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The road to Augusta National: Getting into the Masters, and making the most of your trip

Katharine DysonBy Katharine Dyson,
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Masters - Brandt Snedeker
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Masters tickets are hard to come by. So when you head to Augusta, be ready to make the most of the experience. (Katharine Dyson/TravelGolf)

Getting a badge to the Masters -- to plunk your green canvas chair in a good spot to watch the action, to walk the hills of azalea-lined fairways on Augusta National and snack on $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches -- is just about the hardest ticket to get in the entire sports world. Even a Super Bowl ticket is easier to snag.

Ticket prices are not that bad: Practice rounds are $50, and tournament days are $75. The catch is, those on the coveted Patrons' List get to buy two tickets each year, a yearly ritual. Only those few that do not go to patrons are available to the public through a carefully orchestrated lottery. Your chances of having your name pulled in this drawing are about as good as getting to wear a member's green jacket. Still it's worth a try. Here's what you do:

Go to Masters.com and create an account. About May you'll be notified you can enter the lottery on line (you'll have a better chance if you request practice days). In the fall you'll learn if your name was drawn, but don't plan on it.

Other options may trigger a strong case of sticker shock.

Bring lots of money

Expect to pay big bucks when you purchase tickets and packages from ticket brokers and tour operators, such as TravelMasters Augusta, where typical packages include a day or more at the Masters, lodging and extra perks like breakfasts and shuttles to the course.

EBay is another way to go, where paying with a credit card is a good thing. To add another layer of protection, look into how many good ticket transactions the seller has completed, and see if there have been any complaints.

Scalpers are out there too, waving their tickets to those threading their way along the main roads leading into the Masters. By law scalpers have to be licensed and stay 1,500 feet from the event. Scalpers' tickets have been known to sell for $1,500 on up to several thousand. Be aware of forgeries. It helps to know what a ticket looks like. Red lights include blurred printing, cheap paper, spelling and punctuation errors.

Expect hotels in and around Augusta to cost three or more times the usual rate. For example, at Comfort Suites Augusta, rooms are posted at $650 for Masters week, but check in the next week, and the rate drops to $84. At Motel Six about a mile from the course, it's not exactly the Ritz, but you'll pay $239 per night, while a week later, it will cost you $48. It's all about supply and demand. For more reasonable digs try Columbia, an hour from Augusta.

Some Augusta homeowners reap a huge bonanza during Masters week by renting out their homes, typically to organizations and companies. Check mastershousing.com

The Partridge Inn has the old Augusta cache: It's an institution. Even walking into the lobby during Masters week you never know who you will run into sipping mint juleps on the veranda. But unless someone cancels at the very last moment or you know someone important, you'll have to experience this gracious, old Southern belle at another time.

Where to play golf in the Augusta area

Even if you can't play Augusta National, there are more than a dozen very good public and semi-private courses in and around town, such as Goshen Plantation Golf Club, a fine layout designed by Ellis Maples; Pointe South Golf Club with eight lakes; Jones Creek Golf Club; Forest Hills Golf Club, a classic gem by Donald Ross dating from 1926; River Golf Club, a Jim Fazio-design; and Gordon Lakes Golf Course's 27 holes in Fort Gordon. Another good play, Bartram Trail Golf Club just west of Augusta, rolls through hardwood, pines and wetlands along Euchee Creek.

Midway between Atlanta and Augusta just off Rt. 20 is the Harbor Club On Lake Oconee, a Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish track. In and around Lake Oconee, cottages and homes are available for rental during Masters week priced about 20 percent above peak rates.

Augusta off course

When you're not at the course, you can stroll down the red brick Riverwalk along the Savannah River. Stop by the Morris Museum of Art and the Augusta Museum of History, and check out the many galleries and studios housed in 19th and early 20th century storefronts lining Broad Street.

Climb aboard a historic Petersburg boat, and cruise through the city along an 8.5-mile canal built in 1845, or take a Historic Trolley Tour around town.

If travel to Augusta is not on your agenda this year, you can always watch the Masters from your couch. Some might think that's the best seat in town. Think nachos, beer, friends -- and, hey, does anyone really like pimento cheese? Live coverage begins April 8. Get comfy.

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Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

 
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