From what I could tell, all the regulars at The Patch have some sort of link to the Masters or Augusta National, which is just a few miles down the road. The courses are sort of kissing cousins. Jariah (Jerry) Beard, Fuzzy Zoeller's caddie when Fuzzy won the '79 Masters, plays The Patch four or five times a week, often breaking his age, which is 70. He told me how he pulled clubs and read greens for Fuzzy 32 years ago. He told me how a hand grenade found on The Patch's 8th hole two years ago by a golfer who had hit a wayward drive had to be detonated. (The course, dating to 1928, is on land that was once part of a U.S. Army base.) Lawson Douglas told me he played The Patch thousands of times—and Augusta National once. Two brothers I parked next to, Pierce and Tony Pounds, told me they had signed up to work security at the Masters this year. They were surprised to learn that when your shift is over you have to leave the grounds immediately. They were hoping to do a little spectating.
When I asked people to compare the two courses, they laughed. Augusta National is one of the best courses in the world. But The Patch is something more. It's a decent enough course, affordable and walkable and pretty, with its telephone number on its entrance sign and a door that's wide open. When they were out of range balls, the six men next to me moseyed down the hill to the putting green, where they played for dollars and bragging rights in the early-evening light. Not one of them had a cellphone in hand, but they all had the needle out. All they did was laugh and hole putts. Had I asked them to look at my putting alignment, I think they would have helped me. To join the club at The Patch, the only prerequisite is that you like golf. Charlie Howell got in that way. For a day, I did too. The same, most likely, would be true for you.
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