Champions Retreat Golf Club ready for Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Champions Retreat Golf Club is going global this week.
The private Evans course will be the site Wednesday and Thursday for the first 36 holes of the inaugural 54-hole Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The scene shifts to Augusta National Golf Club on Friday for a practice round. It will be followed Saturday by the final 18 holes, where women will play competitively for the first time at the home of the Masters Tournament.
It all starts Wednesday at Champions Retreat, where 72 of the top women amateurs in the world will battle for 30 spots to book a historic tee time at Augusta National on Saturday.
“I think if anyone would be honest, they take a look and say the world of golf’s eyeballs, even for a split moment, will be on Champions Retreat,” said the course’s general manager, Cameron Wiebe.
National media will converge on Champions Retreat, including Golf Channel, which will have live cut-ins and highlights.
“There is nothing that will compare to the magnitude of this event that we’ve held here at Champions Retreat,” Wiebe said. “And I would venture to say that there is nothing in terms in the Augusta region outside of the Masters (like this). This will likely be the largest and most attended or viewed women’s event, or perhaps women’s amateur event, in the world. I think that’s a big statement, but I think that’s fairly accurate.”
Preparation for Champions Retreat’s portion of the event started the week after the last putt dropped at the 2018 Masters. The women’s amateur event was announced by Augusta National and Masters Chairman Fred Ridley during his news conference on the Wednesday of Masters Week.
Wiebe said the event “has been treated from Day One as importantly as the Masters is treated,” which meant conversations between Augusta National and Champions Retreat about the plans started quickly.
“When Chairman Ridley made his announcement last April, we were very, very excited,” Wiebe said. “It’s a tremendous honor both for us as a club to play a small role in the tournament, but specifically it’s really an exciting initiative for the game of golf to further enhance opportunity for players of different demographics, and this one specifically the woman amateur player. We’ve had some phenomenal individuals who have come through our gates because of it, and we’re looking forward to meeting more of them.”
Champions Retreat is providing the course for the first two days, but make no mistake: it’s an Augusta National-run show.
“To summarize it the best, the title tells the tale,” Wiebe said. “The Augusta National Women’s Amateur is the Augusta National’s golf tournament and their initiative.
“We’re tremendously honored to play a small role in that and certainly have done our part to highlight to the best of our ability the player and also be a wonderful extension to Augusta National,” he added. “Certainly, this is their event and the control mechanism lies firmly within their grasp.”
That included deciding which of the three nine-hole courses at Champions Retreat would be used for the 18-hole rounds on Wednesday and Thursday and the setup (yardage, par, tee and pin placements).
Champions Retreat, which opened in 2005 and is now owned by Connecticut’s Bill Forrest, is the only course in the world with three nines designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, the Big Three of Masters fame who combined for 13 Masters titles.
The Arnold Palmer-designed Island nine will serve as the front nine and Nicklaus’ Bluff nine will be the back nine for both rounds. Player’s course is the Creek nine.
“Nicklaus, Palmer and Player all designed three great nines,” Wiebe said. “It was a tough decision, I’m certain. I think there were some elements as to the best patron and player experience. And certainly without homes on those two nines, that may have played a part in it. That said, I think you could have made a case for any of the three nines to be in rotation.”
The Bluff side, which is much hillier than the Island side, finishes back at the village area where the pro shop, the Grille House restaurant, the Barn meeting space and cottages are located. It also presents a natural amphitheater for viewing.
Both nines are par-36 and will stay that way for the women’s amateur. The field is expected to play a combination of the member tees and the longer signature tees and should be between 6,300 and 6,400 yards, Wiebe said.
The Bluff nine’s final hole – which will be the 18th on the course – is a par-5 with water guarding the left side of the green, making it a true risk-reward hole for players who choose to go for the green in two shots.
With scoreboards around the course, players will know what they need to do to stay inside the top 30 when they get to the 18th hole in Thursday’s second round.
Only the top 30 will advance to Augusta National, not ties. So there is a strong possibility there will be a sudden-death playoff for the final spots, making it a tournament within a tournament. Golf Channel plans to stream the playoff live if it happens.
“It will make some great viewing, and it will be an opportunity for some of the best players in the world to showcase their games under pressure,” Wiebe said. “We think there will be some pressure for that 30th spot. There isn’t a player in this field who doesn’t want to be in that top 30 making it to Saturday.”
IF YOU GO
Wednesday: First round at Champions Retreat Golf Club, gates open at 8 a.m. and close 30 minutes after play
Thursday: Second round at Champions Retreat Golf Club, gates open at 8 a.m. and close 30 minutes after play
Saturday: Final round at Augusta National Golf Club, gates open at 7 a.m. and close 30 minutes after presentation ceremony
All tickets were sold in advance by random selection and no additional tickets are available. Augusta National Golf Club is the only authorized ticket source.
GATE ENTRY POLICY
Each ticket is valid for a maximum of two gate entries per day.
Free parking is provided on a first-come, first-served basis for all rounds of the tournament.
Patrons at Champions Retreat will be shuttled from public parking to the property.
Golf Channel will deliver highlights and on-site coverage during the first two rounds at Champions Retreat.
The final round from Augusta National will be broadcast on NBC from noon to 3 p.m.
• Cameras, cellphones, portable radios and televisions, walkie-talkies, audible beepers and other electronic devices.
• Personal bags, belt bags and packages can be no larger than 10 inches wide by 10 inches high by 12 inches deep. This rule also applies to purses and pocket books.
• Coolers and containers.
• Rigid-type chairs or stools, flags, banners, ladders, periscopes and strollers.
• Golf shoes with metal spikes are not allowed.