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What Makes the Masters so Special?
What Makes the Masters so Special?

I have made a career out of enabling people to cross items off of their bucket lists, and am often asked which international event I consider the best. The answer to this question is easy for me.

The Masters is quite simply the best event to attend in the world. The Masters is perhaps the only international event I can think of that is completely untouched by the commercial forces that make people say, “Yeah it was fun, but it’s not like it used to be.”

Have you have ever returned to place or event where you have great memories only to be disappointed to see it brimming with tourists, cheap gimmicks, and opportunistic price-gouging? This is a feeling many of us know. I am pleased to report that the Masters, however, remains pristine.

From the gorgeous setting in Augusta, Georgia, to the reverence for the sport of golf and its traditions, to the event’s ban on marketing on the green: the Masters is truly a stand-alone example of an event whose priorities remain steadfast and wholesome.

 

Is the Masters like the Super Bowl, but with golf?

Because the Masters is America’s most important annual tournament in the sport of golf, many people compare the Masters to the Super Bowl. But this easy comparison couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, more than half of the folks in the stands the Super Bowl are not even fans of the final teams: they are instead there for the crowds, the halftime concert, the celebrity sightings, the media hype, the potential selfies.

Consider for a moment that one of the most talked about aspects of the Super Bowl each year is the commercials. Now consider that, at the Masters, absolutely no sponsor advertisements are allowed on the course. The tone is so different between these two events that there is just no comparison to be had.

is the masters like the super bowl

Does this look like the Super Bowl to you? Photo by Torrey Wiley.

 

What is the Masters location like?

The Masters takes place in Augusta, Georgia, the state’s second most populous city behind Atlanta. Though the city offers a worthwhile portion of historic architecture and scenic views in its downtown area, Augusta also has many of the features of your typical American sprawl. Especially on its outskirts, you can expect to see lots of fast food chains and stripmalls along the highways. The drive out to the Augusta National Golf Club isn’t a scenic one: as you approach the golf course on Washington Road, prepare to be bombarded with billboards and advertisements for Krispy Kreme Donuts, Outback Steakhouse, Walgreens, Hooters, Olive Garden, and Waffle House, among others.

Then, you turn into the Augusta National parking area and immediately leave it all behind.

what makes the masters so special?

Not a advertisement or push notification in sight. Photo by Ryan Schreiber.

When you step foot on Augusta National, all the stresses of our fast-paced modern world melt away. There is not an advertisement in sight. Everything is immaculate. The grass is trimmed so perfectly that it looks more like Astroturf. Every fallen leaf is raked up. Every fallen pine needle is swept away.

The grounds of the golf course were formerly a nursery before club founder Bobby Jones built the course in the 1930s. This horticultural legacy is still visible on the course today. Many of the trees, which are huge and magnificent, predate the Civil War. For example, one iconic oak tree behind the Clubhouse and the 60 magnolia trees that line the road approaching it were all planted in the 1850s. 

A great game of golf is determined as much by athletic talent as it is by great gardening. The Masters does both of things better than anywhere else.

 

Is the Masters venue the same every year?

The other major golf tournaments all rotate cities and venues with every year. This is also true of countless other big sporting events. The Masters, however, is the only major golf tournament that is played on the same course every year, and always during the first full week of April.  

Is the masters always in the same location

Photo by Rory McIlroy.

This is a good thing in my opinion for several reasons. First, this means the event is free from the flashy bidding circus that comes with events that are held in a different city every year. In order to host the Super Bowl, the World Cup, or the Summer or Winter Games, hopeful host cities dump millions if not billions into winning the bid, bringing their venues up to par, and outdoing the previous host. Oftentimes the infrastructure built for the event stands empty once the games are over. In that the Masters is always held in the same location, the event is much more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Second, holding the tournament in the same place every year grounds the event in the sport itself. Rising stars and unknown hopefuls compete on the very same pitch that hundreds of legends before them did. And as the first major tournament of the year, there is a ceremonial importance to holding it in the same place. The Masters represents the first step of each golfer’s dream of winning the Grand Slam. Only the winner of the Masters has that opportunity going forward.

 

What are some traditions upheld at the Masters?

Augusta National Country Club has done an amazing job of lovingly maintaining their many traditions through the years. Their insistence on doing things by the book adds an element of nostalgia to the tournament that is sorely lacking in other sports. Even as the game of golf has progressed with new technology and new stars, the Masters never loses sight of the history and traditions of the sport. Here are some of my favorite Masters traditions:

Ceremonial First Tee Shot

On Thursday morning, the tournament is opened with the first tee shot being taken by one of the greats of the game. Perhaps more than any other tradition, this one exemplifies how Augusta National respects and honors the history of this great game.

The Par-3 Tournament

par 3 contest masters

Viewers watch the Par-3 Contest in 2015. Photo by Ryan Schreiber.

Wednesday of Masters week is my favorite day of the year. Most players participate in the nine-hole Par-3 contest on Wednesday afternoon. The holes are relatively short, between 160 and 190 yards in length, allowing you to get closer to the action (and the players) than during regular competition. The atmosphere is light-hearted and festive, with many players using their spouses or children as caddies.  Interestingly, no player has ever won both the Par-3 Tournament and the Masters in the same year, which has led to many players purposely losing the Par-3.

Champions Dinner

On Tuesday of the Masters week, all of the previous winners of the tournament gather for a seated dinner in the Clubhouse. The previous winner is responsible for choosing the menu, and they often select dishes representative of their homeland.

The Green Jacket

Adam Scott presents Bubba Watson with the green jacket in 2014. Photo by Andrew Reddington, Getty Images.

Arguably the most coveted prize in all of sports is a sport coat from the Augusta National Golf Club.  Each year the Green Jacket is presented to the winner of the tournament by the previous year’s winner.  Players are allowed to keep their jacket for one year, then must return them to the Club and can then only wear it on the grounds. Gestures like these are brimming with nostalgia, and a huge part of the reason why the Masters are so unique.

Skipping Balls on Number 16

Is there any other event in all of sports where some of the most exciting action is watching the participants just practice? The first three days of the Masters are filled with practice rounds, and perhaps the most interesting place to spend your day is by hole Number 16. This par-3 hole has a large pond between the tee box and the green. After taking a normal practice shot, players are encouraged by the crowd to attempt to skip a ball across the water and onto the green.

 

Are there any rules that first timers at the Masters should be aware of?

Much like tennis, golf is a game that is imbued with etiquette. But aside from the common standards for player and audience behavior during the game, there are a few notable rules at the Masters that make the world’s most prestigious golf tournament also its most formal.

1. No sponsors on the course

The Masters, like all major golf tournaments, is limited to five sponsors every year. And though these sponsors each pay more than six million dollars, they are not permitted to have any branding present on the course. No t-shirts, no koozies, no banners, no blimps – nothing on the green. Even the athletes keep logos on their clothing and gear to a subtle minimum.

2. No autographs

The Club wants the athletes to be able to feel relaxed while at the tournament, as if they were playing at their own home club. For this reason, fans are not permitted to approach the golfers for autographs on game day.

3. No cell phones, cameras, or electronic devices

Don’t even think about it. Security will confiscate your devices before you can even extend your selfie stick. As anxiety-inducing as the thought of watching an entire round of golf without your phone may be, this rule actually makes the game so much better. Everyone is actually paying attention.

 


Are you ready to see the most prestigious tournament in the golf world? Take part in the tradition and witness the greats of past and present in Augusta, Georgia. Check out our Masters Travel Packages and get ready to experience a bucket list sporting event unlike any other.