There is nothing quite like Masters week.
Casual sports fans suddenly become golfing diehards. Golfers wear every bit of Masters merch in their wardrobe to flex that they have been either been, or know someone who has. And the TV doesn’t get changed Fox Sports’ dedicated Masters channel.
For those of us fortunate to cover the game, the keys on laptops are nearly worn out knocking out Masters content. And for some, the greatest week in golf media happens sitting in the palatial media centre at the end of the Augusta National tournament practise fairway.
Unfortunately, Covid and other factors mean this year no dodgy Augusta area motel personally, having not had the opportunity to return (yet) since Tiger made his most remarkable comeback to win in 2019.
But still fully into the coverage thanks the club’s generous digital assistance, the chance to sneak away to the anti-Augusta came earlier in the week. A visit for a late afternoon nine holes at Bondi’s public course on top of the hill to the north of the world famous beach perhaps as far away from Augusta in every way.
RIGHT: Average shots like this one from this reporter do nothing to dampen the enjoyment of a course like 'Royal Bondi'. PHOTO: Hector McAualay.
T-shirts, beers, dog walkers and even barefoot golf, are the flavour at Bondi. Its contrast to Augusta stark and equally important to golf.
The Masters captures the imagination of all, Augusta is manicured to perfection, its membership contains some of the wealthiest people on the planet and it is the stage for some of the most memorable moments in professional golf from the biggest names to lace up a FootJoy.
Bondi is occasionally mown, members are outnumbered by green fee players more likely to be builder than boss of Microsoft and tournament golf moments would more likely come in a chook run.
But they are both still golf, and one is accessible to all.
We can all dream of playing at Augusta, and that is the case of many private clubs around the world, however, that takes nothing away from the joy you can experience on a course that any and all can play with little to no barriers to play beyond a small green fee.
Bondi was covered in young people knocking it around with skills more akin to the kids having a hit for their parent during the Par-3 Contest than The Masters proper, but from their level of enjoyment talent clearly mattered little.
"T-shirts, beers, dog walkers and even barefoot golf, are the flavour at Bondi. Its contrast to Augusta stark and equally important to golf." - Jimmy Emanuel.
There was a young man showing his girlfriend the ropes as the sun went down. And there was our three, where former Tour player turned commentator Ewan Porter espoused (and displayed) his love of retro golf equipment and Kiwi golf pro via Singapore Hector McAulay got his first Bondi experience, as we walked, talked and didn’t keep score.
The Masters gets attention on golf and certainly does bring in new golfers dazzled by the endless green and feats of the players. But to my mind, nothing attracts new golfers to take up the game like the casual and welcoming vibe of public golf.
And this week was a reminder you can love Augusta and the anti-Augusta equally.