New practice area impresses golfers, patrons

News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 8, 2010

AUGUSTA---Today's the day the players get down to business. Starting today, every shot counts. And starting this year, the players have a much better place to practice those shots.

Augusta National has impressed the golfers yet again. It's pretty much a running theme. When they do something, they do it right. So when they designed a new practice area, they took everything into consideration--including the patrons.

News 12 spotted Phil Mickelson, his game face on as he worked on his game. Now he's got a new place not too far from Augusta's landmark water tower to perfect his putt.

"When you come in on Washington Road, you look for the water tower, because that's where the golf course is," said patron Hal Gowdy of Spartanburg. "Iit used to be just hundreds and hundreds of automobiles parked out here."

Not anymore. Instead, there's a brand-new 18-acre practice facility.

Hal has been coming to the Masters every year since 1963, so he noticed the change right away. It's new, but it still looks...old.

"You walk up today and it's amazing," he said. "It looks like it's been here for years."

There is no facility like it in the world. The driving range can accommodate about three dozen players. Golfers can also work on their short game with two greens and five bunkers. And don't forget about the new putting area.

The new practice area isn't just good for the players; it's also good for the patrons, especially some of the younger ones.

"This junior area is a lot bigger," said Adam Button of Tennessee. "I mean last year, it was really small."

Adam doesn't know what's more impressive: his access to the players, or where they're playing.

"Wow," he said. "It amazed me. It looks like it's been there forever. It doesn't look new at all."

Another junior patron, Danielle Reynolds, is using the area to pick up pointers for the next time she plays out at the First Tee of Augusta.

"I think I like driving the most, because you can use the most power," she said.

As powerful as these golfers are, perhaps what's even more powerful is Augusta National's ability to get things done. After all, this amazing practice area was a parking lot just one year ago.

So what was wrong with the old practice range? Well, nothing. It was fine. But golfers kept driving balls over the net on Washington Road, so they knew they needed to do something. That something turned into the new facility.

The putting and short game areas are a lot bigger. That's not just good for the golfers, but great for the patrons. It wasn't unusual to see people three or four rows thick in years past. Not anymore.

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