Amid the whispers and soft golf-clapping of Masters Tournament patrons, there’s something else that’s keeping them quiet. Sitting amid strangers, golf fans have to watch the game.
If they get bored, there’s nothing to look at but the green hills and the wry smile of Tiger Woods. No one is allowed to bring a cellphone.
Augusta National Golf Club, annual host of the Masters on the first full week of April, is one of the few places in the world that still maintains a cellphone ban.
Former Masters chairman Billy Payne vowed in 2017 to maintain the rule to protect the aura of the professional golf tournament.
“I just don’t think it is appropriate,” Payne said during a press conference. “The noise is an irritation to, not only the players, the dialing, the conversation, it’s a distraction. And that’s the way we have chosen to deal with it.”
If you try to break the rules, the Masters’ leadership doesn’t mess around. Smuggle your phone onto the property, and you could be banned for life.
Current chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday that the ban sets the Masters apart. “I think our patrons appreciate our cellphone policy,” he said. “It’s part of the ambiance of the Masters. … I don’t believe anyone should expect the policy to change in the near future, if ever.”
Some speculate that the ban may soon disappear since cellphones are now so ubiquitous, and users are typically smart enough to know how to turn off their volume. But the Masters isn’t the only event to guard its low-tech charm. Even some performers have embraced the cellphone ban.
Artists such as Alicia Keys and The Lumineers, and even comedians like Dave Chappelle, have banned phones at their performances. A few years ago, Adele called out a fan mid-concert for filming her. “You can enjoy it in real life,” she said, “rather than through your camera.”
Whether phones are bothering performers or distracting patrons from the purpose of attending an event in real life, rather than watching from a couch, a cellphone ban can help everyone live in the present. At the Masters, it’s a good reminder to stop and smell the azaleas.