FOR MANY GOLF fans, a trip to the Masters is the sports journey of a lifetime. To make the most of it, it’s important to behave like a proper patron. Here’s a 10-step guide.
1. Leave your devices behind. Don’t even bother trying: The ban on electronics is so strictly enforced—and the punishment for violation so severe (eviction and loss of future ticket privileges)—that at no point in four trips have I seen a person with a gadget. For 10 full hours each day, you will be completely disconnected from the responsibilities of work, family and life. It’s the greatest.
2. No running. When the gates open, the wise patron moves immediately toward the 18th green to put down a folding chair, reserving a spot for later in the day. (Yes, this is allowed. The Augusta National Golf Club is a very civilized place if you ignore all the people rummaging through garbage cans to bring home stacks of Masters drink cups as “souvenirs.”) But do not sprint—never sprint. Security officials will stop you. On the bright side, many patrons are old with fragile hips and, to be generous, mediocre cardio. You hardly need to put in much effort to knock them over.
3. Praise must be earned. There are never any boos at Augusta, nor open mockery. But you can still pass judgment. It’s all in the way you clap. Often, there is genuine applause. Sometimes, there is enthusiastic applause with mild hooting. But when a player knocks in a bogey putt after missing a five-footer for par, it is your duty as a patron to clap in a manner so restrained and uninterested that you’re basically saying: “Dude, step up your game—this tournament isn’t called the Decents.”
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4. Eat a pimento cheese sandwich. It’s a Masters tradition.
5. Regret eating a pimento cheese sandwich. It’s a Masters tradition.
6. Spend the rest of the tournament trying to describe the taste of a pimento cheese sandwich. It’s as though someone left a piece of cheese out on the counter for three weeks and then marinated it in duck farts.
7. Speculate at will. A proper patron knows the layout and nuances of Augusta so well—and monitors the leaderboard so closely—that identifying the source of cheers and moans becomes a competitive sport in itself. You’re crossing the seventh fairway. You hear a roar from the east-southeast. McIlroy just knocked it close on 10! Or was it Spieth birdieing 14? I once witnessed a grown man with an obvious gambling problem wager money with his children on the origin of a collective gasp from Amen Corner. (For the record, I lost the bet.)
8. Don’t say that thing that people say. The scene: the tee at the par-five eighth. Adam Scott blasts a drive. Some sauced bro in a tangerine visor hollers, “In the hole!” Caddies turn and look at the guy. Everyone turns and looks. Finally, after what feels like two eternities, an old man proclaims, “Son, this ain’t the Shell Goddamn Open.” Cue the wild applause. This happened in 2011, and I’ll bet Tangerine Bro hasn’t spoken a word since.
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9. Prepare for combat. During Masters week, the main souvenir shop—located just off the first fairway—resembles a battle scene from The Lord of the Rings, but with more pastels and fatalities. It’s a mosh pit wrapped in a prison riot inside a tin of sardines. Still, the proper patron endures it. Yes, it’s 9,000 degrees and you’re stuck in line behind a guy who’s dropping a grand on Augusta stemware—but dammit, Grandpa sure will love this Masters needlepoint belt.
10. Enjoy To sit at Amen Corner… to stand on the very spot where Bubba Watson somehow hooked it to land on the 10th green… to not have to listen to Jim Nantz go on and on about azaleas… it truly is a tradition unlike any other.
This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Sportsnet magazine.