On its biggest, busiest week, Augusta National Golf Club is silent.
On the walk from the free parking outside Augusta National down the drive and towards the storied course’s esteemed gates, there’s a tranquilizing calm. It’s unlike any walk to any sporting event in any place in the world.
Golf is a game of decorum and etiquette, and that certainly lends to the silence, but more than anything, it’s Augusta itself that provokes a calming collective awe. From the time you cross Washington Rd. you’re uniquely aware of the course’s presence.
It’s a living, breathing being.
I’ve been enamored with Augusta since I was a little boy. The first vivid memory of all that green for me came in 1997 when Tiger won his first green jacket.
Seven-year-old me became enraptured as Tiger bombarded the field and won by 12 strokes, but, while Tiger’s dominance certainly lent to the experience, it was that sprawling span of immaculate green that I found myself enamored by.
High definition has only stood to enhance my appreciation of its beauty, but nothing can make you understand the respect that the Augusta National Golf Club demands until that walk.
As thousands make their way through the checkered swatches of gravel and grass onto the road and then across Berckman’s and down the drive–some who’ve been there dozens of times and others, like me, who made their first trip on Wednesday–they pay homage to its awesomeness with a reserved silence.
Whether it’s the required sacrifice of the golf gods, the Ghost of Bobby Jones or something else entirely, nothing rises above a whisper. That carries when you’re on the grounds and outside of a couple baseline superlatives like “awesome” and “cool”, it’s difficult to offer up anything that even remotely does it justice.
However, over the course of the first few holes, you find a way to relate the experience.
For me, it became a setting for fiction despite the fact that I was there in the flesh. I was transported to a fantasy world where mystical things seemed ordinary. I wrote a novel in my head on the grounds that day.
For my girlfriend, it was about capturing the sheer beauty and displaying it proudly forever. She saw the world through a lens that day, and it didn’t look too damn bad.
Her dad went to a place of pure, unadulterated fun. He was in golf heaven and he had no trouble finding the joy in that despite the occasional joylessness in golf.
His friend, Nick, gained a newfound appreciation for the spectacle of The Masters. In the event that he never gets back in person, he’ll always be able to transport himself to that place when he hears that familiar jingle.
We all related to Augusta separately, and then, in reflection, we related to each other’s experiences, as well.
The Masters has a unique way of bringing people together like that. It’s a destination, and whether you’ve been there once or if you go every year, it’s a place that you feel obligated to share with other people.
And while there’s millions of sporting events all across the world that literally bring people together, there are few that can gather us metaphorically. The Masters does exactly that.
If you’re in a room with a group full of strangers and you have the opportunity to ask by a show of hands who has been to Augusta National and who hasn’t, you’ll see the knowing assurances of kinship in the eyes of anyone that raises their hand.
Now, that’s not to say that you’ll love everybody you see at The Masters. There’s greed and gluttony and much, much more, but it all seems secondary.
Whether you’re attached to the history, the mystique, the beauty or something of your own design, that permeates anything of ill-will.
And there’s golf, too.
I saw amazingly skilled people do amazingly skilled things and that will never be lost on me. I went to the spots where people hit the shots of Masters lore and couldn’t help but wonder how they’d made the implausible look so… simple.
I’ve chosen sports as a profession and so I feel an obligation to mention the incredible feats I’ve witnessed. I’ll do so over the next couple days here on FanRagSports.com.
But make no mistake about it, every player out there from Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to the amateurs got second-billing.
The golf course shines. It always has.
And unlike some superstars, it plays the role graciously.
In complete and utter silence.