Augusta Road Trip

Augusta Road Trip

CONGRATULATIONS - Your application for Masters tickets has been selected.

Receiving that email must feel like a dream come true, akin to Charlie unwrapping his chocolate bar to discover the elusive golden ticket. It's the moment of a lifetime, the culmination of years of anticipation and hope.

Back to reality. Every year it seems to be the same thing for me. My email has read the same thing for 10 years in a row;

Unfortunately, your entry was not selected. We appreciate your participation and interest in the Masters Tournament.’

But Augusta, Georgia, offers more than just the Masters. There is more to it than just the one week. So, whether you are going because you have got those golden tickets, or you're looking for a fun trip with your friends to play a little golf - Augusta has options outside ANGC.

Augusta Municipal Golf Course, AKA "The Patch"

Last year Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley announced at his annual Masters press conference that the National was saving Augusta Municipal. “Our commitment to the Augusta community equals our commitment to the game of golf,” Ridley said. “I'm therefore proud to announce today Augusta National's intent to support a joint partnership with The Patch, Augusta Technical College and the First Tee of Augusta to usher in a new era for public golf in our city.”

This was enough of a reason to add The Patch to the top of our list for a trip to Augusta. I have no doubt many have it on their list this year during Masters week as thousands of patrons ascend upon the otherwise sleepy town.

This municipal sits next to Daniel Field Airport, just two miles from Augusta National. Apparently in a part of the town not seen during the Masters, with worn-down neighborhoods and vacated buildings. I have a feeling that will change this year after Fred Ridley’s announcement last year. You can play nine holes for $9. Perhaps that is one thing it shares with ANGC, where you can still pick up a Pimento Cheese Sandwich for $1.50. How many courses can you play for less than $10 these days?

Augusta National is famed for its immaculate conditions and deliberate upkeep, embodying its aspirations for the club and tournament. In contrast, The Patch, due to limited resources, lacks such pretenses. However, it authentically reflects Augusta's essence, with both its beauty and challenges. We aren’t sure if ANGC have actually put anything into it as of yet. Maybe we will get an update this year? But it doesn’t seem to be the case as of right now.

Despite its flaws, it delivered a calm, peaceful round. Reminiscent of National, you are walking up and down various elevations, but it was at our own very relaxed pace. There was something about it, that smell in the air almost. Somewhere you can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Accuracy is key here off the tee to give yourself a good shot at GIR, with postage stamp greens and turf that tends to be firm and fast, errant second shots are often punished with vigor.

Whatever the plans National have for this municipal course, whenever that may be, it’s got good bones to start off with. After all - take a look back at National and you’ll see, even the greatest courses need to start somewhere. The Patch has got good ground to start from.

Aiken Golf Club

Surrounded by excellence - Sage Valley, Olde Barnwell, Tree Farm, Palmetto. Quite literally centered between the four of them, Aiken Golf Club lays claim as “SC’s best kept secret”. Its 107-year-old history is proud, its pedigree regal, and its 110 acres offer a trip into yesterday. Yet, Aiken Golf Club often gets lost among private clubs or the high-dollar courses that line the Palmetto State’s Atlantic seaboard.

Aiken Golf Club owner Jim McNair Jr. was quoted after receiving South Carolinas Golf Course Ratings Panel award - “Golf courses like ours got lost in the shuffle during the golf boom in the 1980s and ’90, and receiving this award is a huge honor."

The short par 70 course is really quite stunning. A Spring time round of golf cost less than $50. Designed by Donald Ross disciple J.R Inglis, it has all the hallmarks of a Donald Ross classic. Don’t let the “short course” label fool you - this is a test with lots of quirks, and the green complexes are amazing. Strategy and accuracy off the tee are paramount. Especially if you’re playing from the tips. Often overshadowed by the even-older Palmetto Golf Club, the course has Donald Ross DNA without doubt. Inglis completed the AGC layout in 1915 and remained the clubs pro until 1939. The course opened in 1912 with 11 holes, and Inglis added the final seven.

If you aren’t able to get a tee time at the vaunted establishments mentioned above, never fear: Aiken Golf Club, just across the South Carolina border, will gladly have you in. Only a short 23-minute drive from Augusta, AGC will need to be near the top of your list when visiting anytime of the year.

We arrived for a late afternoon round, and once again just as it was at Augusta Municipal, we felt at ease the moment we arrived. A quiet and unassuming course, just the sound of a light breeze, despite the fact it's a short distance from the downtown business district. This is golf heaven...

Photography by Jeremy Freeman


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