AUGUSTA, Ga. – I finally can say I've rolled my rock on the greens of Augusta National. OK, maybe it wasn't the real deal, but these greens were as lightning quick as the real thing.
The replica putting greens of Nos. 7, 14 and 16 at Berckmans Place are the coolest thing this side of Rae's Creek and the highlight to what has to be The World's Best Sports Bar.
Tucked in an oasis behind the fifth fairway at Augusta National is a modernized version of the famed white antebellum clubhouse. The sign at the entrance reads simply, "By invitation only," but what it really takes is a $6,000 weekly badge that is the ultimate golden ticket of the Masters.
I will protect the identity of the individual who let me in on this joy ride – the things I do for you, the reader – and tell you that Berckmans Place opened in earnest in 2013 (there was a soft-opening in 2012) when the club elected to "embrace superior customer service" and build a facility "intended to be the ultimate patron respite while enjoying the excitement and pageantry of the Masters." At least that's what it says in the book for sale in the gift shop for $75.
Goal met. A golf industry know-it-all told me that Berckmans Place cost the club somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million to build, and it's open for only seven days all year, during the Masters. BP, as the regulars refer to it, is your favorite sports bar on steroids. It's a little bit like being in Las Vegas, where you know you're not in Italy but the gondola ride still feels authentic.
There are five full-service, all-inclusive themed restaurants and bars from which to choose. For you, my readers, I sampled them all. In the center is an atrium with access to three of the five restaurants: Calamity Jane's, Ike's Place and MacKenzie's. It's kind of like picking between Miss May and Miss July. Do you feel like feasting at an oyster bar or on a gourmet burger? Do you want to sit at a 40-foot bar or stare at one of 20 TVs in an outdoor setting? You can have it all. Go ahead and order seven seafood towers at Augusta's, a second-story seafood restaurant, for you and your six imaginary fans. There's no bill.
There is exclusive merchandise available at the gift shop, including the hard-to-get club logo, and even a business center for those who can't disconnect for the whole day. But what sets Berckmans Place apart is the putting green.
"Who wants to embarrass himself next?" our caddie, Ron, said.
The first putt I tried at Redbud, the 16th hole at Augusta, replicated the long-distance curler that Jack Nicklaus made en route to winning the 1975 Masters. I horse-shoed my second putt and had 10 feet coming back. It doesn't get more authentic than that.
It's a little strange being so close to the course but far enough removed that you can't hear the roars. I'd still rather watch the action in person, but there's no better “hang” in golf. You can order top-shelf liquor from sunup to sundown. My bartender at MacKenzie's, Kelbie, said you can order a scotch on the rocks at 7 a.m., and last call was at 7:10. They kick you out promptly 30 minutes after the last putt drops, which was about when I finished three-jacking the replica of the seventh green one last time.
What a day.
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @adamschupak