When you are riding down Magnolia Lane leading into the Masters at Augusta National, you hope that the drive goes on forever. Before I knew it, we had reached the iconic Masters logo which is made up of a precise arrangement of yellow flowers. I wanted to yell “again” to the driver as if Magnolia Lane was the adult version of a carousel ride where you can never get dizzy.
The kind folks at IBM whisked us away to their elaborate bunker which brings this experience to fans all over the world through the Masters app. Bird sounds played through the speakers as I stood in front of a room only made up of a giant screen like a scene from golf’s version of “Westworld.”
The IBM presentation showed in great detail the brains behind the app, but the best way I know how to explain it is the people working at Santa’s Workshop in the adjacent room are making sure that I can see Tiger Woods birdie the 13th hole in real time, regardless of my location. In the South, we call this doing the Lord’s work.
After the impressive presentation, we stopped at the pro shop, the only place in the world where you can purchase Masters merchandise. Rumor had it that the course was going to be shutdown at some point in the near future due to inclement weather. This greatly jeopardized my ability to leave Augusta with 30 new polos. The experience is a bit like waiting in line at Disney for Splash Mountain but instead of the ride ending with a steep drop and water-soaked clothes you get to snag hats with soft performance material.
Tiger, Polos & Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, Oh My!
There are at least three different stations just for polos with numbers attached to each one of the options. Some might refer to my purchases as something similar to a small down payment on a car, but I prefer to think of it as an investment in myself.
There was a buzz as Woods’ name was on the old-school board revealing the players practicing for the tournament. This may be the only place on earth where Woods is Robin as Augusta National plays Batman, albeit a very popular Robin based on Monday’s practice photos featuring shoulder-to-shoulder patrons. I opted to begin walking the course knowing how difficult it is to gain access to the pristine greens.
They say the longest journey begins with a single step, and that was about as far as I got before a loud siren began to ring, informing people we must exit the course as a heavy storm was arriving soon. Anyone who has witnessed last call in a college town knows what happened next.
I just so happened to be next to a concession stand and proceeded to grab as many sandwiches as I could take to the register. They stopped serving drinks, but I was able to score a glass of tea in one of the stellar cups with the Masters logo.
These concessions items are almost as notable as the tournament itself. Pimento cheese sandwiches are $1.50 but there are other options as well which include barbecue pork, ham, fried chicken and turkey. For the early risers, you can pair a cup of coffee with one of several biscuit options. The drinks, sandwiches and snacks (R.I.P. peach ice cream sandwiches due to supply chain issues) have all been kept at relatively the same prices throughout the history of the Masters tournament.
Augusta National Has Miraculously Convinced Patrons to Live Without Their Phones
Before going into Augusta National, I sent text messages to people letting them know I had not been kidnapped since phones are not allowed at the Masters. I promised I would see them on the other side as you can only imagine a sports writer without their phone starts to develop the shakes at precisely the third hole.
Of all the things I have outlined about Augusta, the biggest miracle of all is that each year the allure of the Masters is so immense that people willingly give up phone access for an entire day. No selfies in front of Amen Corner for the Gram, Wordle updates on Twitter or TikTok dances with pimento cheese sandwiches. There are batches of landline phones (look it up) throughout the course that can be used in case you need to get in touch with someone outside of Narnia. Sadly, when I eventually got back to my phone I learned that life appeared to go on as normal without my pocket constantly buzzing.
The brief morning served as an appetizer of what an entire day at Augusta would feel like, but what I thought about the most is the people I wanted to experience this feeling with next time. The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo likes to say that once you walk through the gates of Augusta, the people wrap their arms around you as a way of congratulating you for making it happen.
The Masters App Brings a Customized Augusta Experience to Fans
Yet, the reality is the vast majority of fans will only experience the Masters through either television or the app. This year, IBM is introducing a new feature which allows you to create a group of golfers to watch with other friends, all through the app.
Candidly, I have used this app without any form of coercion all over Atlanta as life happens during each tournament. I use the My Group feature to watch the golfers from my annual picks, allowing me to keep up with how badly I have led people astray with Masters predictions.
You can do something similar with your own list of fantasy golfers, FanDuel lineup or perhaps players where you might have a vested interest in certain players performing well at Augusta. There is even a fantasy game within the app where you can compete with friends and family during the tournament.
IBM shared their private projections with me for this year’s Masters, but if I share them publicly this article self-destructs. One of the more popular features is the three-minute highlight packages for each golfer competing at Augusta. This allows you to catch up on Tony Finau’s round while cooking dinner.
Stop & Smell the Azaleas
Augusta National planned for everything you see during the Masters, but the one thing out of their control is the weather. If the last two years has taught us anything, it is that we do not control as much as we would like. Yet, perhaps it has given us a sense of gratitude for what we do get to experience, even in small doses.
Whatever sense of disappointment I had about the apocalyptic weather pattern approaching was far outweighed with gratitude for the people I had met, the place that I saw and the stories I have to tell. As I got into my car, the skies looked like something similar to the “Wizard of Oz.” The majority of vehicles began to form lines to exit, but this did not feel quite right.
I looked down and the pimento cheese sandwich seemed to agree with me, the time had come. As I finally got my first taste of Augusta, all I could feel was thankfulness and think of the people I wanted to bring back to Narnia to say amen at the corner.