The first Corporate program that I ran at the Masters Tournament was marred by an agency promising me things that they ended up not being able to deliver - as someone who has worked in the golf industry my entire career, I quickly recognized that the contract that I was given was not possible and worked with my industry contracts to salvage my program .... so though my guests never knew about the many "hiccups" (tickets, no chef, wrong house .... you get the picture), it was a lesson to me that in order to have a really great program without the stress meant that I was better off doing it myself. So now, over ten years later, I'm here to help guide you so that you have the trip of a lifetime.
1. True golf fan? Go during Practice Rounds.
There is nothing more overwhelming than stopping while crossing a fairway and taking in the course at Augusta National Golf Club. The crowds are as large as many of the weekly PGA TOUR events during the practice rounds (so still great energy and a TON of fun) but when it comes to the weekend - even walking without being slammed into someone else on the cross-walks becomes a difficult task. The best place to watch Sunday is from your couch or favorite watering hole, unless you pick a spot early and stay there all day. Of course, if you pick a spot - set up a Masters chair ($30 and the perfect conversation starter at kids' sporting events for the rest of the year) early in the day so that you can roam in the morning and then settle in to take in the action from your pre-slected location. Tip: use a brightly colored piece of paper or use a bright marker to write you name on the back of a business card to carry in with you and put in the card holder on the back of your chair. It's a sea of green chairs with white cards - not easy to spot yours unless you differentiate.
2. Plan ahead with friends, meetings, and communications.
No, you can't bring your cell phone in (but CAN check it at the gatehouse before you go in, which I highly recommended, as you can go in and out of the gates unlike many other sporting events)- but you can still manage meet-ups and conference calls from the course. You just need a solid, detailed plan. There are free "pay" phone booths set up around the course for those calls home, calls to buddies to brag about your whereabouts, and for any pesky calls to work that have to happen. Tip: Bring a piece of paper with the numbers that you will need in your wallet or pocket! If you're anything like me, you remember MAYBE two or three phone numbers of your most closest but that's it.
Meeting up with - or finding friends you've "misplaced" is a little trickier. Add in the time it takes to get across the course due to running in to others or those backed-up cross walks and your 10 min walk can easily turn into 20, making you late for your planned meet up. I always have a 2nd rendezvous spot and time pre-planned and locked in for such occasions. Give your friend an "if I'm not there by" time and designate a second location to give yourself a better shot at finding those you need to see. Another option is to have someone off-site as an "assistant" for BOTH of you who can take calls from those free phones to tell you where your buddy or colleague is or can meet you (again - write down that number).
3. Hospitality options
Unless you are blessed to have a coveted Berckmans ticket for the ONLY on-site hospitality venue (which is absolutely amazing and all that you imagine, by the way so never turn down that invite. Never.), your ticket is a ground ticket and if you purchased "hospitality" from someone, it is NOT on the course. Hospitality homes at the Masters are all off-site and include food and open bar for the duration of the day. If you've purchased grounds passes and want hospitality for yourself or your clients, those passes are an additional cost - and well worth it. Yes, you absolutely must have a Pimento Cheese or Egg Salad (my fav) sandwich on the course, but for breakfast, full lunch and afternoon snacks, hospitality passes are the way to go. Added bonus is you can often stash your cell there should you need to check in at the office or at home during the day (and they've got things like sunscreen, mints, and bug spray for you, too).
The merchandise shop that is by the main gate is always packed and has a massive line. If you go towards the back of the course and up the steps by the 16th hole, towards Berckmans Place, there is a great shop that has pretty much the same items and is a LOT slower ... rarely a line. (Bathroom too. Guys - you get the massive lines here so this is always a good one with very few people.) Items sell out very quickly Masters week so plan to spend more than you think (I, for example, NEVER buy stuff at golf tournaments - the Masters is a different story. Friends give me requests leading up to the week and there is always a TON of great great, home goods, and gift items to be had. I spend a small fortune each year), and don't wait to buy until the end of the day so that you don't have to carry it around. You see it - you like it - BUY IT! Or, it may be gone. And then take advantage of the direct shipping that they offer on-site.
5. Go with trusted vendors
I'm not saying you have to use us to plan your trip as there are quite a few great agencies out there (though really, you should!), but make sure that you are using reliable sources for your on-site needs. Ticket prices are INSANE once you get to the scalpers in town, and many will promise and not deliver when it comes to smaller brokers. Hotel rooms are impossible to come by for individuals so don't plan to show up and find a place within even an hour or an hour and a half, but homes are always an option and many agencies offer hotel rooms as part of a package with tickets and you want, other activities. Just be aware. If it sounds too good to be true - it is.
Most importantly, enjoy your time on the course. Augusta National is a truly remarkable place and with incredibly low concession prices, the no cell policy, and tremendous golf on a gorgeous course, this truly is an event like no other.