Augusta National's other side - Washington Road

Masters 2020

The imagery cultivated by the Augusta National Golf Club — home to the Masters — is an indelible one few ever forget. Pristine grounds — grass figuratively cut with tweezers making the effort at the White House grounds look as if a second-tier landscape crew were involved.

Augusta National's other side
(PA Media)

On the property, trash receptacles are colored green to blend into the landscape. The imagery is set to such detailing — that a Hollywood production team would be hard pressed to replicate let alone surpass.

Getting the details just right is what has made the Masters what it is today.

That’s the perspective millions of viewers see annually when CBS telecasts the event. It’s clearly the imagery the leadership at Augusta National wants to showcase.

What many people do not see — unless coming to the event — is the polar opposite spectacle that lies just outside the gates.

Washington Road is the main feeder to Augusta National Golf Club. For many coming to the event via I-20 it’s the primary access point. Once you leave the Interstate — you are literally bombarded with all types of crass commercialism. Augusta doesn’t have any prime-time professional sports team and when the Masters comes calling each April — although this year’s event is scheduled for November because of the pandemic — there are no shortages of people and businesses looking to jump on the financial bandwagon.

When club officials opted not to have “patrons” on the grounds for the event the financial impact sent major shock waves to those who see the event as their annual Christmas present. Clearly, that wasn’t the case when Bob Jones opted to use the former Fruitlands Nursery as the home site for his true golf getaway in the 1930s.

Washington Road makes the hawkers of Marrakesh look like amateurs given the circus barkers and hucksters of all shape and sizes looking to glom onto the aura of the Masters.

During normal times the procession of vehicles on Washington Road is ever constant. A heavy involvement of law enforcement is engaged to keep things moving. However, the pandemic has brought forward a lull in such activities this year.

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Augusta National's other side

Augusta National is quite aware of the myriad of activities taking place and over the last number of years has quietly but ever resolutely purchased various properties just beyond its boundary. This past spring a Wendy’s restaurant — located on Washington Road and immediately adjacent to the club’s north property line — sold for a whopping $3.45 million for a plot of land just under one acre. Frankly, who needs to sell burgers and fries when you can get that amount of cash to pack up and go.

The goal for the club is to create an ever-widening perimeter in which the distancing of the club from the sideshow is clearly maximized.

For a number of years pro golfer John Daly has set up shop near the gates selling all types of items bearing his name. The two-time major winner played in 12 Masters with his best finish a tie for 3rd in 1993. Daly personifies the “good ole boy” and the juxtaposition with the genteel and upper society strata members of Augusta National clearly is at the opposite sides of the human spectrum.

Making a quick buck during special events is certainly not a new phenomenon. Go to Daytona and you see the same sideshow as America’s Great Race gears up. The same for Louisville and the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500 in Indianapolis. Augusta is golf’s ground zero especially during a typical April time frame when the winter season is ending and the spring beckons a new season ahead.

Washington Road will not have the hurly burly in full operational mode again until the next Masters takes place in April ’21 at the earliest. While the quiet may be welcomed by the leadership within the storied gates of Augusta National Golf Club the return of the hordes is simply being put on ice for the moment.

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