There are two attendants stationed in every bathroom at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters. It may sound silly, but the bathroom is serious business at the Masters: tens of thousands of patrons, a great deal of them men, spend all day drinking beers and eating sandwiches, and once the need strikes, they’re eager to get in and out as quickly as possible, so as to get back to the golf. (And to the beers and sandwiches.) The attendants are tasked with streamlining the process—directing traffic by informing patrons that, say, a stall has opened up towards the back, or that a bank of urinals on the left-hand side are free . Perhaps not Augusta’s most appealing job, but one nevertheless uniformly performed with grace and gusto: “One shake, fellas!” an attendant gently chided when traffic slowed to a, er, trickle. The whole bathroom chuckled.
Every Masters (the Club attendee asks that you call them patrons) has a moment like this. One in which the sheer improbability of this event—its pomp and grandiosity, its rules and its patrons’ happy submission to those rules, its old-world approach to hospitality and also to nearly everything else—is hammered home like a three-wood to the brain. I was there for rounds three and four of this year’s event, and my Masters moment came while waiting in line for the bathroom, where it struck me that the club’s approach was broadly representative of its singular place in the sporting world.
You may have heard this before: Every detail is considered. The grass is impossibly green, and the birdsong is abundant. There are no squirrels, or cell phones. There isn’t really advertising as at a typical sporting event. Instead the tournament has three blue-chip sponsors—Mercedes Benz, IBM, and AT&T—who each chip in to cover production costs, but their logos are difficult to find onsite. (Tickets are wickedly hard to come by; I went as a guest of Mercedes.) And the bathroom lines are diligently ministered to.
It can get a little high-flown, talking about the Masters. The tournament has a way of doing that to people. So, in the hopes of bringing things ever so slightly closer to earth, here’s my visit to Augusta by the numbers.
Length in miles, roughly, to walk the full course at Augusta. This isn’t terribly long, for a golf course, but as I heard again and again before the tournament, the place is far hillier than it appears on TV. By the time I found myself huffing and puffing up the first fairway—and certainly by the time I was lying in bed that night, my hamstrings banjo tight and my glutes barking—the advice sank in. Augusta is indeed way hillier than it appears on TV.
Cellphones I saw in my two days at the tournament. Phones, famously, are banned on ANGC grounds, and to a striking degree patrons obliged. That was true of most of the club’s famous rules (among them: no running, no chairs with armrests, no lying down). Attendees, many of whom are presumably unused to not getting what they want, are rendered tranquil rule-followers at the Masters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sole cellphone offender I saw was snapping a selfie. Surprisingly (or maybe not, I suppose): he was doing so from the porch of one of the cabins reserved for the club’s 300-odd members and their guests.
Amount of information about the tournament you can possess at any one time, relative to what you’d have piped into your brain while watching the tournament on TV (or attending a tournament where phones are allowed). Since phones are banned, you’re reliant on the manually operated leaderboards—themselves only big enough to accommodate 10 or so golfers—updated every few minutes. So you come to rely on a word from your neighbor, or a passing patron’s mention of what just happened on another hole. Or you just sort of sink into the festivities, a little slack-jawed, humbled by the fact that you’re not really supposed to know what’s going on everywhere all the time. You can only follow what’s in front of you. Maybe it’s trite to say that a phoneless event forces you to be present, but: it does!
Minutes, roughly, between eruptions of cheers at any one point on the course. This produces a strange sort of FOMO unique to Augusta: because you’re not going to receive a push notification about whatever’s just happened, you’re left to imagine whatever it is that’s occurred. You can do your darnedest to run around trying to chase the roar, but at a certain point you realize that you’re better off either following a single pairing (and hoping they do something roar-worthy) or hanging out in a specific spot, and waiting for the right golfer to come through and blow your socks off.
Hours elapsed between putting my official Masters chair down at the head of Amen Corner, the prime territory that abuts both the green on hole 11 and the entirety of the par-3 12th hole, and returning to it when players began passing through that portion of the course. This is another only-in-Augusta practice: from the moment the course opens, basically, until the final putt is sunk—you’re permitted to leave your chair in a given spot, unattended, with theation that it will be empty ( or vacated) upon your return. I…was skeptical. And yet!
Very sweet dude sitting in my chair when I showed up. He promptly grabbed a nearby empty seat, and we chatted idly about the golf.
Score recorded in the final round, on the par 4 11th hole, by Cam Smith, at that point still chasing the leader (and his playing partner), Scottie Scheffler. The crowd exploded—after closing to within a shot early in the day, Smith had faded, and this seemed like his last, best chance. This was as close as I came to reaching Masters transcendence: sitting in my goofy little chair, well-lubricated, waiting patiently for the great golf—the roar—to come and find me. Which it did. And then Smith promptly rinsed his ball on 12, carded a triple bogey, and Scheffler went on to close out the round in dominant-enough fashion.
Number of putts Scheffler required on the 18th hole. I said dominant enough. It seems safe to assume that Scheffler’s performance on 18 was the result of nerves, but I was frankly blown away by how difficult Augusta, famously among the most difficult courses on earth, seemed to be for the greatest golfers on earth. I’d seen as much on TV over the years, but in person it made for a strange, beguiling experience—the way a course that’s a prelapsarian paradise for fans is just a series of tooth-gnashing nightmares for players. I think I saw three or four non-gimme punks drop in person all weekend. Watching from behind the green on the fifth hole, I saw player after player left their approach shots in the wrong place (on the green’s false front) or in the other wrong place (towards the back of the green). It turns out there’s nowhere good to aim on many of Augusta’s holes—the whole course is an exercise in making the least-bad choice, avoiding mistakes, and quickly rectifying the ones you can’t.
Estimated percentage of Masters attendees—sorry, patrons—wearing sneakers from the Swiss running brand On. I didn’t realize that Roger Federer’s favorite sneaker brand had also become the preferred shoe of the well-heeled types who populate Augusta, but I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised.
Number of hats available for purchase in the Masters Golf Shop.
Hats purchased by this reporter, approximately.
$850,000 – $3,000,000
Largest number of Masters-branded beer cups I saw stacked by a single patron. While Masters merch is covetable on its own, the beer cups—cheap, and obtainable without waiting in the golf shop line—are a currency all their own.
Celebrities seen wandering the grounds. An incomplete itemization: one 2021 NFL starting quarterback walking the course joyfully, if not entirely steadily. One Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver. One internet-beloved broadcaster on the NFL’s manic RedZone channel. One famous Spanish basketball player accompanied by a famous Spanish chef. Two Jonas brothers. One Guardian of the Galaxy.
Rough estimate of how much I spent on food and drink for two days of spectating. For the price of a fancy burger and beer in New York, I ate like a maniac: Augusta’s famous pimento cheese sandwiches, but also the BBQ pulled pork, and the “classic chicken,” for kicks. Potato chips, to shake things up. And cold beers to wash it all down.
Maximum price for any item on the Masters menu (chardonnay).
Brand of beer sold at Augusta: Crow’s Nest, a wheat beer brewed locally exclusively for the tournament and named after the little cupola mounted atop the clubhouse, which sometimes serves as an apartment for amateurs competing in the event. In a charmingly illustrative touch of Augsta’s rigorous control over branding, you can buy other beers, too, but they don’t get names—instead, they’re Domestic Light Beer and Import Beer, both selling for $5.
Peach ice cream sandwiches for sale this year, said to be due to supply chain issues.
Minimum number of complaints I overheard about the lack of peach ice cream sandwiches. They’re apparently incredible.
Days between Tiger Woods’s 2021 car crash, which resulted in multiple open fractures of his right leg, and his teeing off at the 2022 Masters.
Tiger Woods’ score at the end of the first round of play, giving him a share of 10th place. It’s hard to overstate how unlikely this was; As recently as last fall, Tiger was questioning whether he would ever play another competitive tournament. He’s long been synonymous with Augusta—it was the site of his first major win, and the locus of his early aughts dominance, and then, in 2019, where he clawed his way back to the top of the mountain after a decade of personal and physical strife. By Saturday his hopes had dimmed; he shot +2 on Friday to make the cut, and visibly struggled through the weekend. Even from a distance, it was clear that he was laboring up and down the hills. Despite his struggles, he was followed at all times by a crowd four or five times the size of any walking with his peers. And no golfer produced those FOMO-inducing shouts from halfway across the course quite like Tiger did. I must have been on the other side of Augusta when he finished on 18, and the noise that went up in the gallery there carried all the way over to me. Every inch of the Masters is designed to produce chill-inducing moments like these—it’s about the golf, but also about everything else.
Tiger’s score for the tournament, good for a 47th-place finish.
Mile-wide smile cracked by Tiger Woods, and by everyone else in attendance, as he limped up the path to the clubhouse on Sunday, having finished his round.
Hours, give or take, before I’d be able to see exactly how Tiger ended his round, back home in front of the TV, my phone still stashed facedown on the bedside table. I smiled wide, too.