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Style is eternal

After the wettest winter in living memory, the kaleidoscope of colour that is The Masters is more welcome than ever. Richard Pennell sets the scene for the start of the golfing year.

Style is eternal

The old proverb of “the grass being greener on the other side” is generally used as a warning, to guard against the creep of jealousy. But if you grew up in Britain in the eighties - or anytime after colour televisions started invading people’s houses - you’ll perhaps recognise the exception that proves the rule.

Against the backdrop of a hesitant spring, a few evenings in early April would cast a glorious dose of hope and intrigue across the golfer’s consciousness, by that stage desperate for the playing season to arrive. Kaleidoscopic in only two dimensions, we sit enchanted at the rich canvas of vibrant plants, their varieties reflected in the hole names - Azalea, Pink Dogwood, Firethorn.

And we long for our senses to one day absorb this grandeur - the smells, the sounds - in person; to travel with eyes wide open along Magnolia Drive, whose serene splendour once led to Berckmans Nursery, not Augusta National.

Somehow grace is everywhere across this rolling property. The patrons stroll around like extras from The Great Gatsby; the players wear carefully chosen threads, The Masters the first stop on the year’s fashion parade. Some parts never change - the caddies in their crisp white boiler suits, nudging their player’s hopeful charge towards immortality.

And the famous Green Jackets, first bestowed on the effortlessly stylish Sam Snead in 1949, along with an honour that surely trumps any paycheque or leaderboard - honorary membership. It’s a wonder we’re not green with envy by now, and then we read that Billy Casper was actually buried in his, and wonder whether it was because, even post-mortem, they couldn’t get it off him.

And yet, after a winter of searching under leaves, and trudging through mud, the course is the supermodel here. Alister Mackenzie’s masterpiece has been stretched, tweaked, tampered with, but even in this botoxed form, it still looks wonderful at a distance of about four thousand miles.

Those yellow flags, the log tee markers. That logo, which makes you wince each time someone strolls past wearing it, no matter how battered the garment from which it shines. The gentle trickle of Rae’s Creek over the dimpled remnants of another year’s dreams; the wafer thin channel of the final drive, titanium on urethane echoing through the pines, as the hushed gallery stare unblinking at history in the making.

For a few days, everything else is secondary, everything else can wait. And though your tele is bigger these days, and you’re allowed to see the front nine sometimes, still you long to go there and be just a tiny part of it. Just once. So you have a bag ready to go, passport in date and two-tone brogues all shined bright. Just in case.

But until then, this spring catwalk unfolds via the satellites, and those stars tread the boards while the patrons applaud, and you are grateful, for spring is here in this blessed first drop of the year.

Read more of Richard Pennell's writing on golf at his Pitchmarks Substack 

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