In 1998 Mike Merchent, Golf Course Architect Ron Kern, Dick Merchent and I all went to a practice round at the Masters. In some ways it was everything all the Golf Channel commentators are saying. We didn’t sit down all day. We walked and walked and walked. Every tee, fairway, and putting green we admired, studied and discussed. We were awed by the clubhouse, the cottages, the flowers, the trees, everything we had seen on TV so many times before. We had a pimento and cheese sandwich, wrapped in Masters green paper and iced tea, when in Rome . . .
But, it was also an ocean of people and all the hassle that comes with a huge sporting event of any kind. There of course are no hotel rooms that a normal, meaning non-media, and non-touring pro can get anywhere close to the golf course. We stayed about 90 minutes away in a newly constructed motel.
Getting in was almost uneventful, but it was before the days of everyone carrying a cell phone. Mike and Clay Merchent attended last year, and reported that no cell phones were allowed. While that is understandable it would be a security nightmare.
There were efficiently moving lines everywhere, to get food and to go to the bathroom. The one line that is truly daunting however is the one to their gigantic, incredible merchandise shop. The secret behind their amazingly successful gift shop is it’s exclusivity. The items in that gift shop can only be purchased by ticket holding patrons. They cannot be purchased outside the grounds or on-line. As a result, people buy like crazy.
The gift shop was huge, it was absolutely packed, and the line only moved one way. There were so many people, that if you saw something you wanted, you had to grab it, because there was no way you were going to be able to go back and get it. It took us 45 minutes to get through the store, and it was simply because that is how long it took for the line to move.
Even the PGA touring pros go through the shop, I saw one of them tweeting about it yesterday. I looked today on-line, just to double check, the only official on-line Masters shop sells only a book, a DVD, and provides links to their free downloadable apps. They have apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. I have both the iPhone and iPad apps. I recommend the iPhone app as the iPad app is glitchy and has trouble recognizing an internet connection.
You can purchase items from an authorized 3rd party, and they have a huge selection, but they aren’t the same things you can buy if you go to the tournament.
The way the media glamorizes the Masters reminds me of their coverage of the BMW at Crooked Stick. None of the reporters had to wait in line 3 hours to get in, and they certainly didn’t interview the average attendee to find out about their experience.
The Masters is amazing, and it is the 1st major of the year. If you ever get a chance, I recommend you go. Make sure you get a good nights sleep the night before, because you will likely do a lot of walking. Bring your credit card, with plenty of room on it for gifts, and leave yourself at least an hour to go through the gift shop.