(Note: This originally ran during the 2018 Masters.)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — It's Monday at the Masters, which means it's one of the best days to be at Augusta National. That's right, better than the tournament itself. And though I'm drunk on pimento cheese, I assure you it's a sober conviction. Here are eight reasons why attending a Masters practice day is better than a tournament round.
The course is the star
Save for possibly the Open Championship at St. Andrews, the Masters is the only tournament where the competition can be argued as secondary. No need to wax poetic on why; anyone who’s seen an image of Amen Corner can testify. However, once Thursday arrives, the focus tends to turn to the players (and rightfully so). The practice rounds allow Augusta National to shine without sharing the spotlight.
Staying with this theme...
It’s easier to maneuver around the course
During the tournament, patrons will set up shop at holes like the 12th, 15th and 16th...and not move for the rest of the day. This becomes a bit problematic for those taking in the course for the first time, unable to get the proper vistas for these famous sites. During practice rounds, few linger in one location, giving the patron an opportunity to experience every inch of the property their heart desires.
The past champions
Tradition fuels this tournament, and the presence of past champions is a major component. They don’t play in the practice rounds anymore (although they’re still around and kicking in Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest) but the mere sight of legends mingling around the clubhouse is a much-needed reminder that time stands still inside Augusta National.
Merchandise doesn’t run out
The club has been better at keeping inventory than in years past, but—come Saturday and Sunday—some of the more popular Masters merchandise items tend to be low in stock. Getting in on Monday and Tuesday gives patrons first dibs on the most sought-after swagger of the season.
Better star access
Want to watch Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy? Good luck getting a constant vantage point on tournament days, as the marquee names draw such massive roving galleries that you often have to run holes ahead to get a decent view. Though these guys—especially Tiger—are surrounded by patrons at every turn no matter the round, it’s a tad easier to get an up-close look on practice days. Mentioned above, people are more likely to explore the course than follow one player from start to finish, bestowing a better glimpse at greatness.
The laid-back ambience
Chalk it up to the joy that comes with the tournament’s return, or just the thrill of being on the property, but there’s a “first day of summer” aura that hovers over the proceedings. A sentiment emanating from the players as well, their guards noticeably lowered (especially on Wednesday, which has become Family Day at the tournament). But come Sunday, a serious tone permeates the air, as everyone realizes the gravity of the moment.
It enhances your tournament viewing experience
A practice round is a perfect appetizer, cranking your tournament excitement to another level. Yes, watching the Masters is always must-see theater, but there’s an extra appreciation come showtime on Thursday when you’ve been on the grounds earlier in the week. You know exactly where the players are hitting from and the difficulty of said task. And though Augusta National’s beauty shines through the screen, encountering it in person cements your awe when seeing it on TV.
But the biggest reason attending a practice round is better?
The dirty secret about tournament golf...
...Is that it’s better consumed from your couch. Every group’s play, from the best viewing angle, is at your disposal. On the grounds, you’re watching just one hole or group at a time, more than likely from a less-than-illuminating view. There are nothing like the Sunday roars at Augusta...and as long as your television has sound, they should reverberate through your home.