If you want to understand the Masters, why it is what it is, its power and gravitational pull, the answer is in a building and the line that encircles it.

Just steps away from the tournament practice facility and a football kick from the first hole is the main merchandise centre, which looks like the numerous other white Antebellum-style structures on the Augusta National property save for the thousands of people waiting to get in. We do mean thousands: the club does not disclose how many walk through its gates, but the secondary ticket market has estimated the number is roughly 50,000 per day, and it appears many of them are here. So what if it’s a beautiful day on inarguably the game’s most beautiful course; these folks want to be inside, and at the moment, they are not. You would think this could be problematic because Americans do not do well with waiting. Everything needs to be fast and now and heaven help whoever’s in charge if those demands are not met.

That’s the first sign that this place is different. People are not just patiently queued in a serpentine maze, they actually seem happy to do so. “Don’t worry,” a security guard bellowed as the line briefly stopped moving. “You’re at Augusta National, it’s all good.”

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They are waiting because what’s inside is treasure. The tournament’s logo – a yellow-shaded emblem of the continental United States, with a red flag sprouting from the bottom right – is branded on everything. Hats, caps, tumblers, trinkets, umbrellas, shirts. So many shirts. A gnome that appears lifted out of grandma’s garden. And as long as they have the logo, they are currency in this game. We will never play in the tournament or get asked to join Augusta National, but if you see a stranger sporting the logo, you know they can be trusted. You know they know. You know you have a friend. It’s why no matter one’s age everyone in line looks like children, too innocent to conceal the giddiness they harbour. When one patron was asked what he planned to buy he could only muster, “Probably too much.”

They are waiting because there will be something new. The hot items this year are shirts with the tournament’s famous sandwiches plastered on front, and a hat with a cursive “M”. The building itself is testament to this progression; the current structure may look old but it’s just more than five years old, and it’s double the size of the building it replaced. Even though this is a club that genuflects to tradition, it always has an eye on the future and its in constant evolution.

They are waiting because they know they don’t have to wait for long. Everything related to the Masters is excellence personified. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, given many of its members are high-ranking officials at Fortune 500 companies, but the queue, shopping excursion, checkout process run like an assembly floor. You get in, you get what you want, you get out. There’s even an area to ship your goods back home or to friends and family. It’s a masterclass in business proficiency.


They are waiting because, well, it’s impressive. It’s 30,000 square feet manned with hundreds of volunteers and decorated with shots of Augusta National, with tons of people yet room for everyone. And as you’re marvelling at the operation you realise it’s a permanent department store – the most pristine you’ve ever seen – that’s used just one week a year.

They are waiting because the only way to guarantee to get what you want is to be here. Augusta National does not sell any of its merchandise online or work with any retailers. This is a foreign concept to sports, as professional leagues and teams remind fans more and more that they are big business. Every northern spring financial experts bemoan the tens of millions the club theoretically passes on by not exploring traditional distribution channels, missing the points that the club isn’t hurting for money and said scarcity is what largely makes the product valuable. That’s another tenet around here: profit should not come at the cost of the consumer experience. Or, at least, don’t compromise that perception.

We did say “guarantee”. There are bootleg avenues to obtain Masters merch, through eBay and other digital marketplaces, or in the swap meets that happen on Washington Road. You can spot these traders by those double-fisting bags that seem to be losing a war against gravity, stuffed to the brim with thousands of dollars of goods. When you see these people scampering away to their cars, never to return to the property the rest of the week, it’s a reminder that some don’t see this tournament as a celebration, but as an economic opportunity.

But mostly, they are waiting because they want just a little piece to commemorate something special. This course and this tournament mean so much to so many, and while some come every year others only get the chance once. Taking in Amen Corner, standing by the oak tree behind the clubhouse as the property unfurls at your feet, watching players skip balls across the 16th pond… it’s incredible how those memories can be packed into a poster or pin or a putter cover with a pimento-cheese sandwich on it.

So, no, the fans don’t mind the line, because some things are worth the wait.