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July, 2024

Dans 2024 Masters Experience

The Masters every year always generates a huge amount of interest, this year was no different! The fact we associate The Masters with the dawn of a new golf season adds to the excitement, despite the fact I write this having spent the day coaching at Woburn in what felt like the coldest day we have had all winter!

I always get excited for The Masters and this year I was lucky that Taylor Made sent me their limited edition Masters Tour Bag and headcovers. I have always looked enviously at the Masters golf bags each year so it was a real thrill to pull this beauty out of the box! However, the real reason, I get so excited is the fact I was going, 2024 was to be the 7th time I have been lucky enough to attend The Masters.

Despite 12 times (6 years x 2 days visited) I have walked in through the gates and around the course, it never gets old. In fact this year was great I was hosting a group of 7 guy's who had never been before and were all like excited children on Christmas morning! I have always attended on a practice day, most recently the Tuesday, which I have found the best day to go and really see Augusta. All the player's are now on site and not side tracked by the Par-3 event, which is lovely, but being on the golf course is much better in my opinion.We walked the course from the 1st all the way around, taking in the beauty of the course, the undulations and watching players practice all the shot's they feel they may need during the week. We would stop occasionally for refreshments, Damian in our group had the record amount of BBQ sandwiches, I didn't blame him, they are sensational, and only $1.50 each! Raj was the first to go in for Augusta's famous Ice Cream Sandwich! We arrived at the 10th tee and it is there you really see the huge undulation change for the 1st time, the 10th is like a black ski run, it has to be seen to be believed! When you wander down the hole you can't help but stop and walk to where Bubba Watson hit that famous Pitching Wedge where he hooked the ball 100 yards onto the green to win his 1st green jacket! You walk down 11, which they have turned into such a difficult hole now with huge pine trees (which they bought!) now planted down the right side of the fairway. The 12th hole is just iconic, we had a rest in the stand and I enjoyed an Ice Cream Sandwich looking at the most beautiful view in all of golf! I never get tired of sitting at Amen Corner, after 20 odd years watching it on TV, it held so much mystique to me, to be sitting there, imagining Faldo holing the long putt he made to beat Ray Floyd and Larry Mize chipping in against Greg Norman and all the drama on the 12th, from Freddy's ball hanging on the bank to Tiger finding the green when so many didn't in 2019.

We then walked down 13, which is such a different hole now, the tee has been moved back 50 yards and the tee shots now finish on an extremely steep side slope, this makes it very difficult to hit the green in 2 shots.

14 is a tough Par-4 and then 15th, the Par-5 was again playing much longer than normal and most players were practising from 80 yards out expecting a lay up, some even practising from the drop zone! I was impressed by how low they were hitting their wedge shots in, this would result in a big hop with the first bounce with spin taking over on the 2nd and the ball would be dead on the 3rd bounce.

The 16th is one of the most famous Par-3's in golf, you can't fail but to imagine Tiger holing that chip back in 2005. 17 is another strong Par-4 and the 18th was playing so difficult for the players with a strong sidewind!

After we walked the course it was time to brave the Shop! This for many, is as bigger highlight as any when you visit Augusta. A chance to purchase items from Golf shirts to caps to dog bowls and this year's must have, a Masters Gnome! You wait in a line for around 20 minutes, but it always keeps moving, when you make it in you get given a large bag to place your items in and you are let loose. I was a little more restrained than normal this year but still spent far too much! All of my guy's did their bit to add to the reported $2 million an hour the Shop takes!

We enjoyed watching the golf until the last player was off the course and trotted off back to the hospitality unit.

We got to do it all again on Friday, I have found that having a 2 day break in between visits is perfect, enough to rest up and be raring to go again! They say on Tuesday you go to Augusta and Friday you go to The Masters! This is very true, a totally different atmosphere, there is an intensity in the air and you cannot walk around the course with the same ease as Tuesday. The first thing we did was place our Masters chairs right behind the 18th green. The friendly marshall, Rick, recommended a fabulous position right under the camera tower by where the players walk off. Due to the delay on Thursday, we saw Tiger finish his round early in the morning and then set off to walk the course. The wind was not only strong, but swirling viciously. It is difficult to explain in words just how difficult playing conditions were, on a golf course where you need to be pin point in your distance control with your approach play, for players to still shoot level par was incredible. We were on the 18th tee for a while, yes it is as narrow as it looks!, and saw 12 players go through and 2 hit the middle of the fairway ,one was Matt Fitzpatrick, who teed it low and hit an absolute bullet of a drive, several others could not move the ball forward more than 150 yards before hitting a tree! A strong left to right wind on that tee was clearly getting into their head's!

Scottie Scheffler played the hole well and looked so calm and in control whenever we saw him on the course, I never thought I would see a player dominate as Tiger did again, but we are seeing it happen with Scottie!

We did see Tiger get up and down to make his 24th consecutive cut at The Masters, he hit the most beautiful soft landing shot from the short side on the 18th hole and holed the putt, despite getting sandblasted as he lined his putt up!

Apart from these 2 days at Augusta, we enjoyed staying in a beautiful lakehouse on the shore of Lake Oconee at Reynolds Plantation. We also enjoyed 5 rounds of golf on the world-class courses at Reynolds. The green speed frightened everyone on day-1 but it didn't take long to get used to the speed, which weren't much slower than Augusta, and the scoring from all the guy's was very impressive throughout the week.

A memorable week and the golf season is officially underway, we just need to find the sun!

(I hope you enjoyed my first blog, I will be writing them throughout the year, discussing recent events in the golfing world, techniques, favourite courses and stories from my 24 years as a PGA Professional).