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Destination Magic

Destination Magic

How Augusta and Disney gained perfection.


Perfection is not possible, right? It is widely accepted as a fantasy that is distracting and distressing. Augusta National Golf Club and Walt Disney World rival the unattainable notion of perfection. They are a constant reminder to all other destinations of their shortcomings. Both dripping in mythical mystique, their behind-the-scenes inner workings, dreamworld appearances, and visiting guests’/patrons’ experiences are peerless. Genius organizers with bold visions, Augusta’s Clifford Roberts and Disney’s Walt Disney successfully tapped into perfection at their respective, utopian creations.

Commitment to bold ideas characterized both Clifford Roberts and Walt Disney. Disney is described as an innovator with an obsession for perfection and a passion for eye-catching innovations. Belief in his potential for greatness gave him an air of arrogance. His vision summarized by saying, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park[s]. I want to feel they’re in another world.” He knew that his Disneyland in California was a major success but was determined to have complete control in a new land. The surrounding area in California was becoming a huge city, contradicting his park’s ‘escape from reality’ focus, so he purchased land in central Florida, under the guise of a “Mystery Company.” Florida had enough land to hold all the ideas and plans that Walt could ever imagine.

Walt and Mickey

Disney boldly stated, “Somehow, I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true.” He was emphatic that his innovative ideas would equate to making others’ dreams a reality. Walt successfully created not just a theme park, but also a community where people can work and live, a city of tomorrow. The self-proclaimed, “Happiest Place on Earth,” a fantasyland experience uninterrupted by the cruel reality just a few miles away. Disney World is a piece of American culture that inhabits the world. Like Disney, Clifford Roberts believed that people craved an escape from reality.

Roberts is described as autocratic, mysterious, intimidating, and enigmatic. He ruled the Masters and Augusta National from behind the iron curtain. Bobby Jones received much of the credit, but Roberts did the bulk of the work. With the help of course architect, Alister MacKenzie, Roberts and Jones turned the 365-acre, pre-Civil War indigo plantation into a golfing landmark. Roberts molded the club’s conscience and the Masters’ reputation as the best-run golf event in the world. “The standards and quality with which he conducted the Masters are unmatched anywhere,” Jack Nicklaus said. “All of us in golf appreciate what he has done for the game.” Augusta National Golf Club is undoubtedly unlike any other, thanks to Clifford Roberts. The drive up Magnolia Lane, Rae’s Creek, and of course–the hosting of The Master’s tournament, are just a few examples of Augustas allure.

Referred to as “The National” by its members and “Augusta” by its patrons, it is an environmental illusion. Walt Disney’s golf Fantasia located among the Georgia pines. Augusta National is a colorful, mythical, fairytale land rooted in an otherwise squalid city. The fence surrounding the perimeter of the course is so tall that there has only been one deer sighting documented in the last 65 years. Birds are also mysteriously rarely seen at Augusta. Bird sounds heard during the televised broadcast of the Masters are rumored to be artificial—coming from an undisclosed source. Uncooperative patches of grass are hand-painted green and pond sample tests revealed that waters contain blue food dye. The azaleas always bloom at the right time, so there’s been speculation that the club’s horticulturists freeze blossoms in advance of the Masters and swap out early-blooming ones for more dutiful specimens. The pine straw is shipped in and the pinecones are shipped out. What appears to be the whitest sand in all of golf is technically not sand at all but waste from North Carolina feldspar mines. The yellow pansies are pruned every other day and curbs are meticulously painted green when scuffed. The edges of Augusta’s grass are always measured twice before being trimmed—with scissors, giving the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as perfect’ a run for its money. Augusta National’s maintenance staff has set an impossibly high standard for all other golf course superintendents by achieving horticultural perfection.

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Compared with competing theme parks, Disney is immaculate. The Walt Disney Company employs several processes to maintain its excellence. To start, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has mastered a way to artificially pump the universal smell of happiness i.e. freshly baked cookies, onto Main Street—where everyone enters and exits the park. The parks pay a higher price for bromine, a more efficient chlorine substitute, guaranteeing that splashing water on boat rides is always the cleanest and safest it can be for guests. Also, bromine washes off without chlorine’s undesirable, skin irritating side effects, which can last for days. Another not-so-dirty secret of Disney World evolved from the people watching habits of its founder. During the earliest days at Disneyland in California, Walt would follow guests around the parks paying attention to how far they’d walk before littering. The finding: People walked no more than 30 feet with garbage in hand, so to this day trash cans are no more than 30 feet away from guests. He’s also responsible for the modern garbage can—a fixed lid receptacle with holes for trash. It keeps the odor of garbage contained sans the hassle of lid removal and replacement.

Disney World’s lack of pesky insects is possibly its most bewildering aspect. Located in Florida swampland, it somehow manages to be completely absent of mosquitos. Disney’s Mosquito Surveillance Program operates dozens of traps that freeze the insects to death, allowing experts to study their composition and identify breeding hot spots on campus, making the extermination of entire hordes possible. Insecticides are released around daybreak and twilight each day at these hot spots. Another bizarre and preventative technique used to monitor mosquito swarms involves chickens! Disney owns countless sentinel chickens that are dispersed across campus to identify future mosquito outbreak locations.

The underground networks of both Augusta National and Disney World are the key, albeit hidden factors to achieving environments of extreme artifice. Beneath Augusta, there’s an extensive network of pipes and mechanical blowers, which drain and ventilate its putting greens. Known as the SubAir System, it was developed by course superintendent, Marsh Benson, to mitigate the effects of nature. The concurrence of fans providing air to densely-seeded bent grass promote growth while the reversal of fans creates suction to drain water from the greens, resulting in masterful firmness. Hord Hardin, Chairman of the Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club from 1980 to 1991, said: “We could make the greens so slick, we’d have to furnish ice skates on the first tee.” Augusta National isn’t the hardest course from tee to green, but it’s unequivocally the hardest course on which to stop an approach shot close to the hole. A three-putt is always looming. The enormous vacuum directly beneath the green complexes allows Augusta to remain as firm and fast as the club would like, almost regardless of weather conditions. 

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom actually resides on the second floor. Hidden underground, tunnels called utilidors populate the first floor, but the water table makes this region unsafe for attraction construction. Instead, utilidors are used to connect various parts of Magic Kingdom via walking pathways and hidden doors. Workers are able to quickly navigate from one end of the park to the other without ever having guests notice them. The direct routes are faster, more efficient, and completely out of sight! Utilidors also act as a transportation system for garbage away from the parks into dumping areas. Here, garbage easily gets sorted and shipped out of Magic Kingdom. It’s an extremely efficient method for taking out the trash, Disney style!

Berckmans Place – Invitation Only

Exclusive experiences are another commonality between Augusta National and Disney World. Nestled behind the fifth fairway at Augusta, a sign reads, “By invitation only.” An invite that reportedly costs $6,000 and gains you access to Berckmans Place— a sports bar for the ages. Assimilated to Xanadu and only open for one week out of the year, Masters week, of course, a badge to Berckmans Place is the everlasting gobstopper of Augusta. Named after the Berckmans family, whose ‘Fruitland Manor’ still remains as the clubhouse of Augusta National, Berckmans Place opened in 2013 and has hosted everyone from the well-to-do elite to average Joes who by hook or crook score a golden ticket.

Intended to be the ultimate patron respite, Berckmans Place has been referred to as “your favorite sports bar on steroids.” With five full-service, all-inclusive themed restaurants ranging in specialties from top-of-the-line oysters to gourmet burgers, the crème de la crème sky is the limit because there is no bill. Shrouded in secrecy, the crowning jewel of Berckmans Place is the Putting Experience. It features a collection of three perfectly conditioned replica greens of holes 7, 14, and 16 framed by fuchsia azaleas. Quite literally an experience unlike any other!

The secretive Club 33

Augusta’s nonpareil Berckmans Place hiding in plain sight on its grounds is much like Walt Disney’s elite, invitation-only Club 33. In order to get inside any Club 33, you must first find the secret door of entry, which is always hidden in plain sight! Club 33 can be found at three of the Disneyland locations as well as four recently built at Orlando Walt Disney World. New members must be invited or passed down membership and the fee is an alleged $25,000, at minimum. There’s a strict no outside summer clothing dress code i.e. flip-flops, shorts, tank tops, but the perks are boundless. The private space includes a jazz lounge, two dining rooms featuring 5-6 course meals (alcohol included) as well as a full bar. Filled to the brim with old photographs of Walt, things from his childhood in Missouri, antique furniture, and film props he collected along the way. Early park entry, access to private lounges and events, ability to request park characters to the club, free valet parking, and fast passes are additional benefits of being a Club 33 member. It is the ultimate, secret, air-conditioned oasis, where guests can escape the crowds and heat of the outdoors. But don’t feel too bad if you never get the opportunity to experience Club 33 and all its glory, Walt Disney himself passed away just 5 months before the first one was completed.

Clifford Roberts and Walt Disney were men of high-flown standards and those standards applied to the end of their lives. Roberts was the “image-maker of Augusta” and prior to walking out onto the course and committing suicide, he visited the clubhouse barber for a haircut. It’s even said that by killing himself on the par-three course beside a pond, he left a mess in the easiest place for his staff to clean up. The revolver he used was powerful enough to do the job but not powerful enough to disfigure completely. And in Clifford Roberts’ fashion, the end of his life still remains in question. Sam Snead once remarked: “Cliff was a tough bastard, but you have to be to run that place. The caddies think his death was a murder, not a suicide, and I believe them.”

Walt Disney will forever live on through his films and parks, but his death is also shrouded in mystery. Rumors have circulated that his body may have been frozen and buried beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland awaiting the day when technology is advanced enough to reanimate him to life. More than half a century later, the rumor that Disney’s body was put in cryonic storage remains one of the most intriguing legends about the entertainment tycoon.

Disney and Roberts left significant imprints on the world. Although many things have changed throughout time, Augusta National and Disney World remain escapes from reality. Utopias that have continued to grow and improve. A true reminder to all of what steadfast imagination and innovation can achieve.

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View Comments (2)
  • I cannot express the feeling I have for this piece.

    Walt Disney World is my favorite place which I typically visit with my family every year. I have never had the privilege of attending The MASTERS, but enter the lottery every year just in case. I know in my heart I’ll get there one day. I recently likened my affinity with ANGC with my equal obsession with WDW and this has verified my exact thoughts. The perfection of everything and how nothing is out of place at either property is iconic and a huge factor in many peoples’ love for these places.

    Thank you for the few minutes I enjoyed validating my thoughts.


  • Very cool piece. I never thought about the parallels between Berckmans and Club 33.
    From the patron’s perspective, the excitement of going to the Masters last year was the closest I’ve had to going to Disneyland as a kid.

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