Keen to attend the 2017 Masters at Augusta National? Start planning now…
ASK anyone in golf what’s the one bucket-list item they’d love to tick off before they die and nine out of 10 will tell you, unequivocally, “go to The Masters”.
“It’s my favourite sporting event in the world,” says West Indian cricket legend Brian Lara, a regular inside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club.
“Everything about the tournament is special in a way that’s hard to explain unless you go over and experience it for yourself.”
Every April, thousands of Aussies set the alarm early for four straight days to catch The Masters telecast. For most, it’s “a tradition unlike any other”. And while it’s often said today’s high-definition sports broadcasting has made the comfort of your living room the best seat to watch any sport, that’s not the case with The Masters and it never will be. Nothing can ever compare to walking through the gates of Augusta and watching the action from its fairways and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Better yet, just go and see for yourself because, well, it’s never been easier to.
What was once a pipe dream to score Masters tickets from our side of the world has now become increasingly accessible thanks to a host of Australian-based golf tour companies offering Masters week packages.
This year I was invited to tag along with Queensland-based company Major Events on its flagship US Masters Tour via Las Vegas. Under the guidance of Australian pro golfer Adam Wilcox, who just ticked off his sixth Masters sojourn, this tour offered serious wow-factor from the moment we stepped off the plane in the entertainment capital of the world.
Staying in the heart of the famous Las Vegas strip at the opulent Bellagio hotel, here you can truly let your imagination run wild as you explore the many sights and sounds Vegas is renowned for.
“Las Vegas is a great place to visit as it has something for everyone – great golf courses along with fantastic shows and nightlife,” says Wilcox.
Sophistication and extravagance are the hallmarks of the Bellagio experience, unquestionably the pinnacle of resorts with its dancing fountains, breathtaking conservatory, botanical gardens, fine dining restaurants, designer boutiques and the magic of Cirque du Soleil’s magnificent production, ‘O’.
While in Vegas you’ll play three outstanding golf courses. First up it’s Rio Secco Golf Club, home of the Butch Harmon School of Golf and your first genuine taste of what Las Vegas golf is all about – immaculate fairways and greens bordered by desert rock and capped off with a stunning backdrop of the world’s most iconic casino city.
The next day it’s Wynn Golf Club – the city’s only course attached to a resort. With its rolling greens, white, sandy bunkers and rushing streams, you could be excused for thinking you’re in South Carolina or Georgia. And it’s that very thought that gets you feeling all gitty as your Augusta arrival draws closer.
On the final day we arrive at Cascata Golf Club – owned by Caesars Palace – and one of my all-time favourite courses. It is highlighted by a grand Tuscan-style clubhouse and flowing waterfall that weaves its way around the course and in through the pro shop. Elevated tees, glass-like greens and spectacular views are the norm here, but be sure to listen to your caddie on every shot because you’ll need all the help you can get.
Then, the moment arrives – time to board a plane and head to Atlanta before a short 2.5-hour drive brings you to the place you’ve been dreaming about your entire life. A place you normally identify only from the comfort of your living room.
After checking in to the Country Inn & Suites – your accommodation for the weekend, minutes from Augusta National Golf Club – it’s best to get an early night because you’ll need to be fresh for an adrenalin-charged weekend at The Masters.
The next morning, Wilcox hands out those prized badges and our group makes a beeline for the front gates of Augusta National. From there, Aussie lives change forever, golf history is rewritten around Amen Corner and for Wilcox, it’s another moment that makes all the hours of logistics worth it.
“For me, the best part about taking a group to The Masters is seeing their faces as they walk through the gates at Augusta National Golf Club,” says Wilcox. “It’s one of those few places that exceeds everyone’s expectations and you can’t really prepare them for it.
“It’s what keeps me going back every year and, I guess, ultimately what I’m trying to create here is the dream tour for Australians.
“Playing golf in the entertainment capital of the world, followed by entry into the greatest golf tournament in the world, topped off with some special guest appearances along the way adds up to one incredible week.”
Incredible is an understatement. As luck would have it, I actually managed to play Augusta National a day after Danny Willett donned the green jacket. But we’ll save that for another issue.
• Australian Golf Digest editor-in-chief Brad Clifton attended the 2016 Masters as a guest of Major Events, operators of the US Masters Tour via Las Vegas. For more information, see usmasterstour.com