It's what's known in the golf course maintenance business as the "Augusta effect," and high definition TV has only amplified it.
Over the past 30 or 40 years especially, the maintenance staff at Augusta National has set the standard extremely high for golf course superintendents everywhere.
Golfers watch the Masters on TV and salivate over the beauty and perfection. And if you've never been to Augusta National during tournament week and think that maybe that's just the way it looks on television, think again. It is that perfect.
Peter Grass, the newly elected president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, knows how unfair this is to superintendents.
"Superintendents are being asked to do more with less -- less money, less staff and less water. There are high costs directly related to golf course management," said Grass, who is superintendent at Hilands Golf Club in Billings, Mont. "However, golfers' high expectations have not changed. They still want their courses to be impeccable. Despite the challenges, superintendents also want their courses to offer exceptional play on healthy turf. Every day, they strive to provide the best possible conditions to customers."
Eric Bauer, the director of agronomy at the new Bluejack National Golf Club north of Houston, knows a little about trying to emulate Augusta's conditioning. The exclusive course, which was designed by Tiger Woods, has a definite Augusta look to it, and it's expected to have that Augusta look.
But even then, with a generous maintenance budget at an exclusive club, Bauer will tell you (below) that there are other ways Augusta National has an advantage.
So yes, Augusta really shouldn't be setting the standard, as it were; it's unattainable for all but a very few. Here, then, are 10 reasons it's unreasonable for most golfers to compare their home course to Augusta National Golf Club.
10. Good help is hard to find, but not for Augusta National
Augusta National gets the very best people to mow greens, blow leaves, rake bunkers and put out fresh pine needles. "If you were to ask a majority of superintendents today labor is becoming more and more a challenge," Bauer says. "Today's worker is getting harder to find and motivate."
9. Augusta also gets the best volunteers during Masters Week
When you see that army of mowers sweeping the fairways after play each day, those aren't members of Augusta's regular maintenance staff; many of those guys and gals are superintendents at some pretty high-profile courses around the world, doing specific tasks normally associated with regular crew members. In fact, just go ahead and multiply the crew by 10 during tournament week and imagine most of those guys with mowers and blowers having turfgrass degrees. That's Augusta National.
8. Augusta attracts the very best young talent, too
What budding superintendent or tech wouldn't want to work at Augusta National? Every year, the club gets flooded with resumes from all over the country and from the very best turgrass schools. As Bauer says, "Augusta probably has its pick of the best of the best coming out of school or wishing to complete internships, only to have the opportunity to put ANGC on their resume."
7. No carts are allowed at Augusta National -- ever
Forget the 90-degree rule, this is an all-walking, caddie course that is not going to be ruined by those pesky golf carts driving all over its pristine fairways. (Ironically, Club Car is headquartered in Augusta, Ga.) So, right there, Augusta National gets a lot less wear and tear than your home course.
6. Augusta National isn't natural
Not to imply that the folks at ANGC are doing anything harmful to the environment, but you don't get conditions like that without spending a lot of money on pesticides, herbicides, wetting agents and the like. So if you're the type who likes your golf course as natural as possible, you can forget it looking like the one on Magnolia Lane.
5. Greens Stimped at 13 and above would slow down play
If you want really fast smooth greens, think about the average golfer. Inducing three- and four-putts all over the place -- especially on weekends -- would grind play to a halt. Who wants that?
4. Perfect conditions and affordable green fees don't go together
It takes pretty much an unlimited budget to produce perfect conditions, and the members at Augusta not only have deep pockets, but they get a boatload of TV money, too. Of course there are a few private clubs and even some resort courses around the country that have close-to-perfect conditions, but they aren't exactly affordable for the masses. So if you're looking for any kind of value golf, you really have to learn to overlook a few flaws.
3. Without a lot of play, great conditions are easier to maintain
Though Augusta National isn't in the habit of disclosing how many rounds they get (ANGC staff isn't even available to comment for articles), you can bet it's less than your club, unless you're a one-percenter. Much less. There are days where Augusta might get two or three groups, and that's not abnormal. Without much play, it's much easier to give a golf course some serious TLC.
2. What's wrong with firm and fast?
It takes a lot of water to make a course as green as Augusta National, which has an incredible irrigation and drainage system that keeps it from getting soggy. For most courses, that kind of watering would mean an awfully soft golf course, the opposite of say, Chambers Bay near Seattle, which was heavily criticized for its brownish-green look during the 2015 U.S. Open. But let's face it, most golfers want their drives to roll out, and they want to be able to bounce a ball up onto the green, which is very difficult if you're watering a course to keep it super green.
1. No summertime golf at Augusta National
On TV we see Augusta National in all its glory with the azaleas in bloom, the fairways and greens perfect and the weather conducive for growing cool-season grasses. In the summer, that doesn't work so well, so the course is closed, and it doesn't have to endure the stress of hot weather with people taking divots and making ball marks on its perfect greens. As the GCSAA's Grass says, "Superintendents face challenges from Mother Nature, whether it's a rough winter or summer drought conditions. But, superintendents are problem solvers, and they know the best ways possible to deal with whatever Mother Nature brings.