Augusta National dos and don’ts for your first Masters trip

OK, you’ve got your ticket to the Masters. Now what? To make the most of your Masters experience, it’s best to strategize. Here are your dos and don’ts for the biggest week in golf.

DO: Go on Wednesday and Thursday. If you’re there on a Wednesday, you can watch the pros on the championship course in the morning, then take in the par-3 tournament in the afternoon. You get to see legends like Nicklaus and Player tee it up, you get to see 6-year-old kids caddie for their famous fathers and you get to see the most beautiful short course in golf. The eighth and ninth holes, on opposite sides of Ike’s Pond, are the best for viewing thanks to their broad hillsides, but arrive early as they fill up quickly. The best chance to see an ace is at the second hole, which measures 70 yards and at the third, a 90-yarder. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking and studying the championship course in near solitude, as players are rarely on the course at that hour.

Thursday is another favorite day to attend. The massive crowds of the Monday-Wednesday practice rounds have dispersed, and the patrons who are in attendance are spread out nicely, because there are no leaders to follow just yet. In addition, you’ll be able to watch your favorite players, no matter who they are, because once the weekend arrives, some of them might be absent, having missed the cut.

DON’T: Get to the ceremonial opening tee shots late. One of the hoariest Masters traditions is the honorary starters hitting the ceremonial opening tee shot (another reason why Thursday is great to go). In recent years, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have handled these duties, although it will be just Nicklaus and Player in 2017 after the passing of Palmer. The spectacle is superb, but to see anything at all, you’ll need to arrive when the gates open and walk briskly to find your place at the first tee. Thursday feels great, with so much anticipation in the air, and the party-like atmosphere of Wednesday’s par-3 event has given way to the sobering reality that the field is playing for the year’s first major championship.

DO: Find time to watch from the small bleachers behind the 12th tee. During tournament rounds, that small bleacher spot behind the 12th tee is prime, as it’s an elevated position for watching approach shots into the 11th green and to take in the tee shot at the scary, watery 12th, one of the world’s greatest par-3s, as well as the tee shot at 13. Even if you can’t find room there, the slope that leads down to it to the right of the 11th fairway provides ideal viewing.

Another preferred vantage spot is at the outside elbow of the dogleg at the par-5 13th, where azaleas, bunkers, fairways and Rae’s Creek are all on display and where the risk/reward second shot is one of the greatest ever devised. Unfortunately, additional tree plantings in recent years have obscured some of the superior viewing opportunities at 13, even as it’s made the hole more challenging for players.

I’m also fond of the right side of the 10th fairway, where you gain a gorgeous, unobstructed view of players hitting their irons into the green from a severe sidehill, downhill lie.

My colleague John Garrity cites the area behind the tee box at the downhill par-3 sixth as “Augusta National’s most thrilling spectator perch,” though some argue that the hillside below the tee box is even better. You can’t see the tee shot from there, but you can see them land. You can also pivot to the right and see the results at the par-3 16th green.

DON’T: Run. Ever. No running at any time, anywhere on the grounds. Just don’t. We warned you.

DO: Strategize your trip – or trips! – to the merchandise tent. You know you’re going to purchase gifts and souvenirs from the main merchandise tent, located near Gate 6A. Even the players and broadcasters do some of their Christmas shopping at Augusta, though they usually access the much smaller, badge-only members pro shop. You have to buy your Masters gear here. They only sell it this week and they don’t do online merchandising. If you’re walking your purchases back to your car, go early in the week and late in the day, so that you don’t have to lug them around. However, in recent years, the Masters has added a shipping option—and it’s terrific, if you don’t mind waiting an extra few days for your logoed goods to arrive. If that’s the case, go early in the day, while others are out watching golf. The volume and selection of goods in the main merchandise tent is remarkable and the prices are reasonable. Still, they do occasionally sell out, so to be safe, get your shopping done by Thursday.

DON’T: Bring banned items. No backpacks, periscopes, tablets or beverage coolers. Binoculars are OK, though.

DO: Attempt to get autographs where and when appropriate. According to the Patrons Info section of the Masters website,, autograph seeking is only allowed around the practice range and on the Par-3 course during the Par-3 Contest. The best spots to seek autographs are next to the roped entrance and exit areas at the practice putting green and short-game area. The best time to ask are when players have completed their practice session.

DON’T: Bother golfers for autographs on the golf course. This goes for practice and tournament days.

DO: Come hungry. Masters Series Badges are considered one of sport’s Golden Tickets. The platinum upgrade would be a Clubhouse Badge. If you have Clubhouse credentials, you can savor two of golf’s greatest dining experiences: lunch in the members-only clubhouse and lunch on the lawn next to the huge live oak that abuts the clubhouse. The green-and-white jumbo umbrellas that shade the tables are as ubiquitous at the Masters as Magnolia Lane and the green jacket.

Having said that, if you don’t have access to the clubhouse or to Berckmans Place, you’ll dine like most of the other Masters patrons—and that’s not such a bad thing. The prices on menu items appeal to every demographic, in almost a reverse-chic way. The miniscule costs for beer, peanuts and sandwiches are one more reminder as to how cool the Masters is, with its emphasis on tradition, rather than pure profits.

DON’T: Forgot to grab a Pimento Cheese Sandwich. Of the nine sandwich choices, the standout is the legendary Pimento Cheese. True, purists have charged that a recent recipe change has devalued its greatness, yet for $1.50, its creamy goodness, peppered with chunks of pimento and served on the kind of white bread you enjoyed as an 8-year-old will leave you satisfied. The other must-have on the Masters menu is the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, a newer staple.

DO: Pose for a photo in front of the clubhouse, alongside the famous flowerbed that holds the Augusta flag. A club-approved commercial photographer will take the shot, or else you can use your own camera Monday through Wednesday. Lines can get very long, especially in the afternoon, so go early. It’s worth it just to see the clubhouse and famous Magnolia Lane, the club’s main entrance.

DON’T: Bring a cellphone or smartphone to take your photos. While traditional cameras are permitted Monday through Wednesday, modern camera-phones are never permitted. Don’t even think of sneaking one in. Security will catch it, via bag-check or metal detector. If you forget you had it with you and bring it to the course accidentally, you can check it at a storage facility near the entrance. Just remember that lines are long at the end of the day when you go to retrieve it.

DO: Wear comfortable shoes. Golf shoes are permitted, though metal spikes are not. They’re not always fashionable, but I like to don tennis shoes. The terrain is really hilly, so it’s good to have support and traction. And pay special care when it rains. Augusta National’s grass is shaved down nearly everywhere, so when it’s wet and even a little muddy, it gets very slippery on the hills.

DON’T: Forget your chair. It’s best to bring a collapsible chair, without armrests, although Masters chairs are available for purchase in the Merchandise Tent for a surprisingly low price, $29. You can place your chair next to a green (do this as early in the day as you can) and wander away for hours. When you return, your chair will be there, just as you left it. Classic Masters civility.

DO: Check out the sprawling live oak between the first tee and the clubhouse. It’s a beehive of activity all week, and you’ll see anyone who’s anyone in the game of golf, from pros to caddies to administrators to broadcasters. Safe to say, the oak tree at the Masters is the epicenter of golf. It’s also adjacent to the first tee and to the practice putting green, which provides superior close-ups of the smoothest strokes in the game.


Winner's Bag: Scottie Scheffler, THE PLAYERS Championship

Scottie Scheffler claimed his sixth PGA TOUR victory at THE PLAYERS Championship and his second of the season.

Check out his equipment setup below.

Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (8 degrees)

Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 (15 degrees)

Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 8 X

Irons: Srixon ZU85 (3-4), TaylorMade P7TW (5-PW)

Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Hybrid Prototype 10 X (3), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (50-12F, 56-14F), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks Proto (60-06K)

Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Special Select Timeless Tourtype GSS tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet



Valspar Championship - Taylor Moore

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, has delivered a history of close calls since it transitioned into a March date for the FedExCup era, so it is of no surprise that the 2023 edition of the Valspar Championship still was in doubt as the last pairing putted on the 72nd hole.

When Taylor Moore posted 10-under 274 out of the antepenultimate pairing on Sunday, it had a feel that he’d check up one stroke too high to force the fourth playoff at Copperhead since 2015, but that quickly transitioned into the a virtual lock for a playoff when Adam Schenk all but stymied the right-hander’s approach into the green at par-4 18th where he opted to escape left-handed. Ultimately, when his long-range putt for par didn’t drop, Moore was the outright champion by one stroke. Schenk was snake bit in The Snake Pit to lose by one.

Moore is the fourth first-time champion of the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season and the third in the last three weeks. Although he was a non-winner and without a top 10 in seven months, the second-year member was a respectful +5000 to win at BetMGM on the eve of the tournament.

Schenk was one of my Sleepers, albeit without a specific bet attached, but he was available at +12500 also to break through for his maiden title on TOUR. Another Sleeper, Wyndham Clark (+140 for a Top 20), finished fifth.

Jordan Spieth played alongside Schenk on Sunday but, unlike so many previous performances, he failed to pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat and closed with two bogeys on The Snake Pit before finishing two strokes off Moore’s pace. Spieth was second-shortest to win at +1200.

Tommy Fleetwood (+2500) matched Spieth’s 8-under 276 for the T3. It’s his first podium finish on the PGA TOUR since a solo third at The Honda Classic in 2020.

Two-time defending champion Sam Burns (+1600) finished alone in sixth. Tournament favorite Justin Thomas (+1000) landed in a six-way tie for 10th place.


Five things to know: TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course

They come out in droves for the WM Phoenix Open, which hosts more than 700,000 spectators annually and close to 200,000 for Saturday’s third round alone. This year, the stakes are even higher in the PGA TOUR’s most raucous environment. In addition to a Sunday finish just hours before and miles from the Super Bowl, this year’s WM Phoenix Open is a designated event with a star-studded field competing for a $20 million purse. The winner will earn $3.6 million.

Here are five things to know about TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, which has been the tournament’s venue since 1987.


That’s the name of the Native American people who created a network of canals here more than 500 years ago, their engineered effort to bring agricultural life to the desert. Now many of those same watercourses form part of the 336-mile Central Arizona Project, which also borders the Stadium Course’s 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

The life brought to this arid ground has been thriving of late. In 1960, Scottsdale’s population was only 10,000. Now it’s 250,000. Without that canal connecting metro Phoenix (and 80% of the state’s people) with the Colorado River, there would be no lush, green turfgrass for the many courses that have helped make the region a booming resort destination.

TPC Scottsdale, the sixth club built in the TPC network, is at the center of that, geographically and figuratively, with 43,000 rounds notched on the Stadium Course last year and 57,000 on its adjacent Champions Course.



The WM Phoenix Open is one of the PGA TOUR’s oldest events, dating to 1933. It’s been played continuously since 1944 and landed at its current TPC Scottsdale site in 1987, where it has grown into the most well-attended golf event in the world. It’s also arguably the cleanest, because tournament sponsor Waste Management, which took over the event in 2010, has been committed to cleaning up and recycling all of the trash from the grounds – including all of those beer cups.

The par-71 course, measuring 7,354 yards, has proven vulnerable to hot streaks – none more impressive than Mark Calcavecchia’s wins in 1989, 1992 and 2001 by seven, five and eight strokes, respectively. But given the compression of talent on the PGA TOUR, the course has also seen a recent trend toward nail-biting finishes, including sudden-death playoffs in five of the last seven events.  He shot 65-60-64 to tie the TOUR record for lowest score in a tournament’s opening 54 holes (Justin Thomas, at the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii, and Steve Stricker, at the 2010 John Deere Classic, have since lowered the mark by a stroke). Calcavecchia closed with a 67 to then set the TOUR’s 72-hole scoring record (256, -28).

“I just don’t see how I could top this,” Calcavecchia said after winning the 11th of his 13 PGA TOUR titles. His record has since been bettered three times. Justin Thomas now holds the mark with his 27-under 253 at the 2017 Sony Open.



With an average score of 4.24 at last year’s WM Phoenix Open, the 484-yard, par-4 11th hole is by far the hardest on the course. It doesn't get much airtime, but it certainly gets the attention of players. That’s because it requires the most demanding tee shot of the round. It’s called a “reverse camber” hole, which means it doglegs one way while sloping the other. In this case the hole turns modestly to the right while the ground slopes from right to left – toward a flanking pond.

Reverse camber means that gravity and topography are working against the golfers, who face water left, trees right, and a vertical slope of 4-5 feet from the high-side (right) to the low-side (left). The tendency in fighting a draw here is to over-compensate and block it right off the tee. Even elite players get into trouble when they have to steer a shot, especially on the drive.

This hole also was the site of a unique ruling that led to a recent change in the Rules of Golf. Rickie Fowler won the 2019 WM Phoenix Open despite making triple-bogey in the final round. After taking a drop from the water, his ball rolled back into the penalty area while he was surveying his next shot. This necessitated another drop and penalty stroke. That rule was changed in 2023, however. Under the new rule, Fowler would not have been penalized for his ball rolling back into the water after he had taken a drop. He would have been allowed to replace his ball without penalty.



The short par-3 16th and its stadium setting gets all that attention, but don’t let that overshadow the next hole, which adds another element to a thrilling finish. The 332-yard 17th hole has a lot going on, all of it evident from the tee. It’s a terrific place for spectators to watch the action because anything can happen. In short, the hole makes the best players in the world think. The green is readily reachable for most, but a slight tug left brings water into play, as we saw from Sahith Theegala as he was pursuing his first PGA TOUR title in 2022. A slight push and the ball will trickle into a fairway bunker or steep grass swale that present one of the hardest shots in golf, a medium-range pitch to a green guarded by water not only left but also long.

The smart play is to leave it just short and follow up with a chip shot, but even that requires properly navigating a small bunker in the center of the fairway that torments those seeking to play safe. There is a lot going on in the form of a green so artfully cut that it seems the approaching ball is always moving away from the center of it. The 47-yard-long putting surface also features a narrow tier on the back-left that is squeezed between sand and water. The subtle shot-making skills required here evoke the nature of classic links golf. The hole draws inspiration from the 12th hole at St. Andrews, fitting because the course architect, Tom Weiskopf, was a past champion of The Open (winning in 1973 at Royal Troon.).



Ultimately, the appeal of watching golf at TPC Scottsdale is simply the pure power and consistency of the players treading upon perfectly manicured, overseeded fairways. The course was renovated in 2014, only enhancing its ability to recognize the best players. Seven of the past eight winners of the WM Phoenix Open are major champions; the lone exception in that span is Rickie Fowler, winner of the 2015 PLAYERS.

There’s science behind the distances they achieve here at an average elevation on the course of 1,530 feet above sea level.

At an industry-standard reference point of 1.7% yards gained per 1,000 feet of elevation, they benefit from the thinner air to the tune of precisely 2.6%. That means an additional 7.5 yards per 300-yard drive, plus the bonus roll from these traditionally firm, fast-running fairways. The data confirm this.

The average PGA TOUR drive traveled 299.8 yards last season. Add in the elevation premium and the effect of close-cropped, dry fairways and the average drive spanned 313.6 yards at last year’s WM Phoenix Open. The numbers don't lie. These guys are good, and they are especially fun to watch at TPC Scottsdale.


Scottie Scheffler wasn’t on pace to be in jeopardy of not having fully exempt status in 2028, but it’s no longer a concern after his victory at the WM Phoenix Open on Sunday. The 2022 Masters champion is exempt into THE PLAYERS Championship and all majors for years, so his successful title defense of his breakthrough title on the PGA TOUR didn’t yield anything new in the short-term. Other than a $3.6-million payday in the second designated event of the season and a return to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking ... breath ... the only benefit he gained was an additional season at the end of his multi-year membership exemption. At the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, because of his win at the Masters, it had extended the maximum five seasons through 2027. The 26-year-old now is fully exempt as a winner through his age-32 season. Only Scheffler doing big things could bump the lede entering the weekend. The USGA recently released the list of all exempt players into the U.S. Open as well as new qualifying criteria into the major. Exemptions for all currently qualified are noted in the alphabetical list below. In addition to REMAINING QUALIFYING CRITERIA at the bottom, new exemptions for the golfers on the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour are specified. The NCAA Division 1 individual champion also will earn a spot in the field of 156 for the first time. Qualifying criteria for the PGA Championship and The Open Championship remain TBD.


TPC = THE PLAYERS Championship

MAS = Masters

PGA = PGA Championship

US = U.S. Open

OPEN = The Open Championship


Recent AdditionsTPC -- none MAS -- none PGA -- none US -- (all currently exempt have been added below) OPEN -- none


Criteria are listed in chronological order where possible. Best estimates are given but all are subject to change.

THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP (TPC) @ TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) – March 9-12• Winners of PGA TOUR events thru the final week before THE PLAYERS. • Top 10 in the FedExCup at the conclusion of The Honda Classic (Feb. 26). • Top 50 of Official World Golf Ranking (Feb. 27). • If necessary to complete the field of 144, golfers outside the Top 10 in the FedExCup at the conclusion of the Honda Classic on Feb. 26 will gain entry in order of position.

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (PGA) @ Oak Hill Country Club – May 18-21• TBD

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (OPEN) @ Royal Liverpool – July 20-23• TBD (planned to be released in February)