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Crow's Nest at Augusta National


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The April 2012 edition of Golf Digest has a wonderful article about the Crow's Nest at Augusta National.  Reading it really does give the feel of the place.  Next time you see a picture of the clubhouse, notice the little cupola perched atop the building and imagine the history that has taken place in this small room.  You cannot be a golfer and not be moved when you step into this very isolated and somewhat secretive room where the best amatuer's are invited to bed down during the trournament.  It is every bit as magical as the golf course itself.

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When I got to play the course last year during "outings week" the clubhouse was open to us.  A lot of folks ate their lunch upstairs on the veranda.  Anyway I meant to go and check out the Crow's Nest (I believe you have to climb up a ladder to get there), but I forgot all about it and never checked it out.  I might not could have got up there, but like I said I forgot.  If I get to play there this year you can bet I'm going to do everything I can to sneak up there!

I golf buddy of mine had a friend who's dad was a member and years ago they got to play the course and spend the night at the club in one of the cabins.  He told me about how after dinner he and his buddy went up to the Crow's Nest and drank an old bottle of expensive scotch and just soaked in the experience.  Heady stuff!

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You just go up some unobtrusive stairs, there is a picture of Bobby Jones, and you go through the door and enter the nest.  The ladder is gone but used to allow access to the top of the building.  I just had to sit on one of the beds and imagine the history.  If you are an avid golfer aware of the game's history, and susceptible to emotion, it is a feeling you will never forget.

The Champion's lockers are quite nice, but now they have multiple names on them so past champs may not have their own private locker, There may be multiple green jackets hanging inside.  If you are just there to play and staying in one of the cabins, the procedure was to place a ball in line as you go to breakfast in the morning.  The course does not open until a set time, usually 8 am, after which you play in order of the placement of your group's ball -- at least that is the way they used to do it.   My job was to get up early and get a ball on the tee at first light.  It was considered bad form to put a ball on the ground before first light. Anyway, that was the tradition at the time.  There really was no hurry since there are not that many groups there on most days.

The hardest shot of your life is that first drive... your heart is pounding and you brain is buzzing.  You just hope to hit it solidly, as you try to remember which end of the driver you are supposed to hold..  My hands were shaking.  Some great players have hit some terrible first time drives and people tell stories about them -- grounders, hosel rockets, toe rights, and even whiffs.  That only makes the pressure worse.  You may hear about a famous All American college golfer who almost hit the pro shop directly to the right of the first tee.  It is a scary time.  I hit my first one in the trap on the right side of the fairway... then hit maybe the best trap shop of my life and parred the first hole.  That helped the nerves a lot -- I could finally breathe close to normally.  But who am I kidding... the reality is the first time around every swing is filled with awe and sometimes even terror.  Breathing normally is only for cooler heads than mine.

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so not being a member, do I have any chance of hell to ever playing Augusta? If so, how?

Tons of non-members play Augusta National each year. Here are some popular ways to do so: 1. Be friends with a member. Be invited by said member. Behave while there. 2. Work for CBS. I think the media gets some access to play after the event. 3. Qualify for the Masters. For you and me, the most likely method of doing so would be to win the Mid-Am. As a bonus, you might get to stay in the Crow's Nest (the real topic of this thread).

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Originally Posted by RC

The hardest shot of your life is that first drive... your heart is pounding and you brain is buzzing.  You just hope to hit it solidly, as you try to remember which end of the driver you are supposed to hold..  My hands were shaking.  Some great players have hit some terrible first time drives and people tell stories about them -- grounders, hosel rockets, toe rights, and even whiffs.  That only makes the pressure worse.  You may hear about a famous All American college golfer who almost hit the pro shop directly to the right of the first tee.  It is a scary time.  I hit my first one in the trap on the right side of the fairway... then hit maybe the best trap shop of my life and parred the first hole.  That helped the nerves a lot -- I could finally breathe close to normally.  But who am I kidding... the reality is the first time around every swing is filled with awe and sometimes even terror.  Breathing normally is only for cooler heads than mine.



That was the most nervous I've ever been on a tee box.  During outings week (caddy's day, employee's day, volunteer's day, media day, etc.) the tee sheet is full all day long.  Not only that but most days you're given a tee time for the big course with your invitation packet.  you miss your tee time and you don't get to play.  So what that means is that people make sure they are at the first tee and ready to go a good 30 minutes prior so the first tee stays crowded all day long.  Nothing like hitting one of the most pressure packed tee shots of your life surrounded by about 50 guys all waiting for their chance to play Augusta!

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Originally Posted by colin007

so how did you guys get the privilege of playing there?


It used to be a lot easier for regular folks to have the opportunity.  Years ago on caddy day National caddies were allowed to fill out a foursome with whomever the liked.  Unfortunately that was stopped after a caddy promised someone he was looping for at another club (most caddies travel to different clubs to work based on local golf seasons, the National is a winter time course so the rest of the year many of those guys caddy out west or up north) to get him on at the next Caddy's day.  Apparently some money changed hands and the guy just showed up at the National one day demanding to play since he'd paid.  When the dust settled Caddy's day was reserved for National caddies only who work enough throughout the year.  There are people who live all over the country who caddy at the National part time, flying to Augusta whenever they get the opportunity to loop, just so that they can play on Caddy's day.  I think on employee's day (club employees get to play the course one day a year) they can bring a guest, but it has to be family.  Naturally any employee who values their job at the National won't do anything funny so options there are limited.  In the past you could volunteer to work the tournament and after so many years you'd qualify for volunteer's day and get to play the course.  The club began restricting that a few years ago and now the majority of people who work the tournament are being paid.  Only long time volunteers who came on before those changes were made still get to play the course.  The Augusta State University golf team gets the opportunity to play the course and attend the tournament each year.  This no doubt has been a useful recruitment tool for the school seeing as how it's a small college but their golf team competes in division 1 and even won the national championship the last 2 years.  I got the opportunity to play there because my company has been doing business with the club for a very long time.  I played with a foursome of guys whose business are similar to mine and the club grants long time business partners (think Coca Cola and the like) a few slots during Outings week.  Outings week is when all these various days for caddies, volunteers, employees, etc get to play and is always late May just before the club closes for the season (the club reopens for member play in October).  Depending upon the weather the course is always in the worst shape you'll see it that time of year, but bad shape at the National is still world class.  Since the course is mainly rye grass that time of year it is beginning to die out.  In talking with local caddies I know the experience Outings week is a far cry from what the course is like for the tournament, but I sure didn't complain.

While I'll always cherish the experience and opportunity I had in playing the course I'm really not a guy who lives for exceptional experiences to define me or what I like.  Golf is a wonderful game and what makes a place like the National special is that it's all about promoting everything about golf that makes it great and fun.  In that regard they have succeeded admirably.  The full member experience there has got to be amazing, but there are many places like that throughout the country.  Places where the game is promoted by those who love it.

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When one of your best friends is a member, and you invite them to play your club, they typically will extend the courtesy of asking you to play theirs.  And you might even get to play there many times.  I don't want this to be about the privilege of playing Augusta but rather about the absolute awe it is to play it and the pressure you feel to play well.  After playing there many times, and even shooting under par once, I can still tell you that every shot you hit at Augusta is a humble and inspiring experience -- it is not about you, it is about the place.  You feel like the luckiest man in the world, and you probably are.  I said before, being asked to play there only happened because a poor kid like me tried to live a life of service and responsibility, and as luck would have it, a friend was kind enough to extend the invitations.

I want this to be about the sacred ground our game is played upon and how amazing it is to feel the magical place that is Augusta National..  People can be dismissive of sometime as trivial as a special golf course when there are so many bigger issues in the world, but it is still a transformative thing to play the game on this hallowed ground.  If you love golf, you know what I am trying to say, I am just not very skilled at conveying it.  Go sit on the Hogan Bridge for a moment and just soak in the ambiance -- it is beautiful.  This time of year, every year, I am reminded of this unique place, its history, and traditions, and how fortunate I have been..

P.S.  Yes, I have hit it into the creek in front of 12 and yes the wind is very tricky, ha ha.  I thought that shot was perfect until it balooned up and stalled, and unlike Couples' famous shot, this time it rolled down the bank like 99.99 percent of them do.

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