A Augusta chat and then

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Today's Golfer's Major coverage is brought to you in association with TaylorMade. Here the former Golf World editor and single-figure handicap golfer talks you through the round of his dreams and reveals whether Augusta is really as hard as it looks. But for the entire week at every Masters, hundreds of writers, photographers, journalists and reporters guard this flimsy slip of paper as though their lives depend on it. A round at Augusta is a once-in-a-lifetime experience at any time, but Media Monday comes with some gilt-edged touches. The club even provides the services of one of its caddies free of charge, tip included.

Like everything at the Masters, it has evolved over the years. While it has been a tradition for as long as anybody can remember, it was originally offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Only when the line of journalists that would stretch outside the gates in the early hours of the morning became unsightly did the club switch to its current lottery system. They were not granted access to Magnolia Lane, for example, and instead had to enter through the car park.

The practice ground was off limits and there was often a split-tee system, which meant those who started their round on 10 missed out on the sense of anticipation that builds around the turn as Amen Corner looms. And as soon as the round finished, the media were very promptly ushered away. Some of the more cynical members of the working press claim the upgraded Monday experience, along with the construction of a new palatial media centre inare merely PR stunts to distract journalists from a gradual reduction in their reporting privileges and player access.

The draw takes place in private on the Saturday morning around noon, after which the names of the lucky 20 are displayed on large screens in the media centre reception and the main auditorium. As soon as I walked in off the course at the end of the third round, two German editors greeted me with a slap on the back. Friends, family and friends of friends of friends back in the UK knew I was A Augusta chat and then long before I did. By the time I arrived back at my workspace and checked my phone, I had at least a dozen text messages waiting for me.

I learned that my tee time was A Augusta chat and then The pressing concern was how the final round on Sunday would play out. Meteorologists were predicting that gale force winds and a possible tropical storm would hit middle Georgia at around 6pm, just as the tournament would be reaching its crescendo.

The club had reacted by moving the final round tee times forward by several hours — with play now scheduled to conclude around 4pm. Ever since my first Masters inmy own clubs have accompanied me back and forth across the Atlantic in anticipation of a Monday tee time, only to return with me untouched during the week. And so I felt I was due.

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Typically, however, this was the one year I had decided to leave the sticks at home. It meant I had a little over 24 hours to rustle up a set.

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Eventually, I secured a set of Nikes from a local friend of a friend. The next hurdle is timing your arrival at the club. My invitation instructed me to arrive an hour in advance of my I slightly jumped the gun, however, and pulled up to the security gate at A gruff-looking sheriff in mirrored sunglasses approached the car. When I handed him my invitation, he advised that I was four minutes early and instructed me to exit the grounds. He stood watching, hands on hips, as I turned the car around and pulled back out onto Washington Drive with my tail between my legs.

Somebody once wrote that walking off A Augusta chat and then first tee with friends, free from the burden of carrying your own bag, is one of the most liberating and grandest experiences in golf. They were right. Striding up the first fairway, chatting amiably with my three playing partners, was a feeling of such carefree abandon it made up for pulling my opening tee shot into the pine straw just a few moments earlier.

I was forced into the latter option after a mediocre drive. I then pulled my yard approach into the back left bunker. I read the putt as a couple of inches from the left, as did my three playing partners. Lesson No. The back right pin is isolated on a slither of green behind a steep false front.

From the sunken fairway at the par-4 7th, a trio of bright white bunkers completely obstruct the view of the putting surface.

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Its main defence is its green complexes. Severe undulations and false fronts around the greens combined with heaving swales on them mean there are no-go zones on much every hole — and they can change daily depending on the pins. Bunkers are used, not so much to punish errant shot-making, but to tempt you into taking on a risky shot. As a high single-figure player, I had a fighting chance of a par at every hole.

With no double-bogeys on the card, I felt I coped well — the highlights being playing the four-hole stretch from 10 A Augusta chat and then 14 in just two-over par, and making a birdie at I enjoyed being able to unleash drives into wide fairways and the opportunity to figure out puzzles around the greens.

With epic chips, I saved pars from the left of the 5th green and the back of the 15th, while I scrambled a bogey at 13 with a smart pitch, having found the creek with my approach shot. While Augusta National is not my favourite golf course, in many ways it is the pinnacle of golf in that it has everything — beauty, variety, tranquillity, risk-reward, towering pines, elevated open vistas and just the right amount of water.

Arguably, its greatest attribute is its ability to present the right type of challenge to each type of golfer. How would my eight-handicap game stand up to the challenges with which it would be presented? The cambers and the left-to-right dog-leg camouflage your landing area, which is mildly unsettling. As you walk over the final crest, the hole transforms from tree-lined to open-planned.

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And there it is, Amen Corner spread out in front of you in all its glory — the 12th tee and green to the right, and the par-5 13th stretching into the distance. After a solid drive, I had yards to the pin. My caddie handed me my 9-iron and told me to aim at the right edge of the green.

I did as instructed, the ball caught the right fringe and cruised down towards the flag. My foot birdie putt grazed the hole and I tapped in for an easy par. On the other, it just seems, well, so innocuous. After all, how difficult can a slightly downhill yard hole really be? In true amateur style, I opted for a 7-iron in anticipation of a slight mishit. Instead I striped it to the back fringe, from where I three-putted down the slope. Still, what would Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka have given for a bogey the day before?

It was at this hole where I appreciated for the first time the vast disparity in length now between A Augusta chat and then pros and amateurs. Playing off the member tees, which were some 40 yards forward of the tips, I hit a best-of-the-day drive that barely made it to the corner of the dog-leg. A solid 4-hybrid up the right side of the fairway left me a yard wedge into the green. A yard pitch to six feet enabled me to scramble a bogey. My five scariest shots at Augusta National Golf Club.

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With what seems like half of the golf industry milling around behind the tee, just making contact is your goal. A yard par 3 where the penalty for coming up short is extreme. The front bunker is almost head height. Five bunkers surrounding an elevated green make it tough to find and hold the target. Sand front left and a diagonally angled creek. The slope is deadly and the green is just eight paces deep! In the past year, many people have asked me what I scored at Augusta and when I tell them I shot 81 their jaws drop.

My perspective is that it is relatively straightforward for mid-handicappers who have a few shots to play with but a very stern test for scratch players. For example, the descent from the 10th tee to the green is feet, more than the Statue of Liberty! During the winter, if they ever have snow at A Augusta chat and then, it would make a great ski run. The real genius of the de is how those contours are disguised from a playing standpoint.

Other than the steep climb up 18, which runs adjacent to the 10th, you never really feel the gradients are too taxing. The day after Tiger Woods stroked in a three-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th, I found myself 20 feet below the hole after a nice 6-iron into the green. I was just about to settle over the ball when my caddie interjected. It felt like I was aiming at degrees to the hole, but the ball traced a nice arc up the slope and then dived down into the hole!

Augusta simultaneously feels expansive and intimate. At the same time, it takes an age to walk from the clubhouse to the 12th green at Amen Corner. Elevated views across from vantage points such as the crest of the 8th fairway make it feel wide open. Besides becoming a journalist, gaining a press pass to the Masters and hoping you win the media lottery, there are a of other ways of sealing a tee time to play Augusta National Golf Club.

Unfortunately, none of them are easy, but if you're really keen you could

A Augusta chat and then

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