What it's like to be a VIP guest at the US Masters

It is the Golden Ticket of sports. Attending the US Masters is not simply a matter of deciding you'd like to fly over for golf's Holy Grail of tournaments, held at the great green cathedral of Augusta National in Georgia. Unlike any other sporting event, tickets are not really intended for common folk.

Access to the event, the only one of golf's four majors to be held at the same venue for 81 years, is strictly controlled by what is one of the world's most exclusive clubs.

(Famously, even women weren't allowed to join, until they finally caught up with the times in 2012 and made Condoleezza Rice the first female member).

There is no application process for Augusta National, membership is invite-only and those who get in are people like American Presidents and captains of industry, and it is they who are given the bulk of the tickets to The Masters (no one knows how many tickets there are, and the club isn't saying).

In 2012, a lottery was introduced, so that a very few lucky punters would be allowed to walk amongst the privileged on the course's incomparably manicured grounds, but before that tickets had not been available to the general public since 1972.

Show me the money

Human greed being what it is, of course, some people are willing to sell their Golden Tickets, for the right amount of gold, and while ticket agencies say they are the hardest to get, and the most expensive in world sport – just ahead of the Super Bowl – they can be had, for a price.

This year, agencies were offering single-day passes for between $3200 and $6950, or one of the coveted seven-day clubhouse passes for $45,350.

Other than paying through the nose, the only way to even gaze upon the hallowed grounds (unlike other great sporting venues, visitors are not allowed when the tournament is not on) is to somehow be invited as a sponsor's guest.

Hey big spender

The Masters really puts the large into corporate largesse, as well, with beautiful "cabins" hidden in the forests behind a few fairways (they're not even on the course maps, "for privacy reasons"), with their own private putting greens, so you can see for yourself just how impossible Augusta is to play, and five-star hospitality.


Mercedes-Benz is one of the tournament's biggest sponsors and just one of its lanyards, and its perks, is rumoured to be valued at more than $13,000 a day.

Those who make the Mercedes list are generally either the company's best-performing dealers or those dealers' biggest-spending customers.

So consider buying as many Benzes as you can, immediately, because the Masters really is a thrilling and unforgettable event.

A trip through time

It's not just the unfeasible beauty and perfection of the course itself, where even the fairways feel more like some green giant's beard stubble than grass and the greens, mown up to six times a day, have underground Sub-Air hydronic fans, to keep every manicured blade at the right temperature.

And it's not just the level of play you see from the world's best golfers in such carefully prepared conditions, which, this year in particular, as Justin Rose battled it out with eventual winner Sergio Garcia, was breathtaking.

Above all, The Masters is a trip through time, because it's a sporting event entirely untouched by modernity. There are no advertising hoardings or digital screens here, and  both cameras and mobile phones are not even allowed through the gates (if you're found with one, as two members of the media discovered this year, you'll be marched out and have your ticket ripped up), so the only way to keep up with the scores is via the old, metal scoreboards, which only change when they're good and ready.

Manners maketh the member

Nor is there any need for the southern-polite, how-y'all-doin' marshals to hold up little signs saying "Quiet" when a player goes to swing, because the crowds are too well-drilled, too knowledgeable, to need telling. They don't even yell "Get in the hoooole" that much.

If it weren't for the 300-yard-long drives the players hit with their massive woods, it could be 20 years ago, or 40. You can buy a BBQ sandwich for $3, or a famous Pimento Cheese one for $1.50, and a pint of craft beer will set you back just $5.

The prices seem strangely cheap for a crowd that contains so many cigar-smoking billionaires, who spend more than $35 million a year on Masters merchandise (one guy in front of me dropped $1000).

Bucket-list stuff

As you would expect, a few Australians do somehow find their way into Augusta, and you can hear them shouting "c'mon Scotty" on whichever hole Adam Scott is playing.

Michael Bryant, 47, of Melbourne, who didn't want to discuss how much his "trip of a lifetime" had cost him, said it had been worth every cent.

"You just have no idea how beautiful this place is until you come here; it's amazing, bucket-list stuff," he said.

"It's not just better than I thought it would be, it's twice as good."

Sounds like a kid in a chocolate factory.