AUGUSTA, Ga. -- People had plenty of things to say when I told them I was going to the Masters for the first time. Among them: "You’re going to have an amazing time," or, Eat all the pimento cheese you can find. I heard over and over again, It’s hillier than you think. Television flatten things out, we know this. But having walked Augusta National since Friday, I can confidently confirm that Augusta National is indeed golf heaven, and heaven is a hike.
Before I left for Augusta, I was told we weren’t allowed to have cell phones anywhere outside the press room. Honestly I was kind of excited to start separating myself from my phone. But I’m a millennial, so I don’t own a watch and I needed to keep time. So I unearthed my old Fitbit, which tracks basic heart rate, steps taken, and flights of stairs climbed.
I was out on the course for the first time, walking around Amen Corner, when I made my way up to 11th tee. At the same time, Patton Kizzire was walking up during his practice round. Once on the tee, he joked to his caddie that he wanted to tee off last to be able to catch his breath. I remembered I had my Fitbit on, looked at my heart rate and saw it was over 100. I was glad l didn't have to hit a golf ball. I made me wonder, what does my heart rate look like after all the biggest climbs? Which climb is the toughest?
So I decided to walk Augusta National as close to what the pros do as the ropes allow, keeping track of the biggest hills, trying to walk with the same crisp, deliberate gait of a tour pro. I measured the hills by how long it took to get from the bottom to the top, how many flights of stairs my Fitbit said the climb equated to (I did this by looking at how many flights of stairs I'd climbed for the day at the start of the hill and subtracting that from how many staircases it said I'd climbed once I was at the top. Admittedly not wildly scientific, but it gives you an idea), and I checked my heart rate at the top of each climb and wrote that down. For reference, my Fitbit calculates my resting heart rate as 56. Looking at those three data points after my walk, I scored each climb on a scale of 1-10.
I set out on Wednesday morning a bit before 8am. It was the perfect day to do it. Not too warm, right around 65 degrees. Not many players were out playing practice rounds so the course wasn't full of patrons, yet. The fog was burning off as I started up No. 1.
Hill on No. 1
Total Time: 1:21
Height: Three flights of stairs
Heart Rate: 118 beats per minute
Hill on No. 5
Time: 2:03 Height: Between 2 and 3 flights Heart Rate: 102 Score: 4
Hill on No. 7
Heart Rate: 109
Height: 2 flights Score: 5
After making it to No. 7 green, there's There’s a brief reprieve, then bam! No. 8 comes at you like a wrecking ball.
Data from my Fitbit pairing with my cell phone back in the media center.
Hill on No. 8
Heart Rate: 133
Height: 7 flights Score: 10
For the first time, I'm really feeling it. I can notice myself breathing and the heart rate speaks for itself.
Hill on No. 9
Time: 59 seconds
Height: 3 flights Heart Rate: 124
I feel recovered after the sweet descent down 10. But then, the wall that inspired this piece is before me. As i start the climb, an image of Phil's frighteningly large calves appear in my mind. Suddenly, they make perfect sense.
Hill on No. 11
Time: 58 seconds
Height: two flights
Heart Rate: 111 Score: 7
When I get to the top, my heart is pounding and I’m breathing audibly. Happily, I dip into the heart of Amen Corner. The fun is over, though, as the next hill is another monster.
Hill on No. 14
Height: 3 flights
Heart Rate: 116 Score: 7
It's still beautiful out, but the sun is starting to beat down. I'm thankful for the breeze. I start to think about sweet tea.
Hill on No. 17
Height: 2 flights Heart Rate: 115
As I summit, my Fitbit vibrates to let me know I've walked 10,000 steps. It’s not even 10 a.m. yet. I feel like I've earned the right to eat literally everything on the concessions menu.
Technically, the climb on No. 17 continues gradually to the green. Once on the 18th tee box, the terrible reality that the last climb might be the worst is ahead of me. I look at the flag up in the distance, pretend it's actually an icy glass of sweet tea, and ask my legs to keep pace.
Hill on No. 18
Heart Rate: 128
Stairs: 6 flights
The climbs I've kept track of equate to about 30 flights of stairs and my heart rate reached levels that I'd see when out for a run. Most humbling of all, when I got to 18 I was exhausted—and I hadn't even swung a club.