You Have To Be Here

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You Have To Be Here

April 03, 2012

Photo By: Dom Furore

Photo By: Charles Laberge

Photo By: Geoff Shackelford

Photo By: Geoff Shackelford

Photo By: J.D. Cuban

Photo By: Dom Furore

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

Photo By: Dom Furore

The Clubhouse Area IntimacySince the club lengthened the first hole into a 1,785-yard par-4, the extended tee has meant that it moved closer to a relocated putting green, and to my shock, the 10th tee. Television doesn't do justice to the close proximity of these two vital tees and now I better understand why you sometimes see players on the 10th waiting to pull the trigger until a group has left the first. For spectating purposes, the intimacy is fantastic. Traffic flow? Not so hot.

Photo By: Dom Furore

Imagining Golf Holes While ParkingSince I last was here, the club has spent untold millions buying homes and converting a neighborhood next to the course into a parking lot. Check out this old storyfor more on the stealthiest operation since Tiger decided to play a Navy SEAL. Anyway, with mature trees and the same rolling terrain as Augusta National, parking your car is even more fun now that you can envision all sorts of potential golf holes while heading to the entrance gate. Of course, if I were the Lords, this would make a great public golf course the other 48 or so weeks of the year, perhaps with a few tributes to the big course.

The 10th's Overhanging TreesWhen Rory McIlroy's round unraveled in 2011 after a pulled 10th hole tee shot ricocheted left to the base of a cabin, I had to return to the scene of the crime, expecting to sympathize with the young lad's rough luck. Unfortunately, after close inspection, I've come to realize it was just a horrific shot. He pulled it at least 20 yards left and about 20 yards lower than his stock drive. Hey, we can all relate. But he definitely was not unlucky.

Photo By: Charles Laberge

Merchandise, With HumorWho says the Lords don't have a sense of humor? For $65 patrons can buy a beautiful Masters watch, only the twist here is aimed sharply at golf's biggest problem: slow play. I give you, The Pace of Play watch. The sharp Masters-logoed keepsake features a bezel that allows the user to crank it up to the Masters recommended four-hour maximum. Reminding me after all these years that the folks at Augusta National not only do the best merchandise, they do it with a sense of humor and a sense of what's most important.

Photo By: Geoff Shackelford

Merchandise, For ValueFor every pricey Bobby Jones shirt and even pricier leather good, the Augusta National folks offer incredible values. The $15 golf towels imprinted with colorful patron badges from the 70s will make a great gift. But selling classy 18x23 posters featuring four choices of atmospheric art or historic paper program covers is just plain unfair to every other golf tournament on the planet. Warning to Atlanta TSA, I'll be arriving Monday with an armful of tubes.

Photo By: Geoff Shackelford

The Severe Slope of 13 FairwayI realize that I'm not breaking new ground here, but it never hurts to remind folks watching on television just how severe the fairway slope is for players attacking the brilliant par-5 13th in two. Just keep that in mind if a leader dumps his second shot into the creek from a hanging lie. "TV doesn't do justice to how hooked that lie is on that second shot," Tiger Woods said Tuesday. He's not exaggerating.

Photo By: J.D. Cuban

Slowing Down Roll One Blade At A TimeIn an effort to slow down drives, the Lords have been mowing fairways toward tees for several years now. Most of us at home rolled our eyes at the idea they were really slowing roll. But as Geoff Ogilvy explained in Golf World's Masters preview issue, the difference is noticed and having had a chance now to see the fairway grain, I can attest. Though with the golf course as soft as it is this year, the practice seems unnecessary and may even make the course easier than it should be this year by keeping drives from rolling into bad angles of attack.

Photo By: Dom Furore

Steep Fall-OffsOgilvy also noted in his column how difficult chipping is around the greens, and the combination of surprisingly long rye grass fringes with some steep slopes might explain why you see players hit inexplicably-timed lob shots. Now, the big fall off in front of the tenth green or behind the seventeenth will not come as a huge surprise, but most shocking after all these years is just how much the Lords have created a slope to the right of the 11th green.

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

The Grandeur Of The FacilitiesThe number of new buildings and upgrade on-course services for patrons is as stunning as all four hundred columns have suggested. The Masters brings in huge revenue, but any patron who has been through the west entrance's almost amusement park-like entry -- almost except much more beautiful -- has figured out that their dollars scooping up Masters merchandise is going right back into the property. It all adds up to an experience that no fan will ever truly appreciate until they get here. Which is why it's so nice to be back.

Photo By: Dom Furore

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