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Masters Cellphone Ban Is Over the Top

Visiting Augusta National Golf Club during Masters Week, which I mentioned in my last blog, is like going back in time. The venue and the championship are steeped in golf history and tradition, starting with its founder and legendary golfer Bobby Jones, along with championship performances by Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Woods and so many others.

Unlike other big time sports events in the U.S. pricing for most things is a throwback to 1965 or so. There is free parking; a sandwich and a beverage costs $8 or less; and tickets for the practice round and Par 3 Contest the day before the tournament, where you can see golf legends and today’s greats play, are obtained by lottery and this year cost $65.

I love tradition as much as anyone but here is one from the 2016 Masters Information Guide that has got to go: “Cell phones, cellular capable devices, beepers, electronic devices and tablets are strictly prohibited on the grounds at all times.” The guide goes on to say that the ticket holder found with such contraband can be removed from the grounds and lose his or her tickets.

Augusta National’s mobile device rules are over the top and go above and beyond the PGA’s own guidelines which were released earlier this year.

For instance not only are “patrons” removed from the grounds they are banned from attending the Masters for life, without parole by the way.

You can understand why cellphones, tablets and other devices would be frowned upon at the Masters or any golf tournament. Aside from distracting the golfers and fans with “pings” of texts and emails, and inconsequential conversations, these devices can stream the event live and would undercut the millions it is getting from its broadcast partners CBS and ESPN.

But what about the “patrons” of the Masters, the fans? Online estimates are that 250,000 visit the course sometime that week. My rough estimate was that there had to be 50,000 to 60,000 people for the Par 3 Contest I attended.

Don’t you know at least one person that week, maybe several, who have had a real family or business emergency and had to get in touch with a loved one or business associate immediately?

The PGA guidelines at least provide for “cellphone zones” to make calls after receiving them. And even for an event like this, a new smartphone is the first choice for many to take pictures.

 The Masters is a world-class event, but Augusta National has to realize that smartphones are now a way of life and should consider embracing the PGA guidelines for mobile devices. While not perfect, these acknowledge the interconnected world we live in today.