Our trip started in Dallas, where we stayed at the Grand Hyatt hotel literally above DFW airport. Located mid-way between Dallas and Fort Worth, we were able to easily access both cities. Welcome drinks were held in the hotel on the first evening and we were able to meet most of the crew (a few were delayed due to flight vagaries and other commitments).
Our first golf game was at the Old American Club, a traditional course. Jet lag and extraordinarily tricky greens meant that most people struggled a bit. Our winner of the day seemed to be the only one who conquered the course. The daily prize of a shirt from the pro-shop was much appreciated by all.
That night we headed in to the old west city of Fort Worth. Drinks were at legendary White Elephant bar – and a tradition of margaritas for the women and local beer for the men was started. After a steak dinner, many headed to the Friday night rodeo and onto a local hotspot. Both bars featured excellent bands and friendly locals dressed to the nines in full western gear.
Saturday was a golf-free day, and the afternoon meant a private tour of Dallas. The highlight of this was following JFK’s route through the city, and visiting the Dealey Plaza 6th floor museum. Most folk went to watch the local ice-hockey team, the Dallas Stars, play their final regular round game, against Minnesota Wild. After a scoreless first 2 periods, the Stars ran away with the game, leaving the partisan local crowd very happy.
The next day, Sunday, saw us playing at Dallas Cowboys Golf Club. The fairways were immaculate and the greens a little fairer than the previous course.
Main Tour – The Masters
Monday dawned and we travelled from DFW to Atlanta for Masters Week. Our accommodation was at beautiful Lake Oconee – a traditional American summer lake and golf resort, where there are numerous high quality courses within a few minutes’ drive. We settled into our luxury condominiums and houses, and tried to get some rest for the next day’s golf.
We woke to steady rain, but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm… much. We experienced a very wet first 9 holes at The National Course, but were rewarded with a dry back nine on a course hugging beautiful Lake Oconee. We enjoyed the first of three dinners at various restaurants in the resort over the week.
Wednesday was our first (very) early pickup for the drive through Georgia countryside to famed Augusta National. This is the final practice round day for the professionals, with the legendary Par 3 competition in the afternoon. This was our chance to see up close and personal some of the absolute icons of the game – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Fred Couples to name a few. The Par 3 course is a separate, adjacent course to the main track, with some terrific viewing opportunities. It was intriguing to see Nicklaus have difficulty in placing a tee into the ground, but still hit the ball incredibly well over water onto tricky, small greens. There were holes-in-one, families caddying, and kids taking on putting responsibilities (with mixed results!). It was a relaxed, charming afternoon. Wednesday is the last day that cameras are allowed on course, so it is the perfect opportunity to take some snaps of your favourite players and capture those iconic course angles. We enjoyed both breakfast and dinner at Perrin House, our hospitality home for the week.
Another golf game awaited us on Thursday, at Cuscowilla Golf Club, and Saturday at The Oconee Golf Course, where we once more experienced manicured fairways, water carries and gorgeous little friendly fox squirrels. We were able to play early golf and head back to our accommodation to watch the tournament coverage live, while enjoying a relaxed drink. It was with delight that we celebrated with special client Janiece who took out the “Georgia Green Jacket” for the best 2 Stableford scores of the 3 rounds of golf played in Georgia. Consistent, smart golf won the day.
Our Masters experience consisted of attending Wednesday’s practice / Par 3 round (see above), and the tournament rounds of Friday and Sunday. We were all excited to head to Augusta early, place our Masters chairs in a good vantage point, and follow our favourite players. It is a Masters tradition that these chairs cannot be moved by another person, and remain in their spot whether occupied or not until removed by the owner. It is acceptable to temporarily sit in someone else’s chair, as long as it is vacated should the owner return. Some of the group headed straight down to Amen Corner or the 16th green to plonk their chairs for the day, and others went to the central vantage point of the 2nd green, including yours truly. On Friday we perched ourselves at the back of the green, slightly elevated. We watched every group come through – on this par 5 hole there is a good view of the approach shot, as well as putts. From this location there is also easy access to food, amenities and a couple of tees and greens. We also walked down to Amen Corner, took advantage of some empty chairs, and watched players on the 11th green and the notorious par 3 12th hole. There was rain in the morning, but our raincoats and ponchos prevented us becoming completely soaked, and the afternoon was sunny and hot, allowing us to dry out.
The final tournament day, Sunday, we were at the gates by 6am, ready to get as close as possible to the 18th green to place our chairs. The whole group managed to get extremely great positions, with many being in the front row, level with the pin. Having secured these spots, we wandered off to make a last visit to the merchandise store. This is an experience in itself, where attendees are able to buy Masters memorabilia including clothing, posters, candles, wash bags, pet accessories, tableware and obviously golf accessories. With storms threatening, officials had made the surprising decision to start all groups off in the early morning, using both 1st and 10th tees. This meant that there was plenty of great golf, and groups in contention, from early in the day. We watched some groups come through the 2nd green again, cheering on our Aussie contenders Adam and Jason, as well as other favourites Brooks, Dustin, Louis and Jon. We also spent some time on the 8th green where very few players were able to get the ball to stay from their second shot. Only Jon Rahm was able to get the ball close to the pin and stick – he went on to make the put for a rare eagle on that hole. Once the top 12 or so groups were finishing, we made our way to our seats on the 18th green. Soon after, a highlight was having Justin Thomas politely approach our group wondering whether we knew where his ball had ended up, but no one in the crowd had seen it. It turned out that the ball had landed behind the rows of seats and the standing spectators. We were all instructed to leave our seats, many of which were moved by officials. A few of us were led to the green fringe where we sat still until the hole was played out – one could not be any closer to the action!
There is an idiosyncratic rule at the Masters – no electronic devices whatsoever are allowed on course. While this was inconvenient for communication between members of our group, and seemed strange initially that we scores and tournament progress is not readily available to the attendees, it makes for great theatre: all crowds are dependent on looking out for the manual scoreboards changing over to reflect each player’s results. A full leaderboard is located at the 18th green. Each player’s hole-by-hole cumulative score is displayed after their name and current scores are flipped back out of sight – the crowd waits with baited breath as a new score is flipped back up and posted. Each time Tiger’s score was being adjusted and eventually displayed, there were loud cheers and gasps. When Francesco’s double bogey was revealed, the crowd’s disbelief was awesome – the excitement and tension of this entire process was incredible. I hope this never changes. The result was not known until the final hole was played by the final group, and a more thrilling conclusion would be hard to find. Tiger was an extraordinarily popular winner, and we were so excited to be there for the making of history.
Post-Tour Las Vegas
We were excited to get back into the city lights for a final few days in Las Vegas. Some of the group attended planned concerts and shows, while others simply enjoyed excellent dining and shopping. We had two full days in Las Vegas, where, of course, we played 2 of the region’s bucket-list courses. First up was Wolf Creek, on a day that was bitterly cold and squally. This course has been carved out of the desert, and features incredible elevation changes. There were wildflowers, red dirt and plenty of trouble for regular golfers.
The next day we were privileged to play Shadow Creek, which is a full-on celebrity experience, from the limousine transfer, to the star-studded locker room. The course itself is lush and gorgeous, with trees framing every hole. We were lucky enough to see a real roadrunner bird which intrigued our playing group. The whole day felt like a real treat, and should be a course every golfer aspires to.
We reluctantly packed our bags and memories and headed home, but vowed to return.