There are so many elements factor into The Masters that make it “a tradition unlike any other”. As such, it’s one of the toughest tickets to get in all of sports, and odds are you may never get to attend in person. And I know Southern California is a breeding ground for PGA talent, but it’s even less likely you’ll ever get to play Augusta National. While no single event or golf course can quite match the magic of the second weekend in April, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience a slice of the tradition in your backyard. Here’s a breakdown of what makes The Masters, and where you can recreate moments in Southern California:
You don’t earn a rep like The Masters without an impressive catalog of historic moments. If this time of year has you feeling nostalgic for some golf history, take a trek over to the former home of the L.A. Open: Rancho Park Golf Course. Walk through the clubhouse and you’ll feel like you stepped into a time capsule, chock-full of memorabilia from the past 70+ years of golf at Rancho Park. Two points of interest: there’s a plaque under the clock on the way to the first tee commemorating the time President Clinton played the course, and another on the 18th highlighting the time Arnold Palmer took a 12 on the final hole of the 1961 L.A. Open. The Palmer plaque includes in the dedication that it stands “as an inspiration for all golfers”. Even the best have a blow-up hole sometimes.
Masters patrons rave not only about the quality of the food, including the famed pimento cheese sandwich, but the throwback pricing (you can get said sandwich for $1.50!) Unless you swing by a Costco on the way, it’s tough to match that value on a golf course. But if you’re looking for quality food at reasonable prices, you’re not without options. The Penmar (at Penmar GC obviously) was recently remastered by Venice restaurant legend Oscar Hermosillo and features unique takes on typical golf course cuisine (burgers, wings, tacos, etc.) and a solid beer and wine selection, with plenty of options coming in under $10. Another personal favorite is the tri-tip at the Sandpiper Grill, which comes in seemingly endless forms: sandwich, wrap, tacos, chili, nachos, you name it.
Magnolia Lane, blooming azaleas, towering pine trees, the bridges: Augusta National has no shortage of scenic shots. What it can’t match, though, is the sheer variety of scenery providing a backdrop to courses throughout the Southland. Where else can you be within driving distance of fantastic courses with ocean views (like Pelican Hill), or in the middle of the desert (like Rams Hill), or tucked at the base of a mountain range (Angeles National), or with stunning colorful foliage (Aviara), or below sea level (Furnace Creek GC in Death Valley), or at 7000 feet above sea level (Bear Mountain GC)? Oh BTW, SCGA members get exclusive outings at discounted rates at some of these courses and more.
The iconic holes
We may not have Amen Corner, but there are plenty of outstanding and challenging holes of golf across SoCal, some of which you’ll even see the pros tackling each year. In addition to the private courses that host the PGA Tour, Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open and 2021 US Open) and PGA West (The American Express) are open to the public, letting you play the same holes as the best golfers in the world. I dare you to step up to the tee on the 3rd hole at Torrey Pines South or the 17th on the PGA West Stadium course and resist snapping a photo for the Gram (15 on the Torrey Pines North course ain’t too shabby either).
The phone policy
This one’s easy: during The Masters, cell phones and cameras (other than credentialed media) are not allowed on the premises. Usually, I’m as guilty as anyone of using my phone to keep score and stay connected on the course, but every once and while, it’s great to just unplug from technology, use the old pencil and paper scorecard, and just enjoy the time on the course. Your mental health with thank you later.
The Par 3 Challenge
Even legends enjoy taking on a par-3 course from time to time. They can be a great place to work on your short game, introduce someone new to the game, and just enjoy a nice walk outside playing the game you love. A few short courses that hold a special place in my heart: Arcadia GC (where my dad taught my brother and I to play) and Heartwell GC (where I spent a lot of time picking the game back up after college). I’m sure you probably have a similar course near you, so why not revisit it for old time’s sake and hold your own Par 3 challenge?
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Augusta National isn’t just for the boys any more (finally). For the women out there looking to start their path towards Augusta, or just looking for some quality competition, the SCGA hosts a slate of women’s tournaments every year, including the Southern California Women’s Amateur Championship. There are 6 women who have competed in SCGA events that qualified for the 2021 Augusta National Women;s Amateur; play well enough and you could be the next.
The green jacket
Holding a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of sports “trophies” (at least in my opinion), winning a green jacket is the pinnacle of any golfer’s career. What if I told you that YOU, the 5, 15, or even 25 handicap weekend golfer, can experience the same thrill of besting the field and going home a winner? There are golf communities near you that hold weekly or monthly tournaments throughout the year, almost all of which involve net scoring meaning any player can win. Once you experience the pressure of standing over a putt to win a tourney on 18, the joy of seeing your name atop a leaderboard, and the bond you build with fellow competitors (and occasional teammates), you’re regular weekend rounds will just feel like practice.
Ready to have your own Masters Moment? Find a group near you to take your game to the next level. If your looking for even more of a challenge, check out the SCGA tournament schedule for regional qualifiers and championships.
Kevin is a born and raised Southern California golfer. His golf highlights include occasionally breaking 90, losing an entire dozen balls in one round, and sinking a 20 foot putt on camera on the first take. Kevin is a member of Tiny Putters Golf and his current Handicap Index is none of your business.