Not everyone who’s headed to the Masters will arrive by Gulfstream or bunk in luxury at the Partridge Inn. Yes, it's actually possible to do Augusta on the cheap. (Well, relatively speaking.) Here's how to bask in the lore and pageantry of golf's greatest tournament without busting your budget.
HOW TO GET THERE
We'd recommend that you drive (or, better yet, carpool!), but if you must fly, remember that it’s generally much cheaper to fly into Atlanta and drive the two-plus hours east from there. (Columbia, S.C., about 75 miles northeast of Augusta, is another budget-friendly option.) At press, Delta was offering fares of $286-$355 non-stop to Atlanta from New York for the April 2-4 time period, depending on what time of day you travel. Meanwhile, flights to Augusta via Atlanta will run you $435-$629. You'll need to lease a car at ATL, which will run you a minimum of $76 per day (Alamo is $20-$25 cheaper than Hertz and National).
HOW TO GET ON THE GROUNDS
Sorry, folks, but we need to limit you to the Monday practice round. (Hey, what were you expecting — a week-long pass and Butler Cabin access?!) If you’re among the fortunate few who succeeds in the annual Masters ticket lottery, you can wind up with as many as four tickets for a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday practice round at $65 a piece. But more realistically, you’ll have to pony up for broker prices for a practice day. On StubHub in mid-March, Monday tickets were selling in the $450-$465 range. Compare that with Tuesday ($625 and up) and Wednesday ($1,350 and up) and clearly Monday is the most economical option.
For the certainty of having the ticket in hand, and the satisfaction of being able to attend all day, purchasing from a reputable online ticket broker is your best bet. But there are two other options that may save you even more money.
First, some ticket brokers offer half-day tickets. Well-regarded TicketCity features half-day prices for Monday starting at $359 as of mid-March. It’s mostly self-explanatory. One buyer uses the badge, typically in the morning, and returns it to the broker after he exits the grounds around midday. The badge is then turned over to a second buyer for use at 1:30 p.m. or so, until closing time, 6:30 p.m.
Second, if you’re willing to risk a little uncertainty, you can show up in the vicinity of Augusta National on the day you wish to attend (or on the day before) and attempt to purchase a ticket from street scalpers, who are nearly always licensed brokers. These folks set up shop near the club, typically along Washington Road. Just look for someone in a folding chair with a sign that says NEED TICKETS. Later in the day, if a seller has excess inventory, or on a bad-weather day or one with the threat of bad weather, sellers will often cut their losses by discounting their tickets by up to half or even less than half of the going rate. So if you’re patient and lucky, you might find yourself on Augusta National’s hallowed grounds for less than $200.
There is a third alternative: Greet an exiting patron and simply ask for his or her ticket, or else offer to pay for it so that you can use it for the rest of the day. As with purchasing from a licensed street vendor, this practice must be done beyond a 2,700-foot boundary that that encircles Augusta National, or else you could face the wrath of the local authorities. Yes, folks execute this swap all the time, including well within the confines of said boundary, but we’re not recommending that route.
WHERE TO STAY
On Monday, the gates at Augusta National open at 8 a.m. If you’re seeking to maximize the experience, arrive early. Certainly you can drive in from out of town that morning, but you don’t want to be exhausted for your long day at the Masters, so you may wish to find a hotel in Augusta for Sunday night. The best lodging value is the Rodeway Inn & Suites in the 3000 block of Washington Road. For under $100 for Sunday night, you get a room within a couple of miles of the club, free wi-fi, free parking and an outdoor pool. It's not the Four Seasons, but it will suffice.
HOW TO MAX-OUT YOUR MONDAY AT THE MASTERS
If you’d prefer to drive, rather than walk, to your day at the Masters, the club offers plenty of free parking to the west of the club. Get there early — like, 7 a.m. early — because the lots fill up quickly. Failing that, you’ll have to scramble along Washington Road to find a space within reasonable walking distance, usually at a $20 rate.
There’s no need to spring for fast food outside the gates for breakfast. Sure, if you’re starved at 6 a.m., there are countless options along Washington Road to the west of the club, but the prices are so low at concession stands on the grounds, you’re better off dining in. For $3, a savory chicken (or sausage) biscuit and coffee combo awaits.
Once you’re inside the gates, get after it. Stroll the course, whether or not you’re following a certain pro, just to witness the inspired architecture and dazzling azalea displays. Spend some time in the small grandstands at the practice range. Have a photo taken in front of the clubhouse, with the Augusta National flag jabbed into a flower bed map of the U.S. A club-approved commercial photographer will take the shot, or else you can use your own camera Monday through Wednesday. Linger near the oak tree behind the clubhouse, where golf bigwigs gather during the week.
It’s nearly impossible to walk away from Augusta National without a Masters souvenir. You’ll feel good about it, because Augusta National is the only place you can purchase Masters-logo goods, and they’re only available during Masters week. Plus, the prices are reasonable. Hats go for $24, pin flags $25, T-shirts for $30. Some prize the value of a beach towel at $35, but you may or may not get much use out that. Our pick is the collapsible Masters chair, for a shockingly low $29. Not only can you set it up on the course (and a longstanding Masters tradition is that you can leave it alone for hours, while you go elsewhere, and no one will mess with it), but you can take it with you and use it at the park back home.
For lunch, the options are varied, inexpensive and yummy. Of the nine sandwich choices, the standout is the legendary Pimento Cheese. Purists have charged that a recent recipe change has devalued its greatness, but for $1.50, its creamy goodness, peppered with chunks of pimento and served on the kind of white bread you enjoyed as an 8-year-old will leave you satisfied. A Bar-B-Que sandwich for $3.00 and the Ham & Cheese on Rye for $2.50 are also ideal for wallet-watchers. The other must-have on the Masters menu is the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, a newer staple. GOLF.com’s Coleman McDowell describes it as “a massive slab of peach ice cream smashed between two sugar cookies.” For two dollars, it’s all the dessert snack you could want.
BONUS DAY: TUESDAY AROUND TOWN
Should you expend every minute allotted to your Monday Masters experience, you’ll be asked to leave the premises by 6:30 p.m. That’s when they lock up for the night. If you’re pinching pennies, you’ll drive back to the airport for a late flight, or else drive as far as you can on your way home.
We recommend sticking around for one more day to check out the town. You’ll need to find a dinner spot. If you have the urge to splurge, the place to start is TBonz, on Washington Road. True, the waits can be arduous, with little room to move but no one seems to mind, thanks to the proprietor, Mark Cumins, who blends conviviality and professionalism like few restaurateurs anywhere. The steaks ($18.99-$27.99) are superb, the service terrific and you’ll spot more major golf figures, from players to broadcasters, than any place other than the grounds of Augusta National.
If a steakhouse is beyond the budget, try local favorite WifeSaver. Serving superb fried chicken since 1965, you can feast on a three-piece chicken dinner, with two sides, plus biscuits, cornbread or hush puppies for $7.49. Toss in a Sweet Tea and a small Banana Pudding, and you’re stuffed, Southern-style for under $15 bucks.
Now, there’s no getting around a rate hike at your hotel, since Masters Week has officially begun. Monday night at the Rodeway Inn & Suites will run you $175. If you have the urge to experience more classic Augusta before you retire for the evening, make your way to the venerable Partridge Inn. The recently renovated 107-year-old property radiates Southern charm and a enjoying a beverage on its iconic verandah is a singular treat.
TIME FOR A ROUND?
You have to tee it up once in Augusta, just to say you did. There’s no beating the price tag at Augusta Municipal Golf Course. Nicknamed “the Cabbage Patch,” or “the Patch” for short, Augusta’s muni dates to 1928 and is basking in a series of conditioning improvements. Fifteen minutes from Augusta National and adjacent to Daniel Field Airport, it certainly doesn't wow in the design or scenery departments, but serious history and a non-residents green fee of $50 during Masters week make will appeal to budget-conscious golfers.
And finally, if you get a rainy day — or crave more Masters lore — make a stop at the Augusta Museum of History. For a $4 admission fee, the golf exhibits on the second level gallery will imbue you with a serious dose of Masters lore.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Transportation: $152 for a two-day rental car or the cost of gas if you're driving your own car
Hotel: $100 for one night's accommodation
Masters tickets: $450 for Monday practice round pass
Food: $10 for coffee, three sandwiches, and dessert at Augusta National
Souvenirs: $50 for a hat and pin flag