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Monday, May 20, 2024

Cheap Sandwiches, Pricey Shirts, and the Wild World of the Masters

  • The Masters is underway at Augusta National Golf Club.
  • Fans are as excited as ever for the first major championship of the year.
Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network

The Masters teed off Thursday morning, undeterred by a brief rain delay. A little moisture in the sky wasn’t nearly enough trouble to keep tens of thousands of patrons from entering the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, which this week is basking in its annual spotlight as the only place any lover of the game would want to be. It truly becomes a de facto Disney World for golf.

This week, some traditions remain unchanged, new ones are being formed, and the hype around golf’s most popular tournament is still growing.

I’ll Drink to That

The pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches at Augusta National are still $1.50 each, but beer prices at the Masters have gone up by $1: patrons’ choice of domestic, import, or the Crow’s Nest craft brew now costs $6, as opposed to $5. That modest increase hasn’t slowed down sales, though, as plenty of fans were spotted earlier this week with huge stacks of both frosted white and green Masters-branded plastic cups—an easy fan favorite souvenir. But perhaps to the chagrin of some ticket holders, liquor is offered only in hospitality areas. “Where did you get those?” was a common question heard during Monday and Tuesday practice rounds as some lucky attendees, who can take said beverages out on the course, carried around cocktails like the flagship azalea.

Market Demand

You won’t find too many images online of the heralded Masters merchandise shop, where photography is prohibited, and outside brands are almost nonexistent (Peter Millar does have a Masters collaboration offered in-store). This week, a standard Masters golf polo is going for $89, but the hottest item has been the Masters garden gnome, which has gained a cult-like following throughout the years. One cashier said gnomes were selling out within 20 to 40 minutes of opening. They cost $50 at Augusta National but can resell for thousands of dollars online.

Off the Course

While the sanctity of Augusta National is unmistakable on-site, once you step away from the revered property, everything changes. Former major champion John Daly’s weeklong party at a Hooters just a mile away from the Masters is still a huge draw. In between exits on I-20 for Washington Road and the Bobby Jones Expressway sits a vast billboard for Augusta’s X-Mart Adult Supercenter. Ticket scalpers on the side of the road make no bones about squeezing every penny they can out of fans: Prices for Thursday’s first round had dropped to $1,400 due to the forecast, one scalper said early Wednesday.

Sky High

Of course, Augusta is a hot spot for golf fans this week, but it’s also the place to be for anyone looking to get big business done. Airports in Augusta and Atlanta, which is more than a two-hour drive away, are seeing a 38% increase in business travel this week as opposed to Masters week last year, according to bookings made by FCM, the corporate travel division of Flight Centre Travel Group. Compared to other big sporting events, business travel into Atlanta this week is up 120% over a weeklong span in October 2021, when the Braves were in the World Series, and up 730% from late December ’22, when Georgia played Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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