Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is so named because the windfall from the Christmas shopping season supposedly puts retailers in the black for the year.
For courses in and around Augusta, Ga., Masters week is roughly their equivalent to Black Friday.
Even the area’s private clubs throw open their doors to visitors during Masters week, offering more playing options for individuals, small groups and large outings. These tee times, of course, come at a premium. You know how it goes – they have the limited supply, you have the ample demand.
With that in mind, here are some of the best places to play around Augusta during tournament week.
Aiken Golf Club
This might be one of the best golf deals you’ll ever find, Masters week or otherwise. Aiken GC dates to 1912, and like so many courses of that era, Donald Ross’ fingerprints are on it. It’s said to be the first U.S. course to have built tees specifically for ladies. The club has survived some tumultuous times – Depression, city ownership, a return to private ownership – before the layout underwent a total makeover 20 years ago. It only tips out around 5,800 yards but is a sheer delight – especially for the $30 weekday green fee.
Masters week rate: $100/player
The name says it all. This friendly 27-hole club was the product of a rare design collaboration between Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who combined for 13 Masters victories. During Masters week, Champions Retreat offers luxury rental homes and live musical guests. It also has an expansive culinary program and facilities to accommodate large groups.
Masters week rate: $2,200/foursome (Monday-Tuesday, Sunday); $2,500/foursome (Wednesday-Saturday); rate includes forecaddie base fee (but not tip), cart fee, taxes, and all-you-can-eat-and-drink breakfast and lunch.
Forest Hills Golf Club
This 1926 Donald Ross design serves as the home course for Augusta University. It tips out at 7,140 yards and is known for its generous fairways.
Masters week rate: $160; $50 replay rate; $80 twilight rate
Goshen Plantation Golf Club
This is one of the better deals around Augusta, given Goshen Plantation’s decision to cut its Masters week rate in half. What players get for their money is a 1968 Ellis Maples parkland design that tips out at 7,400 yards.
Masters week rate: $50 (includes cart)
Jones Creek Golf Club
Located just northwest of Augusta, this is a Rees Jones design that underwent some fine-tuning by Tom Fazio. It also is home to the Jones Creek Golf Center, which has sheltered hitting bays, V1 video analysis and Flightscope 3-D motion-tracking technology.
Masters week rate: $150 (Monday) $225 (Tuesday-Sunday)
Mount Vintage Golf Club
North Augusta, Ga.
Mount Vintage opens the week with Armed Forces Appreciation Day on Monday for the troops from nearby Fort Gordon. Those Monday shotguns are just the start of some pretty serious programming here during Masters week. That includes bourbon tastings Tuesday, Macallan tastings on Wednesday, local microbrews Thursday (are you starting to sense a theme here?), a wine tasting Friday and a margarita mixer Saturday.
Masters week rate: $200/person Monday-Tuesday;
Palmetto Golf Club
Located just across the state line, Palmetto arguably has a more interesting history than Augusta National. The first four holes were laid out in 1892, and Herbert Leeds eventually completed the remaining 14 holes with an assist from James Mackrell, the club’s original pro. In subsequent years, Donald Ross and Alister MacKenzie played a role in modernizing the design with irrigation and grass greens. It still has the quaintness and quirks that we love in the great classics. Then there’s the 1902 clubhouse, designed by Stanford White of Shinnecock Hills fame, that oozes the history of the place.
Masters week rate: $250 per player (includes cart, range balls, lunch and taxes)
The Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation
This 36-hole facility has a Jack Nicklaus design and a Fuzzy Zoeller-Clyde Johnston collaboration. Founded in 2002, the club has a lovely clubhouse
with an impressive culinary program.
Masters week rate: VIP Package is $370 per person Tuesday-Saturday (includes unlimited golf on day of play, complimentary bar, exclusive access to VIP Masters suite, and more); Club Package is $225 Monday, Sunday and Thursday shotguns (includes cart, lunch)