I was able to live a lifelong dream and be one of the lucky ones to visit Augusta National and attend the Masters tournament last week for the Sunday round.

And to prove it, here’s a picture with my “entry badge”.  By the way, you do not take them home… they are returned to the owner.

Scott Deutsch at 2016 Masters

For those of you wondering about attending the Masters, it is everything you think it will be and then some. As a marketing professional (at least I think I am…), and you wanted to how to best manage a “brand”, this is the place to go and learn. It’s a shining example of how a brand manages every facet of their communications and customer experience.

Let me give you some highlights that I witnessed first-hand.

  • No wires! I have been to many golf tournaments and some have been majors (I have been to 3 U.S. Opens) and many smaller events (such as Doral, Honda, Bridgestone) and none of them can compare on how Augusta National grounds are presented.   At Augusta National you never see any of the wires around the course that is required to support the TV broadcast and there are no camera cranes or blimps (sorry Goodyear or MetLife). All the wiring is buried at August National and beautifully done. The camera stations are all permanent, so all CBS has to do is bring in their cameras and plug it in.
  • No litter! I was amazed at how clean the property was. Thousands of people and a spotless environment.   People were cleaning up everywhere and plenty of trash receptacles around the course.

Augusta National Image of clubhouse

  •  $1.50 sandwiches! That’s not a typo. Wow. What a pleasure to be at a place that had sandwiches for $1.50 to $2.50. And the quality was first rate.   By the way, my first pimento cheese sandwich.
  • The birds really do sing. If you ever watched the Masters on TV, you will always hear birds chirping. Well, I am here to report that the birds really do chirp at Augusta. Those microphones are probably in the woods, but you can hear the birds singing.
  • No cheering for a single player. What is that you say? While clearly everyone has their favorites and “cheers” for them, I have never been to a tournament where you are asked to “please refrain from cheering for a single player”. They literally have people walking around within the crowd to ensure proper “behavior” from the attendees.   By the way, I doubt anyone yelled “baba booey” at Augusta National.   They would have probably been promptly escorted off the grounds. (Howard Stern fans will understand that reference).
  • No porta potties here. The nicest restrooms you will you ever see at an event with this scale. Well managed, well maintained and running water with paper towels.
  • Organized seating. The course had ample seating.   Ranging from well-organized and roped off areas for those with “proper masters chairs”… only Masters chairs allowed… to plenty of well-placed grandstands.
  • Scoreboards everywhere. I love those traditional scoreboards vs. the digital scoreboards you see at every golf tournament. These are part of the Masters tradition. I hope they never change…
  • Easy access to branded merchandise. Ok, the first thing I did when I got to August National at 8:30am was buy my shirts and stuff (I love that Masters’ logo!). Here’s what I was impressed with. Right as you got on the grounds they had a smaller store that had enough of a selection to meet my needs.   I do not think I was in line more than 5 minutes to pay. If you ever have been to a golf tournament, you know this is an amazingly fast. Now here’s the best part: I was able to walk back to my car (about a 10 minute walk) and put the gifts away for safe storage and not worry about carrying them the rest of the day. Nice. Oh, and yes, the main store (it is very large) was on the core Augusta National grounds with longer lines.
  • Beautiful grass and grounds everywhere. My final thought on building a great brand experience was how spectacular the grounds were outside of the fairways. The areas you walked were as manicured as the main golf course. I think the areas you walk around the course are probably better fairways than 90% of public or private courses. It was that well maintained.

Augusta National does not miss much when it comes to brand management. And I suspect the players and their families love the environment almost as much as the audience does.

Now I could not end this without talking about golf at the 2016 Masters.

My day started by walking around to see “August National” before settling on sitting on the grandstands at hole #11 green, which is where you also watch them play #12. This is such a pretty and a scary spot…I think I sat there for almost three hours and watched 33% of the players put a ball in the water…more on that later. Any golfer can picture for themselves almost every hole that they have watched on TV over the years.

Biggest surprises at August National:

  • How hilly the course really is.
  • How small the “landing areas” are on the putting surface to give yourself a chance at making a putt.   After seeing the course myself, I wonder why there are not more 3 putts.   The movement on the putts was even more pronounced than I thought they were from watching on TV.
  • Those greens are fast! What other tournaments to you constantly see pros hit the ball 4-5 feet past the hole with consistency?
  • The roars on the back nine that they always talk about are real! It is amazing to hear from a distance the building of the roar to the final crescendo. The roar from 3 holes-in-one that Sunday was amazing.   It was another really neat part of the Masters atmosphere.

Jordon Speith after birdie on 9th hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After sitting at #12 for two hours, I decided to follow the leader.   I followed Jordan Spieth, the leader and defending champion from #2 through #12…  Here’s a picture of him after making his 4th birdie in a row at #9.  An amazing run. By the way, he really took his time before hitting each and every shot.  On the 9th fairway, he changed clubs 4 times.

It was unfortunate to watch him bogie #10 and miss a 4 footer on #11 for two bogies in a row… but now the rest of the story.

Remember that I said that I had been sitting on the tee box for #12 and watched a third of the shots end up in the water?

Jordon Speith painful second drop image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, Jordon was added to that list. He hit his shot so fast compared to all his other shots that day. And then his second shot also ended up wet.   His 5 shot lead was gone. His hope for victory gone. His march toward history on this day, gone. And my day. Over.
Jordon Speith painful image on 18th with Caddy

Everyone was in a state of shock. I recall watching Jason Day and Dustin Johnson watching the scoreboard as they walked to their balls on the 16th fairway. They both looked and looked again and then at each other. They too were stunned.

This picture is from the 18th green with his caddy trying to console him.

I will never forget my day at the Masters. Nor will I ever forget the stunned silence after Jordan hit his second ball in the water. 20,000 people and total silence. You could feel the anguish. People were in tears… in disbelief. Shock.

Augusta National is magical in many many ways.

I am so glad I had the privilege to attend.