AUGUSTA, Ga. — When the gates to Augusta National opened just before 8 a.m. on Friday, fans came streaming in by the thousands. (Speed) walking, not running of course. Many surrounded the first tee to get in position for the opening shots of a wet, gloomy morning. Others headed down toward Amen Corner and all points in between. The Masters was abuzz thanks to a stacked leader board that includes major killer Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and others.
The atmosphere was in stark contrast to the one inside the clubhouse. If you’re looking for one of the quietest spots on the property during Masters week, you’ll find it in one of the most unlikely of places, just down the hall from the members’ grill.
The Masters locker room.
A player here, a player there. A day earlier, Henrik Stenson noshed on some oatmeal at one of the three tables in the adjacent dining area, ESPN barely audible on the television above. Local boy Charles Howell III changed his shoes and sorted out the usual tools of the trade at his locker. Kevin Tway sat in front of his, zoned out listening to whatever was playing on his AirPods. Shane Lowry was in, then he was out in the bat of an eyelash.
Every now and then another player would come, but they didn’t stay long. More often they didn’t come at all.
How could this be? Golf locker rooms around America are often the social center of the club. And when said club hosts the biggest golf tournament of the year, it would seem only natural that it would be a hive of commotion. But that’s not the case at the Masters.
As to why, blame it on the club’s own largesse. In 2010, Augusta National opened a sprawling and sporty 400-yard-long driving range—complete with a massive caddie shack at the far end. Actually, it’s more like a caddie resort. So much so that players find themselves crashing there almost as much as the bag men they employ. Inside, each caddie gets his own locker, there’s club storage, a nice spread of food, showers and TVs. A few years ago, Rory McIlroy practically took up residence in the joint watching soccer and golf. Many have followed suit.
It’s understandable. After turning down Magnolia Lane, players can duck into a lot that’s adjacent to the range, hop out and get on with their day, avoiding all the hubbub surrounding the more formal clubhouse at the end of the road.
“I could see why guys use that one,” says Howell. He could be forgiven. This is his first Masters since 2012.
“It’d be nice to be in the other one,” he adds. It’s a reference to the Champions Locker Room, which is upstairs in the clubhouse, overlooks Magnolia Lane and requires its occupants to have their names etched on a certain trophy that sits downstairs.
As far as the one for all the other competitors, though, it ain’t all that bad.
The room, which serves as the Members’ locker room the other 51 weeks of the year, is not big—roughly 40 feet by 20 feet, with about 280 wooden lockers. Gold nameplates for Lynn Swann, Charlie Yates, Jimmy Dunne and Walter Driver, among other ANGC members, adorn them, though they gladly give up the space for the week.
The carpet is plush Masters green and the view pretty sweet, too. Through a couple sets of French doors is a lovely view of the first tee, the adjacent ninth green and the rest of the land as it spills downward.
In front of one of those doors is a Power-Plate exercise machine. According to the company’s website, the device gives the body’s muscles a high-speed workout by using vibrations to stimulate them to contract and relax. Its vibrations cause an automatic reflex muscle contraction of 30 to 50 a second, which the company touts as a great time-saver due to the many muscle groups that are activated at the same time. It claims to have the effectiveness of a 60-minute workout in just 10 minutes. Busy people those Augusta members are, after all.
It also looks rather dusty.
In another corner is one of those little metal putting cups. Logo: The Masters. Of course. Though no one seems to have used it in quite some time. Why would they given the practice facilities outside?
A couple of locker-room attendants mill about, eager to provide whatever is needed. “Yeah, quiet morning,” one of them says.
Elsewhere around the room are a handful of travel golf bags atop the lockers. A stack of Masters flags sits on the benches, left by players in hopes other players will sign so that they can be given away at charity events, but they only have a few signatures each.
On the flip side, it’s the one last, quiet place, save for a restroom, to gather one’s thoughts before heading to the first tee. There’s a serenity about it and plenty of history of course by those who have come before.
But like Howell said, everyone’s trying to get to that other locker room. Not the shiny new one built a few years ago, but the one upstairs.