The lure of the green jacket

The Augusta National Golf Club is a surreal world. Enter the premises from one of the half dozen gates, and you step into a picture-perfect setting where everything works with clockwork precision.

     Print Edition: May 4, 2008

Driving down Washington Road into Augusta, the first impression is not breathtaking. A second look doesn’t do much to perk up the senses either. The usual Taco Bell, Waffle House, Burger King and petrol stations line up both sides of a fairly busy road in the mid-sized southern town. Oh yes, there’s a Hooters, too, which is John Daly’s favourite hangout when he’s there. The first sign of the golf course is a huge whitepainted water tank that towers over the tree line.

Prabhdev Singh
Prabhdev Singh
This is the golf course that attracts golfers and fans of the game from near and far for one week every April. Those who are not fortunate enough to be there sit owl-eyed in front of their TV sets when the Masters is in play.

The Augusta National Golf Club is a surreal world. Enter the premises from one of the half-adozen gates, and you step into a picture-perfect setting where everything works with clockwork precision. White sand bunkers that stand out against rolling carpets of rich green, and a carefully arranged rough of pine needles, make up the golf course that essentially exists for the Masters golf tournament. When I say green, I mean if there are patches that do not match the overall colour scheme, they are spray painted green.

A couple of milestones have been achieved this year as the first of golf’s four annual majors teed off on April 10. By the time you read this, the testosterone-loaded Gary Player, for one, would have broken Arnold Palmer’s record for most Masters tournaments with his 51st appearance.

It’s also 50 years since ‘Amen Corner’ was named, this being the second half of the 11th, the par three 12th and the first half of the 13th holes. Golf writer Herbert Warren Wind is said to have come up with the phrase and it was so coined because golfers would tend to think along those lines if they negotiated that stretch of the golf course unscarred.

The Indian challenge: Jeev Milkha Singh is at the Masters again
Jeev Milkha Singh
Like last year, there is an Indian interest this year, too. Jeev Milkha Singh has been invited again. Yes, you need to be invited to this golf do and if you win, you get a green jacket and you also get to pick the menu at the champion’s dinner. While chicken tikkas might still be some way off, you get the feeling that this Singh (there was some confusion with the other better-known golfing Singh last year) has earned a repeat invitation on the basis of his showing in 2007. The Chandigarh golfer would have finished among the top 20 but for a poor start to the final round in his maiden appearance. He did putt like a dream. The on-song Daniel Chopra has been invited, too, which makes it one-and-a-half Indians this time around.

Tip I tried: When I started playing golf three decades ago, my dad cut down two men’s sized clubs for me—an iron and a wood. The wood, with a short shaft and an disproportionately large head, looked like a Neanderthal’s hunting tool. This was the case with most kids who were starting out in golf till fairly recently. Now, well-known brands like Callaway and Ping make junior clubs. In fact, U.S. Kids also makes clubs specifically for girls and left-handed kids. This brand is available in India, with Golf Digest India offering special rates. *This column was written before the Augusta Masters teed off.

Prabhdev Singh is Editor, Golf Digest India

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