Are you making the pilgrimage to the Masters? Here's the skinny on Augusta deals and meals

Are you making the pilgrimage to the Masters? Here’s the skinny on Augusta deals and meals

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For those with deep pockets (or on a corporate account), a tee time for four can be had for $1,200 on the Tuesday through Saturday of tournament week at Jones Creek Golf Club, a handsome Rees Jones design.
Greg Foster

Best Courses on the Way
If you’re driving down I-95 from the Northeast,
pull over in the Pinehurst, N.C., area for Tobacco Road ($107-$134; 919-775-1940, tobaccoroadgolf.com), a freakishly
exciting, love-hate Mike Strantz design that
you’ll never forget.

From I-77, Midwesterners
can enjoy their own thrill fest, the
Pete Dye River course of Virginia Tech ($49-$80; 540-633-6732, rivercoursegolf.com), in Radford,
Va., a 7,665-yard fun
house bisected by a 70-foot cliff.

Best Alternative Airport
Atlanta is a solid choice,
with direct flights from
everywhere, but it can
get crazy busy, especially
in bad weather, and the
150-mile drive east to
Augusta is dull Interstate
for the duration.

Still, from New York City’s LaGuardia, it’s $208
on Delta versus $368-$468 to fly direct
to Augusta. From Philadelphia on U.S. Air
it’s $183-$208 nonstop to Atlanta with
a fistful of departure and return options
versus $528 for the only nonstop flight into
Augusta.

My hidden gem is Savannah, Ga. The small but modern airport is easy on
the eyes and easy to negotiate, the airfare
and rental-car savings (one-third what you
pay in Atlanta and Augusta
for the same
vehicles) are significant and the 2 1/2-hour
drive to Augusta is scenic.

Best Courses in Augusta
Almost every course jacks up the price
for Masters week, so if sticker shock
is an issue, go with Augusta Municipal ($30-$35; 706-731-9344). Locals semiaffectionately call it the Patch
(for Cabbage Patch) for obvious reasons,
but for the price, this 6,019-yard par-72 is
O.K. Check out the 422-yard, par-4 11th,
whose fairway runs adjacent to Runway 5
at Daniel Field Airport — and see if you
can spot any differences
in the firmness of the
landing areas.

Jones Creek Golf Club (706-860-4228, jonescreekgolfclub.com), a
handsome Rees Jones
design, gets a pricey
$500 a foursome on the
Saturday and Sunday
before the Masters, a
whopping $900 on the
Monday and Sunday of
tournament week, and
an outrageous $1,200
on Tuesday through
Saturday.

Set along
the Savannah River just
across the South Carolina state line, the
River Golf Club (803-202-0110, rivergolfclub.com) is a watery Jim Fazio design
that’s asking $250 to tee it up on Tuesday
through Saturday, but call ahead because
the club might settle for something less
to fill up the tee sheet.

My advice: Go for
a history lesson among the dogwoods
at Forest Hills ($150; 706-733-0001, theforesthillsgolfcourse.com), a rolling 1926
Donald Ross design where Bobby Jones
won the 1930 Southeastern Open. It’s a
relative bargain at $75 after 2 p.m.

Best Eats
Two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw
tabs Luigi’s (706-722-4056, luigisinc.com)
in downtown Augusta as the one restaurant
on Tour that he can’t do without. Crenshaw’s
choice is the toasted ravioli with
meat sauce, but it’s the lasagna that is the
week’s runaway best seller.

Best special-occasion formal dining is
at La Maison on Telfair (706-722-4805,
lamaisontelfair.com), which is housed
in a Victorian mansion, while the French
Market Grille (706-855-5111, frenchmarketaugusta.com) is its near equal. French
Market’s frozen peanut butter pie is the
best dessert in town.

Best breakfast dive
honors go to the Whistle Stop Cafe (706-724-8224), where the mayor eats every
week, while best barbecue is Sconyers,
on the outskirts of town. Eating at the
restaurant is best — Sconyers is housed in a
log cabin, complete with water wheel — but when Jimmy Carter couldn’t break away
from the White House, he had a take-out
order flown in.

The best places to see caddies,
with or without their players, are
either TBonz Steakhouse, on Washington
Road (706-737-8325, tbonz.com), which is
closer to Augusta National, or the Gordon
Highway (706-796-1875). Be prepared to
wait. These are popular spots.


Best Places for Fun After Dinner
To catch the day’s highlights, head to
Somewhere in Augusta (706-739-0002, somewhereinaugusta.com) on Washington,
where 35 HD screens await. For
live music, the Soul Bar (706-724-8880,
soulbar.com) downtown on Broad Street
will have you back up on your (tired) feet
in no time.

Best Place to Stay
Hands down, it’s the Partridge Inn (706-
737-8888, partridgeinn.com). Dating to
1892, this is Old South grandeur at its
Gone With the Wind greatest, right down
to its creaky stairwells and wraparound
porch. Superior dining and the best Sunday
brunch in Augusta takes place at the
Partridge’s Verandah Grill. Considering
that nearly every other hotel in town is a
second- or third-tier chain establishment,
the Partridge soars. (As does its prices.
Rooms go for $750 for a king and queen,
$900 for a suite.)

Best Escape from the Golf
Augusta’s Riverwalk stretches for five
blocks along the Savannah River. Gardens,
historic buildings and monuments
will take your mind off the fact that all
five of your players missed the cut in your
office pool.

Best Rainy Day Activity
The Augusta History Museum (706-722-
8454, augustamuseum.org) is full of all
things old, highlighted by both a Masters
past-champions exhibit and a special collection
devoted to lifelong resident James
Brown. An interactive feature allows you
to dance in step with the Godfather of
Soul — I’d pay money to see a few of the
ancient Augusta National members shimmying
in their green jackets.

Best Traffic Advice
Be patient. This year a new spectator entrance
and parking area has been created
off Berckmans Road, so the usual traffic
snarls on Washington might be a thing
of the past — or not. Expect a glacial pace
on highways and side streets until they
work out the kinks by 2010.

Best Day to Attend the Masters
Wednesday is the most crowded but offers
the greatest variety. Buy your trinkets
early — and have them shipped home, so
you don’t have to lug them around. Watch
the lads on the big course in the morning,
then camp on the hill between the 8th and
the 9th holes on the par-3 course an hour
before the par-3 contest starts at 1 p.m.
Spring for the souvenir Masters beverage
cups (they’ll hold up for years) and try a
pimento-and-cheese sandwich, just to say
you did. They’re so cheap ($1.50), you’ll
have plenty of coin left over for the more
edible Masters club sandwich for a paltry
$2.50. Leave the par-3 a little early and
walk Amen Corner in virtual solitude.

Exhale.