Stepping inside the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is like stepping aboard a time machine back in time, where pimento cheese sandwiches are only $1.50 and patrons mingle instead of taking selfies or watching the competition through the lens of a smartphone screen. This is because of the club’s strict no cellphone policy.
This rule is not new and applies to fans, press, players and staff. While some customers don’t mind stepping away from their screens for a few hours to focus on golf, others recognize that it’s a shock to the system and feel disconnected without it. The fear of missing something is real.
However, those needing to make an emergency call can use one of the club’s 24 button telephones which are scattered around the pitch.
At a time when people use their phones not only to communicate with each other, but also to take photos and videos, stay connected to the internet, and even check the time, why are cell phones banned in Augusta?
No cellphone area
Since the opening of the green in 1933, no telephones have been allowed. And that won’t change anytime soon.
When former Augusta National president Billy Payne was asked in 2017 if he would consider lifting the ban, Payne said not while he was in charge, explaining that the phones were creating a distraction .
“You will have to ask the next president. That won’t change as long as I’m president. I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said. “The noise is an irritation not only for the players – the dialing, the conversation. It’s a distraction and that’s the way we chose to deal with it.
Current club chairman Fred Ridley addressed the issue ahead of the 2019 tournament, saying the rule is unlikely to ever change and noting that most participants appreciate the ban.
“I think our customers appreciate our cell phone policy,” Ridley said. “I know we’ve now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf, too, when it comes to allowing cellphones.”
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What happens to rule breakers?
The club strictly monitors the use of cell phones with a zero tolerance policy. Anyone seen with a cell phone is ejected from the pitch. In some cases, offenders have been banned for life.
Scott Feight is one of them.
Feight told The Associated Press that more than a decade ago he bought badges for himself and his father to attend a practice round. When they checked in at the gate, security officers found a cell phone in the bottom of her father’s bag, who forgot the device was there. While they were still allowed to attend the practice round after his father checked his phone, Feight told the AP that a few months later he received a letter from the club informing him that his privileges of badge purchase had been revoked. Permanently.
“I’m cursed for life,” Feight joked.
In 2010, Tiger Wood was caught with his cell phone on the 10th green. Fellow golfer and friend Mark O’Meara said Woods simply helped him by recording his putt.
Although he may have violated the club’s on-course cell phone ban, an Augusta National spokesman later said they would make exceptions to the no-phone policy “if players use n ‘any type of recording device during a practice lap’.
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