Like millions of golfers around the world, I look forward to the rite of spring in Augusta, Georgia. It is probably the only golf tournament that many non-golfers tune in to watch, the blinding green carpets leading to the perfectly placed Azaleas provide an order that is sorely missed in most of our everyday lives. Surely when we tee it up in heaven, it will be indistinguishable from Augusta National- though perhaps God will have renamed the holes to demonstrate ultimate authority over the fathers of this terrestrial church. Well, maybe not Amen Corner…
For me, the Masters takes 3rd place among the majors. I’m not sure that has always been the case, but The Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2010 was the first major that my wife and I decided to see in person. I don’t regret that choice, even if a then relatively unknown South African took the title of Champion Golfer that year. The US Open follows close behind, our national championship played on some of our finest courses. The PGA Championship is great or not so great on a year by years basis, depending on the course chosen and the quality of the play. So, not that you asked, here are my feelings about the first major of the year.
First, the positives. The Masters is played on the same course every year. This is a great advantage as it gives the tournament a history and continuity that no other major can match. It is played on a beautiful and difficult golf course with many memorable holes. The players love to come to Augusta, they embrace its traditions, and they cherish the green jacket. All of these things make for terrific television. The marketing of the Masters is superb, from its pimento cheese sandwiches to the Butler Cabin interviews to the CBS theme music. Turning on The Masters is like coming home after a long and arduous trip- you just feel good watching it. Despite what I will say in the next paragraph, I would LOVE to play Augusta National- I have been a golfer since I was 12 years old and no real golfer I know would not say the same thing.
OK, so what’s my problem with Augusta? First, my idea of golfing heaven is a breezy seaside course on a cool summer afternoon. The Masters has to be played in April because it would be brutally hot in Augusta if it was played later in the year. Of course, that doesn’t matter since the course is closed all summer anyway! Augusta National is a gorgeous venue. Like the airbrushed beauties of Playboy magazine in the 1960s, just seeing it awakens a deep lust that arises from someplace in the primitive golfing brain stem. Yet Augusta is really a terrible role model unless you like to completely dominate nature with unlimited money and technology. It is a standard that no real golf course can live up- nor should they want to. Augusta National is sort of a golfing Disney World for a handful of carefully selected CEOs. We average golfers have been brainwashed into thinking that somehow The Masters is “our” tournament because we are allowed in the tent once a year in order to generate the profits that allow the “real” members of the club to ignore us the rest of the year. OK, so maybe I do have a little class anger….
Augusta National is a course that exists primarily for one week in April. Without that tournament, it would just be a particularly nice elitist country club with a dark past of racism and misogyny. I read somewhere that Bobby Jones wanted it to be a “national” course. It’s limited membership certainly comes from all over the country, but is that really what constitutes a national golf course? Why not take a month in the hot summer and distribute tee times by lottery like St. Andrews does to golfers from around the world who would love to play this iconic course? Wouldn’t that bring Augusta National closer to being a true national treasure?
Post Masters 2017: OK, maybe because I got it out of my system or maybe because I’m just an idiot, but I was glued to the television for this year’s tournament. Congratulations, Sergio!