It’s the dream of every golf nut, especially anyone who cares about course design. To tread the magical fairways of Augusta National Golf Club, Pine Valley or Cypress Point is the stuff of magical fantasy.
Unless you are extremely well-connected to a member and get a precious invitation, access behind the gates of these legendary tracts is beyond the realm of possibility. But now comes a new way to see these places, even if entry does not include the right to play a round.
Try spectating. It’s the easiest, least expensive way to get a first-hand look at some of the layouts that have defined the early history of course design.
Tickets to The Masters are annually sold out well in advance, with a wait list that hardly moves and third-party prices that run four digits for a day. But now the club is opening its grounds for $75 on the Saturday before The 2019 Masters for the final round of the first annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur. That final is slated for April 6, following two days of play at Champions Retreat Golf Club in town – for which tickets are free. (The final round at Augusta will also be broadcast on NBC.)
Access for the ANWA finals at Augusta National is only available online via an online application process. Applications are being accepted through Sept. 30, with a maximum of two tickets per order. The tickets can’t be resold or transferred. The club won’t say how many tickets are available, as they never discuss attendance numbers. But it does constitute the best chance in a long time for the general public folks to get an affordable peek at one of the world’s most magnificent golf courses.
One of Augusta's few rivals in terms of prestige is New Jersey's Pine Valley Golf Club, which has been opening its gates to golfers in the know each September. There, the public is welcome to accompany the two finals matches (mid-am and senior divisions) of the Crump Cup, one of golf’s most prestigious privately sponsored events. Tickets are only $25, with parking available near the club entrance and a casual lunch menu available on the grounds.
Down the road, architecture junkies have more events to get excited about, as the USGA has announced the 2021 Walker Cup for Seminole Golf Club in Florida and the 2025 Walker Cup at Cypress Point Club in California.
No, it’s not the same as playing the course. But access like this at least gives serious golf fans a chance to experience first-hand the places that have helped define classic golf architecture.