Augusta National Golf Club is famous for doing things its own way.
Former Kiwi PGA Tour player, one-time Masters participant (a respectable T39 in 2003) and now respected commentator Phil Tataurangi has plenty of insights into the crazy nuances that make Augusta what it is.
The part-time tour guide strolled hole-by-hole with me today and let me in on some inside knowledge and tidbits about the course during Masters week.
The pristine white bunkers are something that make the Masters and Augusta National what it is. They add to the perfect green fairways and the blue water surrounding certain holes.
So, surely when a player hits out of the bunkers, they would send sand onto the green, right? Well, yes they do. But in a golf version of Gone in 60 Seconds, that white sand is removed by sand whippers (not their official title). Employees can be seen at greens like the 16th with flexible 10-foot whips, wiping all the sand off the green to return it to its Masters green.
While there appears to be some room to move off the tee at Augusta at a selection of holes, most of the time it's not actually the case, due to the Leaning Tower of Pisa-like trees. Many of the trees that line the fairways are deliberately slanted by the Augusta National Golf Club to give the hole an enclosed feel and, I'm assuming, intimidate the players.
Get this - to slant the trees, the greenskeepers cut all the branches and leaves off the outside of the tree to make it lean to the heavier side into the fairway. It takes a bit of time for the lean to take effect, but the seventh hole is a perfect example of just how it can change a tee shot one year to the next.
The Masters chairs are probably the most purchased item at the merchandise store. They are seen at every hole, by every green, behind nearly every tee and along some fairways.
In one of the Masters' many amazing rules for the patrons (known as fans to everyone outside of Augusta National), as soon as you put your chair down, that is your spot for the entire day. Even if you get up and leave to watch another hole or wander to another part of the course, that seat is still there when you get back. But, while you're gone gallivanting around the rolling green hills, anyone can sit in your seat. At least they'll keep it warm for you. Win, win.
If you read about my opening day experience, you would be wanting to know more about the state of the art, palatial media centre built at Augusta National. Actually, palatial does it absolutely no justice at all.
I'm told the old media centre was the best on tour, but pales in comparison to what they've built for this year's tournament. Let me start with this incredible fact. It's taken 10 months from absolute scratch to build the entire thing. Ten months. It's construction genius. From the outside, it looks like the White House. Inside, Ron Burgundy would be in heaven as rich mahogany is a feature through the working arena, the dining hall and the bathrooms.
Each working station has the reporter's name engraved just above their desk on a small plaque while everyone has their own digital hub to watch the feature holes, the press conferences (if you're too busy or lazy to wander down to the interview room), the leaderboard or the rolling coverage. That's if you can take your eyes away from the view straight ahead from every work station, right down the practice range.
Downstairs are the TV and radio broadcast centres and the interview room. The bathrooms include mouthwash dispensers in case the breakfast or lunch on offer has you wondering about your breath before a one-on-one interview. All in all, if you didn't have the most famous and picturesque golf course in the world just outside the doors, you would probably never leave.
Pine cone removers
If you've ever watched the Masters on television, you will know the acres of land at Augusta National is littered with pine trees. So, with pine trees come pine cones. Well, you would think so anyway. But, like a lot of things at Augusta, what you expect, sometimes isn't the norm.
There are very few pine cones to be found in the straw underneath the towering trees that line the fairways. It's widely told there are employees assigned to specifically picking up the pine cones. Although, they must be ninja pine cone collectors because this Masters rookie hasn't sighted one yet.