Leeds-born Tom Chalmers has always had a dream to visit The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, and on April 4, 2012 - the eve of the tournament - achieved his ambition with a ballot ticket to experience the final Practice Day.
A four-handicap golfer and architect who now lives in New York, Tom is the son of former international footballer Ray Chalmers.
In this exclusive photo diary he takes us through how he spent his day having driven from Savannah Harbor into foggy Georgia.
As we approached the Promised Land at dawn with a shroud of mist hanging over the city, to say I was excited is an understatement.
Augusta National is a diamond in the rough, nestled in the middle of Southern Strip Mall, and as I filled up the tank outside the grounds on Washington Road, I spotted the famous Magnolia Lane, down which players drive to the clubhouse.
We parked up and headed for the patrons entrance and at the gates sensed the aura of the place, with every detail immaculately taken care of. The first site is the practice ground. Stunning! As the fog lifted and the sun beamed through giving it took on a dreamlike quality. First box ticked.
The perfectly trimmed pitching and chipping greens, bunkers, and fairways of the practice ground are a sight to behold and make a fanatical golfer’s mouth water.
There are even two ‘false fairways’ defined by lines of pine trees - one set up for a draw and the other for a fade. With mouths open at the spectacle we sat and watched arguably two of the finest swings on Tour - Luke Donald and Justin Rose - go through their practice routines.
Donald looked great, but we didn’t know then that he would leave his best shots on the practice ground that day.
It was still early but before checking out the clubhouse, the ‘Big Oak’ trees that spreads before it and the first tee we couldn’t resist indulging in one of Augusta’s best kept secrets - the concessions stand. With Augusta beer in plastic green container in hand, ham and a cheese on Rye, and a Hot Sausage biscuit and a coffee for just $8, it was too good to miss!
From the top of the hill next to the first tee we got your first glimpse of the magnificent grounds. Events like can be over-hyped and a let down but this was spectacular. The course designers - Mackenzie and Jones - really did create the Mecca of golf here.
We could immediately see how the slopes of each fairway are intimidating and set up more like a mountain range than a golf course. Away down the bottom of the valley we could spot the famous par-3 16th green and hear the cheers even at 8.30am in on a practice day as players came through.
We watched the Molinari brothers - Francesco and Edoardo - tee off the first to the top of the next hill, and followed to get our first view of the course almost immediately experience one of the holes that typified the elevation changes. The par-5 second, made famous by Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross, demands a tee shot to a small landing zone before swooping down to a tiny shallow, well-guarded green, more akin to the turning area at the end of a ski jump.
From the bottom of the hill we head back up between the 9th and 18th fairways to investigate the famous Augusta ‘back nine’ and were mystified how Rory McIlroy’s golf ball in 2010 managed to find such a spot way off line between the cabins.
Blog continues. Click here to read the rest of Tom's experience.
While I'm sure to just walk around Augusta National is the ultimate for many of us, what single thing would you want to achieve given the same opportunity as Tom.
I've still got one or two souvenirs of my own previous visits I'm prepared to share for the best responses by April 20. ED
Posted: 13/04/2012 at 15:18