AUGUSTA, Ga. —If you want to go to the quietest place on Earth, where nothing buzzes, blips, beeps, or even bleats, then you'll need a ticket to Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters Tournament.
Although the golf course may be popping with brilliant pink, fuchsia, and white of a bazillion azaleas and dogwoods and loud with lavender-hued wisteria, you'll not hear a human sound in the few seconds just before the best golfers in the world tee off into the Georgia sunshine.
The quietness is unreal, even despite the fact that you're surrounded by upwards of a hundred thousand fellow fans. No one dares even breathe, and the only sounds you might hear are of songbirds trilling away in the tall pines.
The number of fans is a guess, as Augusta National ain't tellin', no way, no how, the closely guarded secret of the true number of tickets sold. But if you're among those savvy enough to score tickets to the Masters — the dates are April 4-9 — there are a few things you should know before you get to Augusta.
First of all, make certain that you get your badge through a legitimate source. Every year, the Masters turn away unsuspecting fans who have fallen victim to scam artists with fake tickets.
"That really happens, and you just have to be really careful when you get tickets," says Barry White, president of the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Walking the hallowed grounds of Augusta National and following the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer is thrilling, no doubt, and with that many people you would think there would be complete chaos.
But that's not the case, for the Masters crowds are among the most well-behaved you'll ever see. And for good reason. There are rules are in place, and they are very, very, very (did I say very?) strict.
Take heed and leave all of your electronic gizmos in the car. If you are caught buzzing, blipping, beeping or bleating, you will be politely asked to leave and could be banned from the course forever.
Can you imagine that Phil Mickelson is about to putt for the win and your Aunt Maude decides to call with news about her arthritis? Neither Mickelson nor Augusta National would be amused.
And you can bring cameras, but only during the practice rounds and absolutely not during the series tournament.
You'll pass through a metal detector at the entrance, which my husband and I didn't know on our first foray to the Masters last year, and anything that resembles a weapon, like knives and nail clippers, will be confiscated. Quick as a wink, hubby's Swiss army knife, a gift that I had bought for him in Switzerland, was gone with the wind.
"The reason the atmosphere of the Masters is just wonderful is that just about everyone complies with the rules," says White.
Outside of the Masters, which dates to 1934 when legendary duffer Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts came together to organize the event, the rest of Augusta is just as wonderful, too. This city of historic neighborhoods, Southern hospitality, and quiet (there's that word again) beauty is worth exploring anytime.
Do take time to visit the Augusta Museum of History that offers a special exhibit called "Celebrating a Grand Tradition, the Sport of Golf" that takes you from the tee-box to Tiger Woods and everything in-between, including a green jacket or two.
If you don't have the pedigree or money to be a member of Augusta National — the membership roster is a secret as closely guarded as the number of tickets sold — you can still play golf in the shadows of historic golfing legends.
Take to the links of Forest Hills Golf Club, where Bobby Jones started his Grand Slam of Golf in 1930, or at Augusta Municipal Golf Course, built in 1928 and where the so-called Irish Mafia was formed in the 1950s when Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were the toast of Augusta.
The Civil War Sesquicentennial — an unpronounceable 50-cent word translating to 150th anniversary — is this year, and plenty of Augusta's landmarks tie in nicely to the conflict that began way back in 1861.
The Augusta Canal, Georgia's only designated National Heritage Area, is about nine miles of towpaths and waterways that is a Southern version of Venice. Built in 1845, it was the site of the Confederate States of America Powder Works.
The Canal, along the all-important Savannah River that was a vital waterway during the war, is now a beautiful and unique aquatic ecosystem where you can hike, bike, canoe or kayak. If you don't want that much work, take a guided tour of the Canal aboard a replica Petersburg boat.
The Boyhood Home of Woodrow Wilson is a national historic landmark and house museum. Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister of a church across the street from the house, and during the Civil War, the church was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers.
This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the death of James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," who lived much of his life in Augusta. The James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History is a whole lot of "I feel good" fun with music, memorabilia, family photos, and interactive exhibits where you can take a dance lesson from the man himself.
Driving through Augusta's Summerville neighborhood is like taking a step back in time. In the 18th century, George Walton, one of only three statesmen from Georgia who signed the Declaration of Independence, laid out Summerville, a hilly community that served as a summer retreat for wealthy residents and a winter retreat for moneyed Yankees who came south to escape the harsh cold. The neighborhood was incorporated the same year as the Civil War broke out in 1861.
Now on the National and Georgia Registers of Historic Places, Summerville features some of Augusta's most architecturally distinctive homes, many of them antebellum, as well as the venerable magnolia-shaded Partridge Inn, built in the 1830s, the first hotel in Georgia to be honored for inclusion in Historic Hotels of America.
Other museums include the Morris Museum of Art, Lucy Croft Laney Museum of Black History, Augusta Cotton Exchange, and the Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem on the outskirts of the city.
For outdoors and science, visit National Science Center's Fort Discovery and Phinizy Swamp Nature Park of the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy. And Artists' Row with its myriad art galleries, working studios, specialty shops, restaurants, and coffeehouses is the place to find locally and internationally inspired pottery, sculpture, paintings, and specialty gifts.
IF YOU GO:
For more information on where to stay, play, and eat, contact the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau (800) 726-0243 or visit www.augustaga.org, the Masters at www.masters.org, and the Partridge Inn at visit www.partridgeinn.com. Augusta is served by two major carriers, Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com or 1-800-221-1212) and US Airways (www.usairways.com or 1-800-428-4322).