yourself when you stand by the side of the 11th green and watch players hitting into the par-3 12th.
But it’s not just the quality of the golf course that makes The Masters so special. The people in the south of the USA are genuinely delightful and the tournament committee deserves huge credit for keeping food and drink prices so low. At what other sporting event can you get a beer and a sandwich for less than £5?
Augusta National is also surrounded by fun, vibrant cities which make great bases for the week – the likes of Athens, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina (where I stayed) – as well as some marvellous golf courses. The atmosphere is electric in every locale and there’s nothing quite like playing several rounds of golf before heading off to watch the drama unfold in the greatest golfing amphitheatre in the world.
Your Golf Travel, who hosted me for the week, offers all sorts of playing and watching packages. This year, the specialist golf travel company took more than 1,000 clients and provided an extensive support and service network on the ground. Talking to the guests at the Saturday night Masters party with Darren Clarke – another perk of booking with Your Golf Travel – revealed two main themes: how smooth everything ran and how people didn’t realise previously that attending The Masters was even a possibility.
“I have watched The Masters on TV for more years that I can remember and it was on the bucket list to do, but I never thought I would achieve it. However, we received brochures from Your Golf Travel about The Masters and how it is accessible, and they are very accommodating in tailoring your trip to meet your budget,” says David Porter, who attended the 2017 tournament and played at Harbour Town – host of the RBC Heritage – the week before.
“The whole trip was fantastic from start to finish; an unforgettable experience. I would recommend that any golfer does this trip and, for me, you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy this place. Some people can have several holidays on what you pay to go to The Masters, but it’s worth every penny.
“It’s difficult to explain to people who haven’t been to Augusta just how good it is.”
When you’re there, you’re able to have a free, professional photograph outside the clubhouse and the entire spectator experience is first-rate. The atmosphere is also quite unique. If you place your chair down by a certain green and leave to amble around the course for a couple of hours, it will still be in the same place and unattended when you return.
Paul Hughes, who also attended for the first time in 2017, agrees with that sentiment.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to work at the last 12 Open Championships and five Ryder Cups, but nothing comes close to the experience of The Masters at Augusta National. Over the years, they have honed their skills in running an event and it’s impossible to fault anything. It just leaves you speechless. Before we left on Sunday, we were already planning our return,” he says.
“I can’t thank the YGT team enough – they were fantastic and really went the extra mile for us. Everything ran like clockwork. We had such a good time we’ve booked with YGT for 2018.
“I can’t express in words how brilliant the Masters experience is. It is worth every penny. I was blown away by the whole thing. If you go once you will be hooked. It is the best golf event bar none.”
I’ve been lucky enough to attend some of golf’s biggest tournaments and I have to agree with all the comments above. Augusta National is heaven on earth and The Masters is one of sport’s most riveting events. And it’s not a closed shop; you could genuinely be there next year. Just think about that for a moment. What other holiday would bring you more enjoyment? I think we both know the answer to that.
Attend The 2018 Masters with Your Golf Travel – visit yourgolftravel.com/us-masters Experiences including flights, hotels & tickets are available. Nick Bonfield travelled to the 2017 Masters courtesy of Your Golf Travel.