On the eve of covering my first Masters 10 years ago, I asked the great Bob Verdi for advice.
"Don't wear high heels," Verdi shot back, referencing the deceptively hilly Augusta National.
"Do not run," the 19-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year warned. "Do not take your shirt off. Do not yell. Do not sprawl on the grass like you're taking a nap. Don't bring a beverage. Or plan a picnic.
"And don't think of bringing in anything with batteries. No cellphones, iPods, radios, Walkmans. If you have a pacemaker, I don't know what you would do with it."
Proud to say I've violated only two of those rules. One time I began jogging to what's called the flash area to grab quotes from a player who I feared was about to leave. Two paces in, I heard a voice: "Don't run."
I turned around to find ... no one. It was as if God were reminding me.
Another time I exited the media center, called the Press Building, with an iced tea. An attendant shook his head. "Water only," he said.
Augusta National loves its rules. There is no stricter one than the ban on cellphones. Patrons, as they're called at the Masters, must leave them in their car. Even if spectators are willing to check their phones at the gate, they risk lifetime banishment. Seriously.
There's a bank of pay phones near the giant scoreboard off the first fairway, and fans can place free calls anywhere in the U.S. But no one can remember anyone's number anymore, so they get little activity.
There's also an area to scribble "paper tweets" - scrawl out a message and share it online when you get home.
The no-cell rule probably has kept the digital-camera business afloat. Fans can snap pictures during practice rounds Monday-Wednesday. It also means spectators are cut off from the outside world. How blissful.
Rather than staring down at their phones, they look up at one another. They chit-chat, spreading rumors like: "I heard Tiger took an illegal drop on 15."
And their instantaneous scoring updates come by judging the roars. Solid roar for a birdie. Extended rumble for an eagle. And when Louis Oosthuizen holed out on No. 2 for a double eagle in 2012, landing on the front edge and rolling perhaps 100 feet, the place went mad.
Media are permitted to use cellphones in the Press Building. Broadcaster and former tour player Charlie Rymer reportedly got clipped in 2011, prompting a walk of shame.
There's no appeals process, no arbitration. The Masters, it has been said, is the world's best-run dictatorship. Some players chafe at all the rules and some media members advance conspiracy theories that the chirping noises from the trees are artificial. But the vast, vast majority inside the gates would summarize the experience by borrowing a line from "The Lego Movie": Everything is awesome.
1. The grounds are immaculate.
A stray sandwich wrapper (green to match the lush grass) is treated like a loose ball at the Final Four. Cigarette butts are as common as bullhorns. No matter the weather, the azaleas are in bloom.
2. Parking is free and close to the grounds.
Masters officials have purchased neighboring property for decades, spending tens of millions to construct more lots. One family has famously declined offers to sell and have their three-bedroom home, built in 1959, demolished.
3. A Masters badge is worth about 10-25 times the purchase price.
Practice-round tickets cost $75 and a one-day tournament ticket has a face value of $115. The asking price on StubHub for the least expensive Thursday badge was - holy Sergio - $3,000. And admission to Berckmans Place, Augusta National's ultra-exclusive hospitality area featuring three perfectly conditioned replica greens (Nos. 7, 14 and 16), is priceless.
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4. Concessions prices are from the Jimmy Carter era.
Sandwiches range from $1.50 for the signature, love-it-or-leave-it pimento cheese to $3 for the classic chicken. Last year a bottle of water fetched $1.50, and domestic beer was $4.
5. There's no signage on the course.
If you want tacky, stop by the Hooters on Washington Road to buy John Daly's autograph.
6. Patrons typically dress in golf shirts and sundresses.
Save the jeans for your steak dinner at nearby TBonz. And they behave with a level of dignity seen at few sporting events. As ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt put it last week: "When guys hit a drive, no one screams 'Baba Booey!' or 'Mashed potatoes!' People know not to act foolish."
7. The Golf Shop is a massive (64 registers, 385 mannequins), upscale emporium where offerings range from ball marks to dog collars to garden gnomes to cuff links to more than 200 varieties of hats.
Or as they're called within the walls, headgear. Some fans spend $200-$300 for a late Monday afternoon secondhand ticket just for access to the shop. Purchases can be boxed and shipped next door at the massive UPS station.
8. The public restrooms are a trip.
Attendants mix humor with the oratory skills of an auctioneer: "Got a shaker open on the south end!" Other golf-y lines as reported in a HuffPost.com piece: "No mulligans allowed ... keep your head down at all times ... no waiting on the tee."
9. Big Brother is alive and well in the Press Building.
When media members take a seat in the interview room, a microphone reads a chip in the reporter's badge, allowing moderators to call on questioners by name. It's both polite and a bit eerie.
10. Some 28 media members will be selected, via lottery, to play the course Monday with Sunday pins.
They will be given a caddie and a spot in the Champions Locker Room and asked not to arrive more than an hour before their tee time. They will be told: Take as many photos and videos as you like (with a camera), but we'd prefer you not put it on social media. Writers are informed over the weekend via an announcement board and typically, here's how every conversation goes ...
Reporter: "Honey, great news. I won the Masters lottery!"
Spouse: "So you're saying you're not coming home till Tuesday."
Win the lottery, and you can't apply again for seven more years. (In case you're curious, I last played in 2010.)
_Bottom line, there is nowhere on the planet where anyone would rather be - spectators, media members, caddies and players. Especially players. Jason Day called it "spiritual." The three other majors have fields of 156 players. The Masters is an invitational with a field that typically numbers 95-100.
Weather delays do not wreck this event. Nothing wrecks this event.
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