I Attended the PGA Masters Tournament for the First Time and Here’s What It Was Like

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The odds of getting your hands on a ticket to the PGA Masters Championship are about as good as hitting a hole-in-one on a par five. You could find a four-leaf clover on your first try easier than you could get into the Augusta National golf course that week. Held on what may be the most famous course in the world, the annual tournament is considered one of the toughest tickets in sports to obtain, second only to the “Big Game” in February.

How I Got Tickets to the PGA Masters Championship

Rodney and Karee - Augusta National
Image Credit: Destination Augusta

Much to the chagrin of our golf-loving friends and colleagues, Destination Augusta invited my husband and me to visit their beautiful city, which included spending a day at the Master’s tournament. 

Are we avid golfers? No. 

Have either of us ever golfed a day in our lives? Again, no.

Did we have any idea tens of thousands of people spend a lifetime dreaming of someday going yet are never able to get a ticket? Nope. You have to literally win a lottery to even have the opportunity to buy a ticket to attend for a single day. With an estimated two million people entering the Masters ticket lottery each year, the odds of being selected are less than one percent.

I’m a travel writer, though, and always up for adventure. Rather than send a quick thanks-but-no-thanks reply (again, my golf-loving friends are cringing), I replied, “Sure! Sounds fun!” and promptly checked out Golf For Dummies from the library.

What It’s Like Attending the PGA Masters Championship

Augusta-PGA-Masters-sign
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

If you’re familiar with the Masters Championship, you may have heard about the goings-on in Augusta that week. It was all new to us, so we went ready to enjoy every moment of the day, and I’ll tell you right now, it was fabulous! Allow me to regale you with advice from a total newbie in case you get your hands on a golden ticket and find yourself in Augusta, Georgia for the PGA Championship next year.

Get There Early

Image Credit: Terry Rogers

How early should you show up? Much earlier than you think. If the gates open at 8:00 a.m., consider getting there by 7:00 a.m. I kid you not, and you’ll wish you had if you don’t. You’ll need to park, walk to the entrance, and get through security, and that will take more time than you realize. 

Depending on your game-day strategy, if you want to watch the first players tee off at 8:00 a.m., plan to get there plenty early. (And if you’re like me and take three times to get through security, you’ll need that extra time anyway. More on that in a bit.)

Also, there are these gnomes you’ll want to know about…

Free Parking For the Early Bird

parking lot in Augusta, GA golf tournament
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

You’ll find parking just outside the golf course and even some shuttles that will get you to and from parking lots a little further away. Some lots cost as much as $50+ for the day. However, the Augusta National Golf Club offers free (yes, free!) parking within easy walking distance of the entrance.

What’s the catch? They’re first come, first served, and when they’re full, the gates are shut, leaving you scrambling to find somewhere else to park. Not only will you have to pay, but you’ll waste valuable time messing around with that when you could be inside the gates already. 

As a frame of reference, we left our hospitality house just a couple miles from the course at 7:00 am. By the time we got through traffic, parked, and to the security gate, it was already 7:45.

Review point number one if needed. (Go early.)

Leave Your Phone at Home

Security Gates at Augusta Nationals
Image Credit: Terry Rogers

Augusta National has very strict rules regarding taking videos while at the Masters Tournament. It’s a no-go and they take it pretty seriously. Absolutely no cell phones are allowed at the PGA Championship, including practice days. You’ll have to either leave it at your hotel, in your car, or check it when you get there. 

On practice days, however, cameras are allowed. This includes digital cameras but not video cameras. Anyone caught with a cell phone or video camera may find themselves getting the boot from the golf course and their ticket revoked, so take this seriously.

Bring a Backup Camera

Image Credit: Terry Rogers

Why do you need a backup camera? Because I had the very, very, unhappy experience of not being able to get through security with my trusty GoPro camera. Believe me, I tried. 

I checked ahead of time and was given the go-ahead to bring GoPros, but the security officer working the line I went through said they weren’t allowed and that I would have to check it. So did the officer in the second line. (Yes, I tried more than one line.) If I’d had my phone showing the email that gave me approval to bring it, I might have a different story, but alas, my phone was not with me. Try as I may, I ended up wasting nearly 45 minutes pleading my case, but in the end, I had to check it and attend the day sans camera. It stunk.

Did I have other cameras I could have brought with me as a backup? Certainly, but being the carry-on-only diehard I am, I opted to pack light and only bring my GoPro and left the others behind. Big mistake. I’m still feeling the sting of that one. I wasn’t there to take professional photos, though, so in the end, I still had a fabulous day and all is well.

Side note: Other people did get through the lines with their GoPros without any problems. Just know it’s a gamble, depending solely on which security officer checks your bag. My advice is to bring a different kind of camera or at least bring something as a backup if you’re really set on using your GoPro.

Want Merch? Get In Line Early

Augusta Nations merch
Image Credit: Destination Augusta

There’s a theme here…stick with me. You’re going to have to do some soul-searching and decide what’s most important to you. Are you actually there to see some golf? If so, bypass all else and head straight for hole number one. 

If, however, you have your heart set on picking up some Augusta National merch, you have a couple of options. 

First, if you’re not particular about what you come home with so long as it has the famous logo on it, then don’t bother standing in line at the main Masters Golf Shop. There are five other Golf Shops on the property that carry a much smaller selection, but you won’t spend nearly as much time standing in line.

We didn’t have anything in particular in mind, although Rodney did come with a list of paraphernalia to buy for co-workers. We were there for the full experience, though, so as soon as we got through the gates, we headed straight for the store…via the very long, amusement park-like line we shuffled through like kids on their way to a candy store.

After nearly an hour of making our way through the weave of back-and-forth switchbacks, nodding and smiling at the same people we kept passing as we crept toward the store entrance, we were finally among the 50 lucky patrons permitted to enter.

Since you can only buy Augusta National merchandise at the store, it’s very crowded inside. Though friendly, it’s an almost frenzied atmosphere as people make their once-in-a-lifetime grab at logo-covered proof they were at the tournament. It’s as much a part of the experience as eating pimento cheese and yelling, “Skip It!”

About Those Gnomes

Augusta Nationals 2024 gnome
Image Credit: Our Woven Journey

This is the craziest thing, but someone, somewhere along the line, did something brilliant and designed an official PGA gnome. That in itself isn’t crazy, but what happened afterward is. Those tiny little statutes are now all the rage and are the thing to buy at the Golf Shop. 

You’ll have to get there at the break of dawn and stand in line, so if an Augusta National’s gnome is on your wishlist, prepare to trade some sleep for it. If you’re one of the lucky fans to grab one—they only sell a set amount each day of the tournament—you’ll pay a surprisingly low price of only $49. 

If you don’t manage to snag one and still have an Augusta National’s gnome on your wishlist, you’ll have to fight the resale market for it and pay upwards of a jaw-dropping $1000 or more for one. And don’t even think of decorating your yard with it. It’ll be gone by sunup. (Maybe it’s thieves, maybe it’s some kind of gnome mischief. Either way, they’re a hot commodity on the aftermarket.)

We didn’t snag a gnome.

Eat Early, Or Risk Missing Out

Georgia Peach Ice Cream
Image Credit: Terry Rogers

Let’s continue with our do-everything-early theme, shall we? By this time, I’d already heard more than one person say the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich sold out before 11:00 am the previous day. Taking no chances and loaded with our newly purchased merch, we headed straight to the nearest place to eat and loaded up on pimento cheese sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, giant ice cream cookie sandwiches, iced tea, and water. The grand total for four of us was $29. 

At those prices, you can call that Elevenses and have lunch later. (We did.)

There are a number of other eating establishments on the grounds, so you’re not limited to pimento cheese and ice cream sandwiches if that’s not your thing.

Practice Days Are Less Serious, but Still Crowded

Augusta Nationals golfers Skip It
Image Credit: Terry Rogers

Given the choice of which day to attend, I chose a practice day. Since cameras aren’t allowed on actual championship days, we went on Tuesday and had a great time. (Not that I ended up with a camera anyway!) The players seemed relaxed and interacted with the crowds and while it was still pretty crowded, the overall atmosphere was fun. We didn’t feel like we needed to be on a set schedule to keep up with the players, either.

Also, the line to the men’s restroom was much, much longer than any line for the women’s restroom. If it was like that on practice days, I can only imagine how long the wait was on tournament days. Note to men: plan accordingly!

Actually Watching Some Golf

Image Credit: Terry Rogers

As we strolled around the course, we stopped and watched different players at various holes. There were many people walking about, and some holes were more conducive to watching the game than others. There were usually a lot of chairs near those holes, and although we didn’t sit there, the unspoken rule is that even if it’s not yours, you can use anyone’s chair. If the owner comes back, you simply get up and move on. 

We did sit in the bleachers, though. They were almost full, but not quite, and we always found room when we wanted to watch for a while. I’ve seen pictures of the crowds on actual tournament days, and I don’t think you’d have the same experience then, but when we went, there was no need to bring our own chairs.

SKIP IT!

caddies try to Skip It
Image Credit: Terry Rogers

Being the avid golfer that I am…just kidding. I had no idea why people were wearing hats that said SKIP IT, but we eventually found out. What a fun tradition! 

We were in the bleachers at the 16th hole when the crowd started chanting, “Skip it! Skip it!” as Bubba Watson and another player approached. They took turns skipping golf balls across the pond before continuing on with their game. Neither of them successfully got it back onto the green on the other side, but it was quite entertaining to watch! Even if you don’t plan to walk the whole course, try to get to the 16th hole for that reason.

Get Your Picture Taken at the Founders Circle

Founder Circle phot at Augusta National golf course
Image Credit: Karee Blunt Our Woven Journey

Early in the afternoon, we made our way to get our picture taken at the Founders Circle. Located at the end of Magnolia Lane, you can get yours taken standing in front of the clubhouse and then download it the next day for free. 

As expected, the line for this is quite long, but it really does move quickly. Some people opt to do this early. I don’t know if there’s any benefit to that other than maybe looking a bit fresher. Either way, it’s a one-of-a-kind souvenir, so don’t forget to do this.

Phone Calls Are Free

phone box at Augusta Nationals
Image Credit: Destination Augusta

Even though you can’t bring your own phone with you, you can still make phone calls. How so, you ask? Augusta National Golf Club provides phone boxes free of charge for you to call home. I’ve heard the caller ID on the other end shows up as Augusta National, so I’m sure it’s quite a flex to call your golf-loving friends and leave them green with envy—just like the immaculate greens of the famous golf course you’re calling them from.

Know What to Wear, But Don’t Stress Over It

tourist at Augusta National tournament
Image Credit: Destination Augusta

This may be more for the ladies than the men, but when I looked up what to wear to the PGA Masters, what came up made it seem like I needed to arrive looking ready to walk the runway at a country club fashion show. While jeans and sandals aren’t allowed, it wasn’t nearly the fashion ordeal I was concerned it would be. Think chic and comfortable, with an emphasis on comfortable.

Hospitality House

Augusta-Hospitality-House
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

As guests of Destination Augusta, we had the pleasure of staying in the hospitality house they rented for the week. Nearby hotels sell out well in advance, and it’s a common tradition in Augusta for many of the locals to rent their houses out during the tournament.

The one we stayed in was quite lovely and we had our own bedroom and private bath. There was plenty of space for several guests, as well as a large kitchen, living room, and outdoor patio. Being there gave us a chance to socialize with the staff and other guests in the morning and evening. We enjoyed the catered dinners (thank you Very Vera!) and the family-style dining made for such an enjoyable gathering for everyone there. Consider renting a hospitality house for your Augusta experience.

Fun Fact: the Augusta Rule, created in 1970, permits homeowners to rent out their property for up to 14 days annually without requiring them to report the rental income on their personal tax return.

There’s More to Augusta Than Golf

Performers for Men on the Bag in Augusta, Georgia
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

While our time at the PGA Masters Championship was a fantastic experience, I would be remiss not to mention a few things about the city. Augusta, Georgia has a lot going, from food to culture, and we had a chance to explore parts of it. Destination Augusta recently launched Authentic Augusta Experiences and I highly recommend booking tickets to see Men on the Bag. We also visited Phinizy Center and Nature Park (we even saw an alligator) and spent time exploring several of the local museums.

I wish we’d had time to explore more, so when you go, make time for more than just the golf course!

Best Grits You’ll Ever Eat, Even if You Don’t Like Grits

Destination Augusta and friends
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

Lastly, because you’ll likely want to try the local food scene in Augusta, let me leave you with a few suggestions. Truly, the food did not disappoint, and although I’m sure there are plenty of recommendable places, here are a few we personally enjoyed. Truth be known, I’m still dreaming about the southern-style grits I had for breakfast there!

I Spent a Week in Mexico on a Small Cruise Ship, and This Is What It Was Like

Uncruise Adventures - Safari Voyager
Image Credit: Karee Blunt

Sixty-six guests. That’s all this ship holds, so compared to the mammoth cruise ships that carry several thousand vacationers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the thought of a more intimate sailing was so intriguing my curiosity was piqued, and I wanted to know more.

I Spent a Week in Mexico on a Small Cruise Ship, and This Is What It Was Like

Top 14 Tourist Attractions in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta road sign
Image Credit: Canva Pro

Atlanta has everything that visitors want in a city. You can unwind in one of the beautiful green spaces, have fun at some of the best amusement areas, or learn about the history of various local products, the Civil Rights Movement, and the country itself. 

Top 14 Tourist Attractions in Atlanta, Georgia


Featured Image Credit: Destination Augusta

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.