14 things I wish I’d known before my first visit to The Masters at Augusta National

Planning to attend The Masters at Augusta, or just want to know what it’s like? TG Digital Editor Rob Jerram has you covered.

We all think we know The Masters. It’s one of the most famous tournaments in golf with global appeal, but as an Augusta rookie I’ve learnt a lot from my first visit and want to share my newfound wisdom.

These 14 learnings will make things a bit easier if you’re planning on making a trip to the year’s first Major in the future… or to entertain you even if you’re not.

There are huge elevation changes at Augusta National.

1. It really is undulating

You’ll have heard it hundreds of times on the television. “The pictures don’t show the undulations.” “It’s a brutal walk.” “There are no flat lies.” Yeah, we get it, it’s hilly. No, but seriously. It is incredibly hilly. It’s an exhausting golf course to stroll, let alone play five or more times in a week (including practice rounds).

I’ve always had incredible respect for caddies, but after experiencing Marco Simone for the Ryder Cup in sweltering temperatures last September and now Augusta in some serious humidity, that respect has multiplied.

I’m 42 and reasonably fit (I play an undulating course at home and like to carry my bag) but my watch couldn’t wait to tell me that my heart rate had been consistently high as I walked the entire course on Wednesday for this very piece. I wasn’t carrying a bag, just to be clear – I’m not a weirdo. All I had on my person was a camera (more on that shortly) and a bottle of Powerade (other sports drinks are available, but when in Rome, etc).

Now, I certainly wouldn’t put my ankle in the same league as Tiger’s but it’s far from my strongest joint after a couple of breaks and ligament damage in my younger days. By the end of the 18 holes, which I walked at a reasonably casual pace, stopping to chat with some patrons and take some pictures, I was absolutely exhausted. Alright, I’ll admit the last four holes may not have been helped by the peach ice cream sandwich and Crow’s Nest beer I had at one of the many concessions stands, but, again, when in Rome, etc. Sweat was dripping off me, my feet were feeling the burn despite wearing some of the best golf shoes, and my legs felt like I’d done a workout. My watch told me I’d climbed the equivalent of 31 flights of stairs and walked more than 10km. I can’t even comprehend how Tiger, who says he hurts every day and feels pain when he hits off anything but a flat lie, will be able to make that walk and produce the required shots (hopefully) for four days while in pain.

Rob Jerram poses outside Augusta National's famous clubhouse

2. Have the Founders Circle photo taken for free!

Everyone who comes to The Masters wants the Founders Circle picture – you know, the iconic view at the end of Magnolia Lane with the flower bed shaped like the logo and the flag flying in front of the clubhouse. The good news is you can have it, you won’t have to find someone to take it, and it’s free. Queues can get quite long, so check with any of the uber-helpful security staff what the wait is and when are the best times. I went early on Wednesday morning and waited for around 30 minutes. There are four photographers set up around the circle, mats to stand on to ensure you’re in the perfect spot, and you’re handed a QR code to scan once you get your phone back which takes you through to the picture. Good, eh?!

No Mobile Devices are allowed on site at Augusta National

3. Phones really are banned!

It isn’t just a case of keeping them in your pocket and maybe sneaking a photo or a check of the Masters app here and there – patrons’ phones won’t make it through the gates. You’ll be asked to hand them over and allowed to pick them up when you leave. It’s a policy that’s not changing any time soon, either, with chairman Fred Ridley saying it’ll remain in place all the time he’s in charge.

If we’re honest, it makes for a better viewing experience, and the players and volunteers seem more relaxed because of it. There’s no risk of phones going off in swings or the staff having to constantly scan the crowds for patrons taking pictures. And everyone is watching the golf through their eyes, living in the moment and not viewing through a small screen or distracted by socials. You’ve waited a long time to come to The Masters, that video of cheese slices being thrown at babies can wait until later. There’s also no influencers trying to grab ‘content’, which you get a lot of at other tournaments.

However, Augusta is vast and if you happen to lose your friends or someone needs to contact you, it is problematic. There are phones dotted around the course if you really need to make a call, but that won’t help anyone find you.

In case you’re interested, as media I am allowed my cell phone inside the media center but I cannot take it out of the building or even use it on the walk from the car park in the morning. I answered my phone as I strolled over on Tuesday and was immediately given a dressing down by security.

Fans at the Masters are known as

4. Bring a digital camera!

With your shiny new iPhone safely locked away, you’ll need another way to capture photos of all those things you’ve seen on TV, so make sure you bring an actual camera. Photography is only allowed on practice days so if you’re coming to see the tournament proper then save your money and the extra weight in your bag as it won’t be allowed through. You may have heard that you’re only allowed an analog camera (Google it if you’re too young to remember cameras with film), but despite the number of people walking around with disposables or Polaroids, that isn’t the case. I brought a compact digital camera in on Tuesday and Wednesday and was snapping away around the course and during the Par 3 Contest. Others were walking the course with long-lensed models, so you’ll be fine with whatever you choose to bring. The friendly staff around the course are more than happy to take a snap for you, and there are plenty of patrons who are more than happy to return the favor if you take one for them.

If you do forget your camera then don’t panic – there are plenty of stores nearby that sell them but they’re no fools and Masters week will see prices hiked and high demand, so get in quickly.

5. No cash, please

If you’re heading to Augusta hoping get rid of those dollar bills and loose change you’ve had hanging around in a draw at home then think again. Augusta is cashless throughout the grounds. And while you might be thinking, ‘That’s ok, I’ll have Apple Pay on my phone,’ you won’t (see above). Bring your card. And if you’re traveling from the UK then ensure you know your pin as, in my experience, you’re often asked to insert your card and enter your number after tapping to make a contactless payment.

If play is suspended at The Masters, patrons have to leave the property

6. If the players come in, you’re out

You probably know this, but if play is delayed or suspended then you’re either not getting in or getting booted out. You’re not allowed to enter the course or stay in the grounds if the players aren’t out there and, in truth, there would only be a few places to take refuge from a deluge anyway.

Gates on Thursday remained closed until 9.30am thanks to storms delaying the start of play, but communication is good and there are plenty of bars and fast food joints on Washington Road where you can hang out until you’re allowed in.

There are many great viewing spots at Augusta

7. The best views at Augusta?

Based on our experiences so far, it’s a really good viewing course. The undulations and topography mean there are plenty of spots where you can stand and see the action without needing to strain. You’ll find fewer grandstands than you see at the other Majors, but there are loads of seating locations where you can plant yourself and your Masters chair (more on that shortly).

Many of you will want to be around Amen Corner and you can get a good view of the 11th green and iconic par-3 12th if you’re down there early. Don’t expect to see the drives off 13, though. The tee box is now set so far back that it’s completely hidden, unfortunately.

The top left corner of the grandstand that overlooks the 15th green is also a great option because you can watch players going for the par-5 in two and (hopefully) plenty of birdies and eagles. But, most importantly, you can watch the famous par-3 16th where Tiger Woods chipped in in 2005 and Sunday holes-in-one are commonplace.

8. Only one brand exists

The Masters is the only brand you’ll see at Augusta. Where other Majors and The Ryder Cup are awash with advertising and sponsor names, there’s none of that here. Even the drinks are unbranded. You’ll be able to order a cola, orange soda, or a lemon-lime. A Domestic, International, or Crow’s Nest beer (which is delicious, by the way). And while we know the Sports Drink is Powerade because we’re given the bottles in the press center, you’ll be handed it in a cup. Hot drinks are served in Masters cardboard cups and food comes in Masters packaging. If you haven’t got it, yet, YOU’RE AT THE MASTERS.

Choose the wrong time and you could be queuing a long time just to get into the Masters shop

Having mentioned the drinks, let’s chat about the cups. When you buy a beer or soft drink from one of the many concessions stands around the course it comes in a pretty decent quality Masters-branded plastic cup. Green if you buy a beer, clear if you’ve opted for soda. I’ll be straight with you, I had a beer and a soft drink on the course on Wednesday and while carrying my empty cups vaguely in the direction of a bin (which they were never going in) I could see the hawks watching me. That’s right folks, you can call them patrons all you want, but some of the visitors to Augusta National are trash divers. On multiple occasions, I have witnessed people either check the trash or reach into one of the bags to remove a plastic receptacle that someone has discarded without knowledge of their eBay/beer pong potential. I saw one group of guys carrying at least 15 each. Now they may have bought and drunk every last one, but the fact they were still on their feet rather than vomiting in the pine straw suggests to me that they’d been searching the many plastic sacks dotted around the course. Having said that, it is American beer, so effectively a rehydration drink anyway. Beer is $6, soft drinks and water are $2, and the cups are a fantastic memento (or a great way of getting guests to say ‘Oh, have you been to The Masters?’ when you ignore the wine glasses and serve them their Malbec in one).

People spend A LOT of money in The Masters shop

10. Everything is very reasonably priced

We just touched on the prices so it’s a good time to dive in. This is the world’s most exclusive golf club and golf tournament so you would expect that to come with a price tag to match. Now, I’m fortunate as media that I don’t pay to get in, but we do still pay for accommodation and flights, which are a pretty penny (or cent, depending on your homeland), so it’s nice that Augusta don’t rip you off once you’re in. They certainly don’t have to keep things cheap, but with the shop pulling in $1m every hour during the week you could argue they don’t need to make an extra buck or two on refreshments.

I bought a lemon-lime soda (cup not trashed) and a massive peach ice cream sandwich for $5. Let me tell you, if that was at The Open I wouldn’t be getting much change out of a tenner, the drink would be smaller, and the ice cream would be gone in about three mouthfuls.

Sandwiches start at just $1.50 and nothing, barring beer at $6 is more than $3. I do have one issue with the food, though…

11. The word salad is deceiving

Ok, if you’re American then maybe you’re reading this thinking ‘idiot Brit’. But in the UK, when we use the word salad in a sandwich title, we mean the sandwich has salad in it. You know, lettuce, or rocket, or cucumber, or tomato. Maybe a bit of beetroot or even an olive if you want to get all continental. What we don’t mean is ‘we’ve mixed a sandwich filling up with mayonnaise and called it a salad.’ Egg salad sandwich. Nope, that’s an egg mayo sandwich my Masters friends. Chicken salad. Can you guess? Yep, chicken mayo. No salad in sight. Nonetheless, it’s a slightly futile moan as both are delicious and I was only kidding myself that I was going to eat something healthy by ordering them.

The famous Masters Gnome is Augusta's hardest-to-get item

12. You need to plan your shop visit carefully

If you want a Masters gnome you’re going to need to be here early. The shop (which is insane) opens at 8am and quickly reaches capacity. “How long will the people at the back be waiting,” I asked one of the incredibly helpful attendants. “Oh this is about a 90-minute queue, sir.” So you’ve just arrived at The Masters and are going to spend the first hour-and-a-half of your day in a queue. By the time I walked back from my stroll down to see Magnolia Lane at 9am, the gnomes were gone but the queue remained huge. Unless you want an item that you know will be in high demand, I’d recommend you leave your visit until late in the day when it’s much quieter. I wandered in at 6.30pm on Wednesday and there was no waiting. If you’re just looking for caps, flags, a seat, or any smaller items, there are a host of smaller shops around the course selling those. Speaking of seats…

Augusta National chairman Fred ridley says the famous par-3 12th hole won't be lengthened during his tenure.

13. Want to sit down? You’ll need to buy a Masters chair

When you see the patrons sitting in those green camping-style chairs with The Masters logo on the back, you might assume they’ve been laid on for the crowds. That’s not the case. You have to buy them ($30 from the shops around the course) and if you want to sit down anywhere around Augusta that isn’t one of the few grandstands, then you’ll have to have one. Sitting on the grass (along with laying down to sunbathe and even taking your shoes off) is prohibited at Augusta and you’ll quickly be asked to get up if you do.

Once you have a seat, put a card with your name or some form of identifying feature in the slot in the back, find your desired location and rest that heiny while you take in some golf. The areas where you can place your seats are well-signposted and plentiful.

But the coolest part of it all is that you can position your seat in a spot, go off for a wander around the course and when you return it’ll be exactly where you left it ready for you to relax again. This is ideal when the drama really starts to build over the weekend. Grab a seat and head straight for the spot you know you’re going to want later in the day – perhaps the 18th green on Sunday, for example. That spot will be in high demand, but as soon as your seat is in place you know it’s yours for the day. Just be aware that running isn’t allowed at Augusta so be ready to enter a power walking competition as soon as the gates open.

Rickie Fowler won the 2024 Masters Par 3 Contest and now faces the challenge of breaking the 'curse'.

14. The Par 3 Contest is brilliant!

I’ll be honest, I was far from a fan of the Par 3 Contest when I arrived. I’m British, I should love twee. But from the outside looking in, it all just felt too twee. And then I spent the afternoon watching it in person and I am a total convert. When you consider Wednesday at the other Majors, it’s just another day of practice rounds. Seeing players hit multiple putts to different plastic markers on the greens and playing 18 holes if you’re really lucky. Yes, they do all that here, too, but the tens of thousands who flood through the gates on Wednesday get real value for money. The Majors are never going to have Pro-Ams (thank God – I’m not sure I could face watching Tyrrell Hatton having to seem interested as Peter Jones, an investment banker and a competition winner play a Texas scramble around that year’s Open venue), but this is a great alternative. The fans get to see the players being both golfers and family men, it’s competitive, it’s fun and, most importantly, there will inevitably be holes-in-one to cheer (there have been 112 down the years with five in the latest event).

The course itself is fantastic and, I’m led to believe, even better since the revamp prior to the 2023 tournament which saw changes to the first five holes, a reshaping of DeSoto Springs Pond, and made it easier for patrons to navigate. It’s tight and the noise from the patrons echoes around.


About the Author

Rob Jerram is Today's Golfer's Digital Editor.

Rob Jerram – Digital Editor

Rob specializes in the DP World Tour, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the Ryder Cup, spending large chunks of his days reading about, writing about, and watching the tours each month.

He’s passionate about the equipment used by professional golfers and is also a font of knowledge regarding golf balls, golf trolleys, and golf bags, testing thousands down the years.

You can email Rob or get in touch with him on X.

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