Alastair Mclean’s unforgettable trip to Augusta

It’s Masters golf week and the eyes of the sporting world will be on Augusta.

For our Duddingston professional sights and sounds will be a trip down memory lane being one of a privileged few from these parts invited to play the iconic course.

Alastair McLean’s opportunity came through a fellow pro’s friendship with an Augusta member and although that ‘round of rounds’ took place 22 years ago the fact that virtually every shot can be recalled says so much about the experience.

Are the greens THAT fast, are the drives so TIGHT as indicated by television? And how relaxed can you feel in the clubhouse? I wanted to know.

Alastair says: “What I most remember is that on so many holes there is a need to hit up and over a hill or you won’t have a shot in to the green. It is so steep in parts.

“Greens are no faster, in my experience, than, say, Muirfield but you have to hit to the right area or the slopes take their toll.

“What also struck me is that it’s hard, even for a club golfer, to lose a ball as there is virtually no rough. Just trees. And you’d have to dump a shot in the water to be penalised.

“Away from the course I was taken with quirky aspects such as brass plaques being displayed to indicate which members are out on the course at any given time.

“And when being shown around the clubhouse I noticed that the Crow’s Nest bedroom which accommodates the two invited amateur champions is little more than a very small attic.

“I was fortunate to play just after a five month annual closure for maintenance but I was assured that with the course back in play conditions are always as close as possible to when the Masters takes place in April.”

In his highly readable book “A Major Obsession”, described as a “fan slam” as it is an account of attending the four top tournaments in a single year, Edinburgh enthusiast Kenny Reid makes some shrewd observations about Augusta.

For example, Kenny, noted that the Masters clubhouse is decorated from a van emblazoned “Floral and Hardy”.

And, when it comes to bringing alive the sights, sounds and, er, smells of the Majors, where better to look than Augusta, again, as he reveals: “WC staff usher patrons to use urinals and those who need a more substantial evacuation are met upon exiting their stall by an employee who sprays some fresh scent into the air, saving the next patron from noxious odours.”

Clearly there are some benefits to playing in November, as our Mr McLean did, rather than April!

Who will pick up the scent of success from Thursday? Maybe Alastair’s pro shop will be the place to ask having acquired a closer feel for golf’s equivalent to Shangri-La than most of us could ever dream of.