By Brendon Elliott, PGA
The Masters Tournament is without question a tradition unlike any other, and with its opening in 2010, the tournament practice facilities at Augusta National Golf Club could definitely be called a practice facility unlike any other.
“The Tournament has certainly grown, and we have to accommodate the changes in the game (and) the need for the practice that they require…and as we are doing that, we are driven by the concept of doing it better than anybody else, and so that’s what you see out there.”
~ Former Augusta National Chairman, Billy Payne in 2010 regarding the new Masters Tournament Practice Facility
I made my first trip to The Masters in the same year that the current tournament practice facility was opened. Since then, and except for the COVID years of 2020 and 2021, I have attended every year since. I estimate that I have clocked at least 150 hours of time watching participants warm up from the bleachers that set the backdrop for the facility. I absolutely love this part of the Masters and the Augusta National experience.
The practice facility sits on 18-acres of land where thousands of cars used to be parked during Masters week. As I walked through the gates of Augusta National for the first time in 2010 and saw the practice facility to my left, it literally took my breath away. I heard chatter among other patrons who had been on the grounds in prior years of their disbelief of how this beautiful area was a parking lot one year earlier.
Prior to the current facility’s opening, the competitors would use the practice area in front of the clubhouse, which is situated going out towards Washington Road and alongside famed Magnolia Lane. The old range is only 260 yards long and needed a 105-foot-tall net at its far end to keep shots from going onto Washington Road. Because of ever- evolving equipment enhancements, and players being able to hit the ball farther, that barrier was heightened to keep balls on the property. The range now being used during the Masters is 400 yards long, able to accommodate even the longest of hitters…for now.
The Masters Tournament practice facility is for the most part, only for use by the players competing in the Masters, the Augusta National Womens Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. With one or two exceptions, the members of Augusta National still use the old practice facilities during the year.
The Components of Augusta National’s World Class Practice Facility
The entire facility was designed by renowned golf course architect, Tom Fazio. The range itself can accommodate roughly 36 players comfortably. The tee is a Bermuda variety that is overseeded with Rye and is cut at a height of 5/16”. The design of the range is more or less a V-shape formation, with pine trees about 235 yards out splitting the fairways and allowing players to practice a draws and fades from any point on the main tee. The target greens are sprinkled at distances of 75, 150, 180 and 210 yards. The shortest target green, at 75 yards, mirrors the look and feel, complete with the bunkering, to that of the second hole on the course, the famed par 5. The target greens, like the course greens, are an A1 Bentgrass variety and are cut at 1/8” in height.
The patron viewing area behind the range tee is a permanent grandstand feature. It was expanded in 2012 to accommodate up to 600 patrons.
The Short Game Area
The short game area is made up of two greens and five bunkers. Much like the design of the range, which mirrors many of the looks that competitors will find on the course, the short game area allows players to practice shots that they will find around the greens on the golf course. The target greens, with the same A1 Bentgrass variety found on the course greens, and cut at the same height of 1/8”, give the players the same test they will see on the golf course.
The Practice Facility Putting Green
Similar in size to the one behind the No. 1 tee, the green on the Masters Practice Facility is used by players who want to put in some serious practice and fine tuning prior to tournament play. This green is maintained at the same speed as the greens on the main course and are of the same A1 Bentgrass variety, cut at 1/8” in height. The practice green near the No. 1 tee is intended more for last-minute warm-ups.
Golf Services Building
This building on the far side of the practice facility has the look and feel of Augusta National’s clubhouse. With its colonnade, caddies, players, members and staff have an area to sit, relax and share stories of Masters gone by. Beyond the building, near Washington Road, club repair and fitness trailers are situated and provide access to the competitors during tournament week. The building serves all caddie functions, including club storage and lockers. Inside there is also a grill and seating area to rest.
“It’s the Masters. It’s Augusta National. Their practice facility was really, really good before the addition, and now it’s off the chain, as they say…It’s as good as you’ll ever see.”
~ Zach Johnson, 2007 Masters Champion