SBJ/October 3-9, 2011/Facilities

Lavish home for hospitality planned for 2013 Masters

Changes at Augusta National happen at a glacial pace, but Masters Chairman Billy Payne continues to pull the club into the modern ages with a luxurious new hospitality clubhouse that’s expected to be among the most lavish in golf.

The new permanent structure, which will be called Berckmans Place, will debut at the 2013 Masters and resemble a stately Southern mansion on the exterior with white columns framing the expansive front porch. Passes for the week will run $6,000 each, according to golf industry sources, creating new revenue for the club and a top-of-the-line entertainment setting for the Masters’ partners.

Part of the sales materials for Berckmans Place
It is being constructed along the right side of the fifth hole on course property next to Berckmans Road.

Though Berckmans Place won’t open for another 18 months, the club has begun distributing sales materials to some of its closest partners within the last few weeks. Club officials did not return calls seeking comment.

“The renderings give the appearance of something that will rival anything in golf,” said one golf industry expert. “You’re seeing what happens when you have a sports marketing expert in charge of the Masters.”

The new hospitality venue represents another major step forward for the tournament under the guidance of Payne, Augusta National’s chairman since 2006. Payne, president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, has overseen new or upgraded hospitality along the first and 10th holes since taking over the club’s leadership.

Berckmans Place, however, will be the club’s strongest statement thus far that it is ready to embrace bolder hospitality options. For the longest time, hospitality was limited to a makeshift area off the first fairway with limited food options and shared bathrooms, which made hospitality off course property — like Intersport’s Double Eagle Club — an attractive alternative.

Augusta National, under Payne’s leadership, upgraded that area off the first fairway and introduced three new private cabins to the left of the 10th fairway for the 2009 Masters. Those areas were new options for the Masters’ global partners, AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM, as well as its broadcast partners, CBS and ESPN, even though some of them still took their hospitality to venues away from the course to meet demand.

The first round of sales for Berckmans Place has focused on “friends of the Masters,” according to industry sources. That circle would include AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM; additional partners, Rolex and Mercedes-Benz; and CBS and ESPN.

It’s possible that sponsors such as Barclays, Samsung and Zurich Financial Services, which support the Asian Amateur Championship, an event co-sanctioned by the Masters, could purchase passes as well.

Most hospitality throughout golf is confined to a portion of the clubhouse or tents along fairways to take advantage of outdoor space and views of the course. Augusta National’s new hospitality clubhouse will be unique in that it’s a permanent space with no other shared purpose.

Augusta National doesn’t reveal any details of its business, making specifics about the structure’s size and cost difficult to obtain. But industry sources say each pass will be good for three practice rounds, the Par 3 Contest, and all four rounds of tournament competition. Badges will be issued as single-day passes, which will provide companies greater flexibility when they distribute passes to guests.

A typical badge for the four days of competition runs $200.

Will Jones, who runs Masters marketing, sponsorship and broadcasting, is spearheading the sales effort.

An Oklahoma City firm, Tom Hoch, is handling design of Berckmans Place, a source said. Tom Hoch, a nearly 40-year-old business that also works on restaurants, resorts and hotels, is known mostly for its craft and architectural work on golf clubhouses. Efforts to reach Hoch were unsuccessful.

The richly decorated interior will share many of the features normally associated with a lavish clubhouse, as well as a business center, bag check and other amenities.

Berckmans Place dining will offer a sprawling burger and raw bar in one section, while another area will be more traditional seated dining. A lobby and lounge area will provide guests an area to relax, have a drink and watch the tournament on TV.

A covered back porch will feature al fresco dining overlooking a huge putting surface that will enable guests to experience some of the fastest greens in golf.

All food and beverage throughout the week is included with the pass.

The location next to No. 5 provides the club with a number of advantages, industry sources said. Berckmans Place patrons will have preferred parking across the street from Gate 9, which faces Berckmans Road, and there’s an easily accessible guest drop-off area closer to the facility.

It’s a short walk from Berckmans Place across the back of the property to Amen Corner (Nos. 11, 12 and 13) or the 15th green on the course’s back nine.

Berckmans Place also will give guests a convenient path to a part of the course that is often overlooked, holes No. 4 through No. 6.
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