Masters Gift Shopping - another tradition unlike any other

Shopping at the Masters
Shirts and sweaters are among the most popular, and pricey, items to be found in the gift shop.
By John Kim
PGA.com
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 | 2:33 p.m.

So I read on Twitter (which is always right!?) that the average visitor to the Masters will spend $650 in the gift shop.  And my first thought was...probably unprintable.

$650?!?!

Even if the going rate for a badge averages four digits, (now reportedly $7000 on the street (or 'Net) for a badge!), I had a hard time accepting that most patrons, especially those visiting for just one day during a practice round, would spend anywhere near that amount.  I mean, the retail price of a Monday practice round badge is $50. Do you think really one of those visitors is going to drop almost $700 on golf souvenirs?

Then I arrived on Monday and spent a little time in the gift shop. Boy, was I wrong.

First of all, just getting into one of the gift shops (the largest is in the area just past the driving range as you make your way onto course from main entrance) means navigating through an amusement park ride-type line.  But not-so-surprisingly, the line moves pretty fast and smooth.

Once in, prepare to feel a little claustrophic as the crowd stops and "oohs" and "ahhs" over a wide assortment of Masters memorabilia. From logoed teddy bears to iPphone covers to every type of hat to a few hundred types of shirts -- pretty much anything you can think of that's golf related (and so much that isn't) -- you will probably find with the iconic United States map with the red flag. It's easy to get caught up in the euphoria that is The Masters and get a little carried away with the credit card.

I met Brooks Friesenhahn and friends while in line to take a photo at Founders Circle. (It's the world-famous photo of the flower bed shaped as the United States that sits in between Magnolia Lane and the clubhouse. If you're at Augusta National, you really should get that photo taken. Even the longest wait is usually less than an hour.)

Anyways, in our conversation, Brooks told me he had already visited the gift shop and taken his purchases back. I thought he would be a poor case study on gift shopping, after all, he and his friends were college students at Texas A&M. My thought was, they probably have to pool money to buy a pizza, it's ridiculous to think they'd spend a hundreds of dollars on golf swag. And I was right, he was nowhere near the $650 range. It was $1,700.

Actually, he spent around $1,000 on items for him and had other money given to him by friends to pick up something while he was on the grounds. (A common mistake for first time visitor -- don't tell people you are coming or you'll have a wish list longer than Santa Claus!).  But of the money he spent on him, Brooks told me, "Around 75% is with me for life. I got my direct family each a shirt and hat but that's about it. As far as selling anything, not a chance in the world....This was a lifetime memory and it wouldn't be right to pawn off my merchandise just to make a few bucks."

Lest you think Brooks just has money to burn, he also added he is usually hesitant to spend more than $50 at any other big sports event, it was that the Masters was "just different."

Another couple I ran into while on the grounds, Richard and Sally Means of Pinehurst, N.C., said they were attending their first Masters practice round and were pondering going back to the gift shop for a few more purchases.  "We've spent $450 between us and I think we've done pretty good," Sally told me. "But before we leave, we may have to pick up a couple of more items; you never know when you're going to be back."

The Masters is famous for keeping patrons top of mind when it comes to prices and attending the event. The food and drinks are the most competitive you'll find anywhere -- sports or not.  But the souvenirs from the gift shops, while not outrageous ,are not as bargain-priced as the sweet tea. Most golf shirts run around $65-$85 with the higher end shirts north of $125 and some jackets and sweaters topping $300. Tee-shirts are between $20-$35 and hats are in that same range. Ball markers are $9, a set of four Tervis Tumblers are $60 and even Masters boxer shorts can be had at two for $45. 

It does add up quick -- not because the prices are so high, but because the "want" is so large.  Every visitor understands this is a special experience and thus wants to commemorate it with as many momentos as possible.  But still, when is enough enough?  I saw one man leaving with two carts (large industrial carts) of Masters lawn chairs. That was probably $3,000 of inventory right there! 

Brooks Friesenhahn answered that for me as well as he is making definite plans to make a return trip next year. "I wouldn't change a thing next year, not even dropping $,1700 in the pro shop! Honestly I would probably spend more because I can already think of things I wish I would have bought."

You can follow John on Twitter at @johnkim_10

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