AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09: K.J. Choi of South Korea and Tiger Woods walk with their caddies to the 12th green during the third round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Masters and Augusta National mean more than just a golf tournament for some, especially those living around it year round.
When riding down the street that Augusta National Golf Club is on, it appears to be a normal road full of fast food restaurants, retail stores and parking lots. If it is the first time a visitor is seeing the area surrounding the golf course, they would likely think they were lost. The grandeur of Augusta National Golf Club does not spill over the private gates that block all eye access to the course. Yet this is what makes the area so intriguing.
Augusta National is surrounded on one side by the equally historic Augusta Country Club, but that is the only side with some form of style. The other sides are old neighborhoods that have been around for years, but they are not grand in style, and various stores and gas stations. In fact, across the street from what used to be the main walk-in gate is a large parking lot. It is only this year that Augusta National has made the view across the street from Magnolia Lane more pleasing to the eye.
It is a different world inside the gates. The National is known as the most immaculate and perfected golf course in the world. I once took an Augusta resident to The Masters for his first time and his first words when walking onto the course: "This is still Augusta?" The National is almost like its own separate country.
I am proud to say I was born within a few miles of the course, grew up in one of the neighborhoods that borders the course and at one time lived across the street from it. Growing up, I was one of those kids selling bottles of water and Coke on the side of the road for a dollar, hoping to catch the unsuspecting visitors of Augusta into believing the prices inside were outrageous (they really are not). If you have attended, you know what I am talking about.
While golf fans around the world would give their right arms to attend The Masters once in their lives, walking through the gates became an annual routine for me. I cannot remember my first Masters experience because I was too young, and yet I have been at least every other year or every year of my entire life. I know the course as well as my home course. This is something I will brag about for the rest of my life.
While it is obviously hallowed ground to sports fans, many Augusta residents do not think twice about having the greatest golf course in the world in their backyard. Many look at the week as an annoyance due to the traffic and added population. It is understandable if you know nothing and care nothing about golf. But at the same time, I feel there should be some form of appreciation and pride for the land of Augusta National that is in their city.
I can admit to riding by the golf course and not even thinking about what I am so close to. My daily ride sends me by Magnolia Lane and parallel to the course for quite a distance, yet it is often that I do not even realize I am within yards of such historic property.
But I am quick to remember what the golf course and the tournament means to me. I have grown up around it, first stepped foot on the perfect grass when I could barely step foot at all, spent many a day with my parents as Arnold Palmer would walk by and smile at me, and soaked in the azaleas and magnolias year after year. Some of my best memories are on that golf course, and I continue to make new ones each time I go.
The buzz that surrounds Augusta prior to and during Masters week is unmatched. It is something that will never grow old because of what it means to me.
The Masters is steeped in tradition and that is apparent from the moment you step on the course. There are various things people may not know about unless they attend. The food prices have barely changed over the years; you can still get an egg salad sandwich for $1.25. It and pimento cheese are world famous, but all of the sandwiches are equally amazing.
It is a good idea to avoid touching the grass in areas you are not supposed to. Walking a foot onto the grass when you are supposed to be in a walkway will earn you a sharp shout from an official. Likewise, shouting loudly and obnoxiously will earn you a trip out of the gate.
The patron etiquette guide is still in the words of Bobby Jones, so the way patrons should carry themselves on the course has remained unchanged for over a generation.
During the practice rounds, players are urged by the patrons to skip a ball across the pond on hole 16. The players try to skip it from the edge of the pond across to the green, and players will often hit balls until they finally reach the green. It is a great tradition for the patrons to yell out to the players to give it a shot.
If you ever have the chance to attend The Masters, do not give up the opportunity. Every sports fan should go to the golf course at least once in their life.