Arguably one of the most hallowed events in U.S. sports, the Masters Tournament holds an appeal that almost no other sporting event matches. This year’s tournament, which will be held for the 80th time at Augusta National Golf Club, takes place from April 7 to 10 and is the first major of 2016. Here’s what you need to know about spending Masters week in Augusta, Georgia.
Augusta’s main transportation hub is Augusta Regional Airport, which accommodates both commercial and private aircraft. During Masters Week, the airport shuts down its second runway to make extra space for business jets to park and adds more than 100 extra staffers to accommodate the increase in passengers. “We take pride that it’s a Georgia event and we want to make sure we do a good job,” says Ken Hinkle, director of aviation services for the airport. “We’re the welcome mat for the entire state, and in some cases the country.”
The Masters is the one of the largest yearly events for private aviation, and Hinkle says nearly every top operator works with the airport to fly clients in for the tournament. In addition to Augusta Regional, the area has three other airports, which work together to accommodate planes throughout the week. Aiken Municipal Airport, Daniel Field and Thomson-McDuffie County Airport are all FBOs located within an hour of Augusta National.
Stay and Play
Hotel accommodations are notoriously hard to find in Augusta and the surrounding areas during Masters week. That’s why renting a house with multiple bedrooms and living space can be ideal for big groups. Champions Retreat, a golf club with resort-like amenities located in Evans, Georgia, about 40 minutes from Augusta National, is a good choice. The 27-hole private golf club is open to the public only during Masters week, when it has furnished four- to eight-bedroom cottages available for rental on the property in addition to homes in the surrounding housing development. Each cottage is equipped with a kitchen where one of the club’s chefs can prepare group dinners, but there is also a restaurant on-site (that delivers room service).
The real draw of Champions Retreat is the golf—three nine-hole courses designed by the sport’s three greats: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. The courses are surprisingly different, and each is challenging (particularly Player’s nine, the Creek). Palmer’s nine, the Island, is the most picturesque and features sweeping views of the Savannah River from the fifth hole, where there’s also a deck that members can reserve to host al fresco dinners. Regardless of whether you stay there, it’s worth taking advantage of Masters week and making a tee time—the course is open to nonmembers for only one week out of the year.
Contact: Lauri DeNicolo, 706.854.6966, championsretreat.net
Away from Augusta
If you’re planning to do business in Atlanta during the week, the Mandarin Oriental in Buckhead will provide you with round-trip transportation to and from Augusta National with its “Get to the Golf Course on Time” package. Atlanta is a three-hour drive from Augusta, but if you’re planning to spend only a day or two at the tournament, this package helps avoid the hassle of finding a hotel and flying into Augusta. The promotion runs April 2 to 11 and includes a night in the hotel and transportation to and from the golf course in a WiFi-equipped town car (a packed breakfast is also included).
Package starts at $1,615 per night.
During the Tournament
Tickets to the Masters are hard to obtain, but the most elusive ticket is to a hospitality suite many people have never heard of. In 2013, Augusta National opened Berckmans Place, and it has been called the “most exclusive and elaborate hospitality site in all of sports.” The 90,000-square-foot building is located on the fairway of the fifth hole and has five restaurants, a pro shop and three putting greens, replicas of the 7th, 14th and 16th greens on the course. Tickets are $6,000 for a weeklong pass, but they’re available only to members and corporations that have relationships with the tournament.
Luckily, many companies set up hospitality suites for clients during the event. Private aviation company Wheels Up will host a hospitality house April 6 to 10, an air-conditioned space just outside the gates of Augusta National for members to store phones (they’re not allowed inside the club), eat and entertain guests when they’re not watching the tournament, according to Jamie Jaffe, the company’s SVP of marketing. On April 7, Wheels Up hosts its annual Wheels Down at the Masters party, an evening event featuring golf analyst Nick Faldo, PGA Tour golfer Graeme McDowell and other golf commentators and sportscasters.
NetJets’ suite was named a top travel experience of 2015 in Worth’s Excellence Issue, and the company will host events for owners again this year. Among the guests scheduled to mingle with its owners are PGA Tour sportscaster Jim Nantz, PGA Tour pros and a yet-to-be-named Grammy-nominated singer.