The Masters: A Travel Guide for the Best Event in Golf

The 2007 Masters - Practice - April 2, 2007
••• Sam Greenwood / Staff / Getty Images

Every golf fan needs to experience the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia at some point in their life. Every sports fan should experience it for that matter. It’s so glorious that even the practice rounds and the Par 3 contest at Augusta National Golf Club draw great crowds. Major reasons for the attention the Masters receives are the exclusivity of the event and the price of tickets to attend the rounds of the first major tournament during early April.

You’ll likely never get to play the course, but walking around places like Amen Corner or the 18th hole are memories you’ll have for a lifetime. You won’t be able to take photos during the competitive rounds, so the visuals in your mind will have to last and they do. Enjoy a pimento cheese sandwich and take in sports at its purest.

Tickets

By far the biggest problem with attending the Masters is getting tickets. There’s a lottery system, but unfortunately your chances of getting tickets to any of the four rounds are slim. Applications for the lottery system must be submitted online via the Masters website by the end of May in the year prior to the one you’re applying for. (You’ll need to create an account before the first year that you apply.) Applicants will be notified by mid-June via email as to whether or not they won in the lottery. Tickets for each round from Thursday to Sunday costs $100 a ticket.

Best of luck to you when you apply because you’ll need it given the small amount of tickets that do get allocated.

Attending the practice rounds might be a better option for you if you’re just into experience Augusta National. Those tickets are also available via the Masters website in a lottery system, but many more are allocated compared to tournament rounds.

Wednesday’s practice round also includes the famous Par 3 contest, which has the players in a looser, more jovial mindset. The players also try things like skipping their tee shot through the pond on the Par 3 16th hole and fans make small wagers on their success. The rules on cameras are also more lax as we’ll get into later. Tickets to the practice rounds cost $65 each and applications must be in by the end of June in the year prior to the one you’re applying for. Winners will be notified in late July.

Should you fail through the Masters website and don’t have the luck of getting tickets from a vendor or corporate partners, then there’s always the secondary market.  Obviously you have the well-known options like Stubhub or a ticket aggregator like SeatGeek and ‎TiqIQ. Tickets are exorbitantly high with each tournament round costing at least $1,300. The practice rounds are generally cheaper, but Wednesday tickets come close to matching tournament round prices because of the popularity of the Par 3 contest. We’ll wait for you as you go to the couch to look for extra change.

Getting to Augusta National

You have a few airport options when it comes to getting to Augusta, Georgia. There are direct flights to Augusta on Delta from Atlanta and on American Eagles from Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

Since flights are few and far between, they are reasonably expensive and availability will be rather limited. The more likely option is to fly into Atlanta, which is a two-hour drive from Augusta. The Atlanta airport is the busiest one in America, so there will be plenty of flights for you to get there from various U.S. destinations. Atlanta is a hub for Delta, so they’ll be your best airline option to get there. Flights are pretty reasonably priced if you book them far enough in advance.  

You can also look into flying to Columbia (just over an hour drive to Augusta), Savannah (a two and a half hour drive from Augusta), and Charleston (under a three hour drive to Augusta). You may decide to spend a couple days in the latter two cities before or after your trip to Augusta in order to get the most out of your vacation.

You may even decide to stay in Columbia and commute for your rounds because of how difficult the hotel situation is. Kayak (a travel aggregator) can help you find the flight for your needs since it aggregates all your options.

Unfortunately public transportation to Augusta from anywhere isn’t really an option. Greyhound offers bus service some cities in the general area, but you’ll add a few hours to the trip because of the stops and layovers. You’re better off driving if you can.

Where to Stay

As you’d expect, finding hotels in and around Augusta is pretty hard. There’s only a few hotels downtown and a bunch more off I-20 near Augusta National or off I-520. The best hotels will be unavailable even a year in advance because of players, their traveling parties, and the media. It’s a good opportunity to use points if you can get to the rooms before the sellout. Your best option for finding hotels will be by using Trip Advisor as they can provide an aggregated search of available hotels while also providing high-quality reviews from previous customers.

You can find some lower end hotels near I-20 if you’re willing to pay at least $400 a night and book many months in advance. The ones off I-520 are less expensive, but also less convenient. Another option is to stay in one of the surrounding cities (Columbia, Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston – in order of distance from Augusta) if hotels in Augusta are all booked up. Columbia sees the most traffic because of its proximity to Augusta, so those hotels will be the most expensive and will also sell out the quickest.

Alternatively you can look into renting houses in the either the area near Augusta or one of the cities close by. There are a lot of options and home owners will be looking to make a few bucks with the Masters in town. This should lead to a large supply in the market place and the competition of inexperienced sellers should lead to some panic. That will result in some good deals out there for you, so you should constantly be checking websites like AirBNB, VRBO, or HomeAway.

On the Course

There’s plenty of fun to be had once you make it on to the course, you just won’t be able to document it. Cell phones aren’t ever allowed on the course during the week of the Masters and cameras aren’t allowed during the four rounds of the tournament. (They are however allowed for the practice rounds on Monday-Wednesday.) You’re also not allowed to bring bags, coolers, purses, signs, or radios. Charis are allowed, but they aren’t allowed to have armrests.

Now that the restrictions are out of the way, we can focus on the enjoyable stuff. For starters the course is more beautiful than you see on TV. Walking the course is an amazing feeling. Every blade of grass is in perfect shape. One of the best parts is that you can save a spot on the course with your armless chair (or a newly purchased Masters chair) anywhere behind the ropes with your name or a business card. You can come and go as you please for the day and your spot will be there. Just make sure not to ask for an autograph unless it’s at the practice range or the Par 3 course because it’s prohibited otherwise.

Most people will tell you to go to the merchandise pavilion as soon as you get on site. Buy whatever you need for the day and everything you want to take home. The wonderful thing is they have UPS on site so that you can ship everything you just bought back home. Concessions are dirt cheap if you hadn’t already heard. Sandwiches range from between $1.50-$3 including the local favorite, a pimento cheese sandwich. (The chicken sandwich is pretty good too.) Waters and soda are $1.50 and beer is $4 if it’s domestic and $5 if it’s an import. (They stop serving beer at 4 p.m.) You’ll want to keep your cups because they have a cool Masters logo on them and are a nice keepsake.

Out in Augusta

The Masters is such a commuter event that the buzz in downtown Augusta isn’t as grand as you would expect for a major event. There are good options, however, to fill your stomach. Southbound Smokehouse is the best barbecue joint in the area with wings and pulled pork platters keeping the fans happy. They also have a nice patio. TBonz makes a darn good steak with former pros like Fred Couples and Fuzzy Zoeller heading there consistently when they’re in town. Craft & Vine offers up the best pizza in the area, but others find themselves going to the Pizza Joint or even the Mellow Mushroom chain for a cheaper slice. Luigi’s offers both Italian and Greek cuisine, which is an interesting combination, but one the locals really love.

Farmhaus Burgers and Frog Hollow Tavern are owned by the same group and are both highly-regarded. You’ll have to wait on a line at Farmhaus, but the burgers are worth it. Frog Hollow is more of a sit down affair with regional sourced ingredients and a great wine list. They do have a good burger here too, but it’s hard to stay away from the cowboy rib-eye. Just make sure to make your reservation well in advance because it’s one of the most popular restaurants in town. You might not expect to find good Peruvian chicken in Augusta, but that’s what DiChickO’s Peri-Peri Café offers with some dynamite peri peri sauce on top of a chicken breast in their Classic Red sandwich.

There are a few bar options to hit before or after your meal. Beer lovers will want to hit the Hive Growler Bar for one of the 59 beers on tap that rotate regularly. Stillwater Tap Room also has some good beers on tap to go with their Bluegrass or Americana music. You can also find live music at Sky City down the street. Surrey Tavern is an English-style pub that’ll make you feel more like you’ll be at the British Open than the Masters. They younger crowd will likely end up at Tipsey McStumbles.