Want to See the Masters in Style? Here’s the $100,000 Method
One of the great things about the Masters golf tournament is that, to a large degree, your money is no good there. The tournament keeps prices at historically low levels: This year, a badge for weeklong entrance runs a mere $325, about what you would pay for decent seats to watch one game of the worst team in the NBA. The pimento cheese sandwiches on site are $1.50. Supersize with chips and a beer, and you’re still at only $4.
And though the best spot to stay is in one of the 10 cabins on the grounds, unless your surname is Nicklaus or Nantz, it does not matter how much cash you wave—you’re out of luck. There’s something charming about old-fashioned, old-money connections as the true currency at a golf club.
The quaint vibe extends to the city of Augusta, a quiet Georgia city of 200,000 people. The most authentic spots range from the caddy hangout Tbonz Steakhouse to Raes Coastal Café, an unassuming shack that serves jerk wings and Red Stripe on the famous creek that runs in from the 12th and 13th greens.
But like all well-publicized events involving star athletes and big brands, there’s another, lesser-known side to the Masters. In terms of price, they aren’t on the pimento-sandwich-and-a-beer and of the spectrum.
Here’s how to do the Masters, a “tradition like any other,” the other way.
Where to Stay
The hotel market in Augusta is populated by DoubleTrees, Sheratons, and Marriotts, though a few plantation-style bed-and-breakfasts such as the Partridge Inn have that shabby chic, baby-grand character. Over in Aiken, a 30-minute drive from Augusta National, the Wilcox Hotel has 22 rooms that come with ornamental fireplaces, four-poster beds, hand-stitched pillows, and marble baths.
If you want to emulate the pro golfers, though, and set up camp for the entire week to catch the practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday before the tournament officially starts, rent a private home and hire a chef and a cleaning service to give it that five-star vibe. It’s an especially good option for those who have waves of friends coming on different days; it becomes cost-efficient by spreading the amenities among multiple people.
Look around in Westlake, a gated community about 15 minutes from Augusta. Its country club golf course is a popular place to swing the clubs at any time of the year. Elsewhere, Conifer Place and Barrington offer good value, depending on whether you need a seven-bed, seven-bathroom house—so it feels like a mini-hotel with everyone’s own private area—or a kitchen and dining room area big enough to support a chef and entertainment area.
These home rentals can range from $15,000 to $65,000 for a week, plus housekeeping and catering expenses.
How to Get There
Not many flights go directly to Augusta National Airport, so some people connect in Atlanta, about 2.5 hours away, or in Columbia, S.C., about an 1.5-hour drive away. The best way to get there, though, is to charter a private jet to the main airport or to Daniel Field, a landing strip a mere five miles from the golf site. Executive Jet Management estimates that an eight-passenger plane from New York to one of these regional airports would run about $20,000 round trip, though their largest jets can carry 16 people.
How to Get Around
At Prestige Exotic Rentals in Atlanta, the vehicle that Masters-goers favor for the week is a Cadillac Escalade, which can fit a family or a man-posse. That option comes to approximately $349 per day for 7 days, and drivers need full coverage of their own. Closer to Augusta is an Enterprise Rental near the Augusta airports, with the usual suspects available for rent.
If you don’t want to drive, one of the area car services can provide a chauffeur for about $1,200 per day, depending on how many people and the size of the vehicle.
Estimate: $2,500 for Escalade rental for a week, $5,000 if you want a personal driver
Where to Hang Out at the End of the Day
The Double Eagle Club, one of the first hospitality houses in Augusta, is a one-stop-shop located across the street from Augusta. Stop by in the morning, when golf pros are on hand to help fix your swing, or arrange your travel schedule with a concierge to set up a private chef in a home rental. Owned by Chicago-based Intersport, the company can also arrange to purchase tickets to the tournament, along with access to after-parties. The only catch is that you must pay a membership fee to join.
Estimate: Price varies, according to each client’s preferences
Where to Play
There are many great places to play a round of golf nearby. Palmetto Golf Club, a private course established in 1892, opens to the public for only one week a year—during the Masters. Tee times can be reserved by calling the Pro Shop during normal business hours. The rate is $250 per player and includes cart, range balls, lunch, and all taxes.
Where to Rubberneck
If you get the urge to see the town, grab a reservation at Frog Hollow, a favorite among tour pros and boldface golf names. Order the $32 “rustic cut” pork chop, with Georgia apples and sweet potatoes from North Carolina. Add a bottle of 2013 Opus One, which runs to $289 at your local wine shop.
Where to Shop
The only time you can get into the Augusta Golf Club’s gift shop is this week, so make the most of it. Official Masters Polo shirts cost $69 each, while T-shirts go for $26. Get a dozen of each for the poor souls that couldn’t make the trip.
And don't forget ...
... to stock up on pimento cheese sandwiches, each for $1.50.