The universal happiness of the Masters.
Attending the Masters is special because it’s one of the rare moments in life that actually lives up to (and exceeds) all expectations. It’s a universal truth that even people who have been everywhere and seen it all will be impressed.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend a few days of the Masters Tournament to document the Patrons for Masters.com and for my own site. It was nervous assignment for me because in the same way that I'm not a writer, I'm not a photographer. My only reassuring thought was that I felt confident that if I did see something interesting I would know it. Then if I could just somehow keep things in focus and capture the scene with the camera it would work out. I was nervous as hell about it all but I couldn't say no — I had to do this.
The first time I attended the tournament with David Coggins I was too overwhelmed with the experience to be able to process anything other than my own impressions of everything. The Masters is just so unique in the way the Augusta National Golf Club has shaped the tournament over the years. It's not just special among golf tournaments, it's different from every event in America or potentially anywhere.
Depending on how much you have read about the Tournament, you know many of the quirks of the Masters already —from the 1979-era pricing of the concessions, the non-commercial nature of the event to the lack of technology allowed on the grounds— but to me the most interesting aspect of the tournament is the collective joy that everyone near Magnolia Lane shares. That universal sense of delight just hangs in the air like Georgia humidity. It's inescapable in the best possible way and it colors the whole experience.
When I looked at my pictures from the 2022 Masters it’s hard not to go back to that feeling of exuberance. Somehow I am reminded of that wonderful feeling of a boat that has got up on-plane and is just gliding along. That’s the feeling. There we all are in Georgia just floating around the Augusta National Golf Club, the place we've felt in our hearts all of these years from far away. It doesn't matter if it's your 7th Masters or your first, if you are young or old, a banker or a plumber— it's likely you still can't figure out what good things you have done to in your life to be fortunate enough to actually be there. The Masters is the rare situation where no one would rather be in any other place. Love golf or hate it, the Masters experience transcends.
Frequently I'm asked what it's like to be a patron. There are a few general things worth pointing out, but typically my best advice is to just soak it all in enjoy it in the moment. To be there for the first time is truly one of the great things to do in life. You will marvel at the civility and politeness of thousands of people. You can't believe that if you leave a chair unattended all day and nothing will happen to it. Everyone is surprised at the scale of the golf course and the elevation changes of the land, by the beauty of the flowers and the contrast of the pine straw. Surely everyone is impressed with the sight of the players hitting their drives through the tight trees on the 18th tee and how they land their shots so far from the flag to let Mackenzie's greens funnel them in close. Patrons will be astonished at the massive shop and be shocked how much merch they will want to take home. First timers will see the perfect green and white umbrellas and the massive live oak tree near the clubhouse and be amazing at how much they recognize a place that they've never been.
The experience is not overwhelming or an onslaught — there's nuance and delight and it comes in flourishes. The Masters is subtle and dignified, it unfolds like a wonderful omakase. Just trust that you’re in their hands and know that you won't be disappointed.
This year I'm going to be watching on TV with most everyone else. Of course, part of me wishes I could be there again in person. Though I’m grateful to have made the trip to Augusta in the past to see it, and importantly, to feel it.