Working security at the Masters

Dave and Steve at Masters
Hall (left), a U.S. Army veteran and retired police officer who now caddies at Chambers Bay, and Steve Johnson, a caddie at Bandon Dunes, worked security in tandem at the 2023 Masters.

A good way to get inside the ropes at America’s greatest golf tournament

by Dave Hall

There are a very limited number of ways to attend the Masters at the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club. Undoubtedly, the toughest is to be invited to become a member of the club.

Receiving an invitation to play in the Masters, while by comparison is easier than to achieve membership, is one of the most sought-after achievements in the game and unattainable for us golfing mortals.

If you are lucky to be friends or business associates with a member, this should provide a decent chance to score an invitation to attend Masters Week. Corporate sponsors and credentialed members of the media also get pretty nice privileges. And of course, Class A PGA members get free individual admission every day of the tournament week.

Unpaid volunteers work long hours, but are rewarded with the opportunity to play a round at Augusta National in May, following the Masters. Scoring a volunteer slot is super tough, as once on board, people do not want to give that plum role up.

Then there’s entering the annual lottery, hoping to get a chance to purchase one or more daily tickets for either the practice ($100) or tournament rounds ($250). Like all lotteries, you’re relying on luck to buy tickets, and even if selected you are limited to a total of four tickets for a practice round, or two passes for a tournament round.

But unknown to many, a really cool option is available if you know the right people. Every year, Securitas, a worldwide private security corporation, provides hundreds of paid security officer positions to support Augusta National’s Masters Week events. I found out about this opportunity from both a current and a former colleague at Chambers Bay (where I work as a caddie), who worked the Masters for a couple previous years, and were returning last year.

To my surprise, no previous law enforcement or security experience is required, just a willingness to work long (very long) hours, most of the time standing or walking around the golf course and grounds of Augusta National.

We are issued Securitas uniforms, consisting of a black baseball cap, white short-sleeve shirt, black pants, a badge, and a black clip-on tie. We have to supply our own black belt, and black uniform shoes or boots. But we get paid, plus a per diem, and our lodging is provided in area hotels, which offsets the cost of air travel, rental car, and the obligatory splurge on souvenirs from the Masters Golf Shop.

While you might expect that someone like me, an Army veteran and retired cop, would have a bruised ego at being a “Rent-A-Cop” with absolutely no real authority, nothing could be further from the truth. It was refreshing to roam around, giving directions and answering questions from the patrons, rather than being on high alert for the really bad guys. There are platoons of actual law enforcement officers from various state and local agencies everywhere on the property, and they are extremely professional in demeanor and appearance.

It also doesn’t hurt that the throngs of patrons know to be on their very best behavior, as even the most minor infraction of the Masters rules can lead to being booted out, and banned from future attendance.

The biggest thing we had to watch for was the illicit use of cell phones, which it seems almost everyone tries to smuggle on to the grounds. (The complex schemes patrons, volunteers, and employees devise to get their iPhone on the course would do credit to the best bank heist movie script.)

Adding to my overall satisfaction with this experience, my good buddy Steve Johnson (a looper at Bandon Dunes) and I were assigned to work one of the employee entry gates for the entire 10 days. While the downside was having to start our shift at 3:30am every day, we were also finished screening employees by 8:30am.

Masters Security Holding Back Patrons

Thanks to having great supervisors, we had the option of rotating to the mob scene of a Patron gate or going out on to the Augusta National grounds to relieve fellow security officers for breaks. While this meant walking nearly 10 miles per shift, that was nothing to a couple of veteran caddies.

We also got our fill of the iconic and value-priced Masters food items, like the pimento-cheese sandwich (overrated), chicken or tuna salad sandwiches (thumbs up), and peach ice cream sandwich (perfect on a hot day).

Our security credentials allowed us access pretty much everywhere, including the fabled underground tunnel system, practice areas, administrative and support buildings, and the awe-inspiring course itself. And we got to watch a lot of golf, up close, every day.

People who have been to Augusta National always rave about its perfection, but I thought they were exaggerating. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the word “breathtaking” is overused, it exactly describes my reaction upon first setting foot on to the golf course. The turf is so flawless it looks fake, until you reach down and run your hand over it. Every square foot looks to have been groomed by hand, and the same amazing attention to detail applies to the bunkers, rough, and the pine straw under those gorgeous trees and shrubs.

The greenkeeping crew are easily the best in the business, and yet they perform most of their magic out of sight of the patrons and golfers. Ever wonder why, when watching the Masters on television, you don’t see a bunch of divots in the landing areas? It’s because the turf folks fill them in with green sand/seed mixture, with the color an exact match of the grass.

Like any great expedition, having a knowledgeable guide definitely adds to the Masters experience, and for the Chambers Bay contingent, that guide was Lake Spanaway GC General Manager Nyk Pike.

Nyk was the director of golf at Chambers Bay when I first started working there, and he’s one of the nicest guys in the golf business. This was his third year working security at the Masters, and he has made a lot of great connections at Augusta National. Nyk arranged for some of us to get a guided tour of the venerable Augusta National Clubhouse, led by none other than the longtime clubhouse manager, Mr. John Johnson.

While the clubhouse is truly imposing from the outside, the real heart of Augusta National’s storied existence lies within its memorabilia-rich interior. Seeing the original clubhouse plans, first-year menus, framed correspondence, and oil paintings by Dwight D. Eisenhower, made Augusta’s history tangible.

As a golfer who regularly plays with 100-year-old hickory-shafted clubs, I was gobsmacked getting up close to the set that the immortal Bobby Jones used to win the Grand Slam in 1930.

Although I’ve been invited back to work this year’s Masters, it may be a “one and done” experience for me, although you never know. In the meantime, I’ve submitted nominations for eight friends and coworkers who want to follow in my footsteps as a rookie working security at the Masters. It’s truly an experience that is worth every long hour and lack of sleep for 11 days, just to be on the inside of America’s greatest golf tournament.

Dave Hall served 21 years in the U.S. Army followed by a 22-year career as a police officer. He then began, at age 63, a career as a caddie at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. The man just keeps on going.