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“If there’s a golf course in heaven, I hope it’s like Augusta National. I just don’t want an early tee time.” – Gary Player
No phones allowed. Those three words are one of the scariest combinations out there after anything pertaining to forced violence and “Tonight’s feature film stars Carrot Top.” But unfortunately, in this modern and way-too-connected world, the thought of not being able to use your phone for an extended period of time or even just stare and touch it is a daunting one.
When I knew I would be attending The Masters, the most famous golf tournament in the world, I had heard that this relic was true. I wasn’t upset, as I knew this was an opportunity to experience one of the greatest sporting events in history, but I was a little scared to be without my phone for the majority of the day.
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However, when I got to the course and headed towards Amen Corner I noticed something amazing: people’s heads were up. They were looking around at this poetically beautiful golf course and not at their phones. No one was concerned about updating their Instagram Stories or Snapchat. They were just living life – and it was amazing.
Also, no one looked mad or angry or frustrated that they couldn’t use their phones (the risk of ejection also probably played into that, especially considering tickets cost about $2,500 for a Thursday or Friday badge) but perhaps, relieved and grateful for this forced disconnect.
Americans check their phones more than ever – an average of 52 times each day, according to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte. This is up from 47 times per day in 2017. Study after study points to our phone addictions leading to higher rates of depression and anxiety, especially in adults and children. So to have no choice but to leave the blue screen at home and be surrounded by lush greens and nothing but birds chirping is a pretty meditative experiment (even if you are surrounded by thousands of people in khaki shorts and polos).
A walk back in time
The Augusta National Golf Course, founded in the early 1930s by player Bobby Jones, truly lets you walk back in time. In addition to the phone ban, the prices of food are also set like it is 1962. You can have a sandwich for $3. In New York, you’d be lucky to get a bite of a bite of a sandwich for $3.
You also step back in time because people are actually dressed up for this event. Even though the 35,000-40,000 patrons aren’t actually playing golf, many are dressed like they are and ready to go at any minute. I myself wore a beautiful ensemble by Tory Sport, one of the top designers for women’s golf apparel and while surrounded by this cathedral of golf and just magnificent arboretum I did feel like I had been transported.
Of course, not all of the walking back in time is great as they only just allowed their first female members – Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore – in 2012, but this year they did hold their first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
No phone zone
The point of the phone ban, however, is to keep the focus on the golf and not on other things, like selfies. It is hard to think of another sporting event where every single second isn’t documented on social media (except for, maybe, competitive chess.) The Super Bowl is basically one big Instagram post so this is truly something original. And if you really need to speak with someone, you can use the outdoor phone stations on the course which is almost a fun gimmick at this point.
And the players appreciate the zeroed-in focus as well. “To hear actual applause for good shots, or when you step up on the tee, you don’t hear that at tournaments anymore because everyone has their phones up and they’re filming it,” Rickie Fowler said at a pre-tournament event for Mercedes-Benz, one of the only official sponsors for The Masters.
Tiger Woods has also said in multiple interviews how nice it was to not have phones involved: “It’s nice, isn’t it? You know, it’s just player and caddie out there playing. We’re prepping together, and there’s no other distractions inside the ropes.”
Now, we can’t all go to The Masters but we can all put our phones away for a few hours and pretend that if we are caught using them we will get ejected from a golf course.
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