Having decided to dip into my bucket list and go off to the US Masters with my son Rob, Rob investigated the many tour options available. We chose Teed Up Golf Tours, a Sydney based operator.
I must say that Teed Up did not disappoint us – they did an excellent job and exceeded our expectations. Seamless organisation, completely hassle free pre-trip preparation and great attention to detail during the tour. They arranged excellent accommodation, efficient flexible transfers, and provided us with experienced advice and lots of little unexpected extras. Mike & Bede the 2 principals who accompany each tour are really nice guys to deal with & I can certainly recommend Teed Up without reservation and am now considering going to the British Open in 2013 with them.
The Masters/Pinehurst trip with New York added was the most fantastic experience for Rob and me together.
Pinehurst Nth Carolina was sensational. There are 8 courses in all surrounding the central beautiful Pinehurst Resort Complex where we stayed. We played Pinehurst #2 – The US Open will be held there in 2014. It’s SO long and SO tough and Teed Up organised pin locations for us to be the same impossible cuts as US Open final day pin positions.
I missed out on a hole in one by 8 inches on one of the par 3’s!!
Greens on #2 are slick and very difficult to read with heaps of undulations. You are only permitted to play #2 if you take a caddy which we did – a Southern good-‘ole boy with 13 years’ experience. His advice on reading the greens was often counter-intuitive but always correct.
Pinehurst courses #4 & #8 which we also played, are beautiful courses & not as tough as #2.
The accommodation, food and service at the Pinehurst Resort were sensational.
Then onto The Masters by coach….
We stayed at Aiken a charming and welcoming town in South Carolina just over the border from Augusta, Georgia. We stayed in a great little hotel which had been a gracious Southern mansion. Aiken is half an hour from Augusta National and shuttles were provided to and from the course. Each evening Teed Up put on a happy hour for us so as to get the night started.
We attended 4 days of The Masters – The Par 3 Day, The Practice Round, the Friday and the Sunday. On the 2 days we were not at The Masters we played 2 local courses at The Reserve Club – both courses beautiful. The facilities, service and lunch at Reserve were excellent.
The Masters at Augusta National was – well I just can’t describe it adequately in writing.
Nothing really prepares you for Magnolia Lane, The Clubhouse, the size of the course the vastness of the practice areas – or how green and dense & lush the fairway turf is. The TV coverage whilst excellent doesn’t capture the beauty of the course or the atmosphere.
The atmosphere is really fantastic; great behaviour of the huge crowds, very, very well organised facilities – the feeling of being welcome at the club etc. We met Club members who were genuinely very welcoming & chatty. No offers of a game though — not yet anyhow, but I’m working on it! They told me the members’ course is 750 yards shorter than the Masters Course and they also provided lots of anecdotes about the history of the Club and its processes. I must say that being an Aussie was a real gate-opener for conversations.
One of the guys we me through Teed Up kindly invited Rob and me to his father’s home for a southern BBQ – called a pig-pull. It’s a pig roasted on a spit, accompanied by fried chicken, grits, ribs – you name it. About 50 guests – we met 2 recently retired NFL players – 6ft 7 & 300lbs – great guys, author Harlen Coben & many other interesting people. A fantastic night – I now think I really do understand the term “Southern hospitality”
The Par 3 day is held on Tuesday.
It’s a fun day where the player’s families caddy for them. We sat behind the pin on hole #2 and applauded as the 3 legends Arnold Palmer Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player played the hole together. Pros had a great time with their families in tow – Tiger decided not to play – he doesn’t seem to give much back to the patrons. At one stage 92 year old Jack Fleck (winner of the 1955 US open) was NTP at 20 inches, till he was displaced by KJ Choi with 14 inches (pretty good but not as good as my 8 inches at Pinehurst #2!).
The Practice day Wednesday was also fun – skimming balls over the water at #16 & watching players analyse their shots in & putts and take 3 or 4 additional tries at some shots, as all the pin locations for all 4 days are staked out on each hole.
Patrons are only permitted to take cameras on the Par 3 day and the Practice day & we got some great shots. We spoke to Geoff Ogilvy – attracted his attention by calling out “Go Saints” (then had to wash my mouth out!). Also KJ Choi was gracious as were Phil Mickelson & Aaron Badderly & Justin Rose. Jim Furyk was not a pleasant guy towards his fans which was surprising to me.
No cell phones are permitted on course on any day. No bags bigger than 10″ permitted – and a full body scan is done on entering course. No food is permitted to be taken in but food is made so affordable – $1.50 for sandwiches and for drinks. Apparel & souvenir credit card sales are estimated at $100M for the 6 days (that excludes cash sales & food sales!).
All scoreboards are manually changed.
Two thousand employees & volunteers work at Augusta National during Masters Week. The volunteers get to play the course in May.
There is not a single advertising sign or billboard on the course.
Numbers of patrons on course are kept down on the 4 tournament days (as opposed to Par 3 & practice days )
All Masters Participants are there by invitation only – not necessarily by qualification. The spectator guide states: “The Masters is strictly an invitational Tournament that is sponsored by a private organisation. The chief objective of The Masters is to stage a golf show that is enjoyable to all – our members, patrons, and player guests and to interested golfers generally. We would also like, if we can, to contribute something to the advancement of the game.”
On Friday and walked pretty much the entire course. Sat opposite the 3rd green on the 4th (par 3) fairway and watched them come through. When Tiger accompanied by a large gallery came through, he seemed angry and distracted and was very tough on himself when he missed the green on #4.
On Sunday we arrived early & placed our canvas folding chairs at #18 so as to be able to watch the finish. These were purchased on day one for $30 each & carried over the shoulder in a sleeve & set down at various spots. No one moves your chair once it’s placed, and it’s there for you when you return.
We then moved around the front nine and settled on the right had side of the stand adjacent the 15th green, a posy which Rob had decided upon on the Friday – and we waited. It was a fantastic location. From our seats in the stand we could also see the 16th tee and 16th green.
I saw BOTH Holes in One on #16 !! Van Pelt followed by Adam Scott. Both players hit to the top right side of the green and each ball then trickled down, left and back into the hole!
At #15 we saw Westwood miss his albatross one by a metre & witnessed 4 eagles there including Luke Donald who putted in from 15 metres from off the green using his DRIVER. The approach shots in at #15 are about 220 yards, downhill over a creek which runs just in front of the green. It’s amazing how those long shots landed & just checked!
Thus in the space of an hour we saw 4 eagles on #15 and 2 eagles on #16!!!
HEARD the albatross by Oosthuizen all the way from #2 ! The scoreboard flipped shut and showed Oostie had gone from 7 under to 10 under for the tournament. Oostie had sank his four-iron from 253 yards out at the 575-yard long hole, and hence the roar as the gallery on #2 exploded.
Saw the scoreboard change by 3 when Phil M triple bogeyed on the par 3 fourth to put him out of the day & the contest. The crowd moan across the course was palpable as the scoreboard flipped shut.
Late in the afternoon we returned to our chairs at #18 so as to be able to watch the finish – then the play offs on 18 & 10. Bubba’s swinging shot out of the trees on the second play-off hole was unbelievable.
Bubba was a very popular winner with the crowd & the chants of Bubba Bubba Bubba went on for ages.
New York was a blast.
We had seats 10 rows from front at Madison Square Garden to see the NY Knicks beat Orlando Magic – wow is that place full of atmosphere and can those guys jump!! Even the little 6ft 4 guys!! Met some interesting fans court-side including road manager for one P. Diddy (needless to say I had no idea who PD was) – anyhow, he is coming here to Oz for a tour and we plan to have a game with him at Cranbourne and at Huntingdale.
By chance we met Tiger’s ex-coach Hank Haney at a golf shop in NY. Rob chatted with him & had a photo taken.
Saw the play Warhorse at Lincoln Centre – a must-see when it comes here (the film was a bit tacky but the play is outstanding). Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, visited Ground Zero, ate lunch – pastrami on rye, at Katz’s Deli where “When Harry met Sally” was filmed – (remember that famous line “I’ll have what she’s having!” ) visited MOMA , the old garment district & lots more.
All in all, a perfect 2 weeks.
George Greenberg – 2012 US Masters Tour Attendee