The 1 thing that isn’t perfect at Augusta National? The cameras

Water-proof disposable camera

At the Masters, patrons are forced to get creative with how they capture one of the best days of their lives.

Stephen Denton

AUGUSTA, Ga.  — You might know this event as the Masters, but that’s just inside the ropes. Outside the ropes, it’s the Point-and-Click Championship, and there are many more people in the field. 

With phones banned from the grounds at the Masters, modern society’s reliance on the cameras built into those do-it-all devices introduces one helluva dichotomy: the world’s greatest golfers on one of the world’s greatest golf courses, captured by the world’s greatest collection of old and, frankly, bad cameras. 

Hang out in certain areas at Augusta National and you are bound to see some of these legends come through. Names like the Fujifilm Finepix XP, once popular in 2012. Or the Kodak Easyshare C195, first introduced in 2010 but discontinued years ago. It runs exclusively on double-A batteries and ranks as the 1,480th-most popular digital camera on Amazon. Like many past champions, the Easyshare had its time in the sun, but now returns to Augusta National just once a year.

The best place to find these relics is in front of the leaderboard along the 1st fairway, held up by confused patrons who have developed an over-reliance on touch screens. If you’ve ever been jealous of a friend’s photo from the Masters, it’s likely been in front of that big board, right at the entrance to the course. It offers what the Burmeister brothers were after Tuesday morning: one simple, memorable photo. The only problem is that 24 hours later, they had no idea if they accomplished it. Their FujiFilm disposable keeps them in the dark until the film gets developed. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like,” Dan Burmeister said. “But that’s part of the excitement.”

As Masters first-timers, their mistake may have been toting just the one camera. Because old cameras means old camera lingo. Like, How many clicks do we have left? You start with 27 of those “clicks,” and if you waste one in the dark depths of your pocket, you don’t get it back.

Now, please excuse any implication that your run-of-the-mill disposables are inadequate. They do the job just fine. But their souped-up cousins with the plastic casing — the kind most commonly found at waterparks — were extra clutch this year, with a total washout Tuesday afternoon and thunderstorms circling the course Wednesday morning.

Sean Zak

Noah Andrews saved face (and memories!) for his group of four when he arrived from Atlanta with a 10-year-old, hand-me-down Canon Powershot. No one else in his group had brought any sort of device, but Andrews’ father had worked as a professional photog. Cameras are not hard for him to come by. “This thing was top of the line when my dad bought it 10 years ago,” he said with a clear sense of pride. And he really wasn’t wrong. It offers a 13-megapixel lens, which his group was keen to point out is more than the newest line of iPhones. It wasn’t clear how long the battery would last, Monday being the first time he’d charged it in five years, but his friends were gracious. 

“My parents got us these tickets and they said, ‘We wanna see pictures,’” said Peter Cates with a beer in each hand. “Luckily he brought that or we’d be screwed.”

The GoPro squad was, of course, in attendance. They haven’t missed a Masters in damn-near 20 years. And they were well represented, too! There was the GoPro Hero10 Black, the newest variety, on which a content creator peered down from the golf action to watch his dirt-biking footage. There were GoPro Hero8s hanging around and a couple GoPro Hero7s, too. Even a ragged GoPro Hero4. Does it get any better than the whole family, together at the Masters?

Perhaps the most entertaining photographers were the Sheriffs, Adam and GeLee, who toted what they thought was a steal. At just $40, GeLee had acquired the No. 3 digital camera on Amazon. One issue: the “Digital Camera for Kids Boys and Girls” was problematically too simple. After snapping their first pic, they spent the next 10 minutes trying to view the picture on the screen, to extreme disappointment. With inclement weather approaching, they were wasting their precious time, so they whisked off to the back nine, hopeful that they’ll figure it out when they get home.

“It’s funny how fast you forget to use these things,” GeLee said. “Our 4-year-old is going to love this once we get home.”

Stephen Denton

Stephen Denton

Littered throughout the grounds, there’s a clear sign of preparation, or lack thereof, in the technology wielded by patrons to capture their special days. There were the three millennial friends from Texas who scooped up disposables on the drive in, and others who had purchased theirs weeks in advance. No one was more prepared than Nikki and Sean Sanchez, who flew in from Fort Collins, Co. locked and loaded. They possessed not one, not two, but three cameras Tuesday morning, passing them back and forth to snap the same pictures on each, “just in case.”

They rocked a classic FujiFilm disposable, a Canon Powershot Elph from 2006, and a Canon Vixia camcorder from 2009. It ranks as the 381,498th most popular electronics product on Amazon and would spin Best Buy’s Geek Squad in circles. “It’s still bitchin’, though,” Nikki said.

“We bought that for the birth of our child,” Sean said, “and we’ve used it five times in the last 11 years.”

And now … six! 

The scene in front of the big board on No. 1 also plays out in the crosswalk on 15, at the edge of the ropes on 12, and left of the 16th green. All over, really, as long as some clicks remain. But it evokes an idea that is at the core of disposable cameras themselves: pictures come first, cameras come second. There are a lot of last-second purchases that take place in this town this time of year. 

The middle ground between a digital camera and a disposable? The polaroid.

Stephen Denton

Stephen Denton

Sunday night, before the madness began, only one digital camera could be found at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Staples and Target combined. The price-tag was a mean $650. And disposable inventory dwindles throughout the morning at the CVS across the street from the club, so patrons were finding the most success at the Wal-Mart three miles away. 

Jason Page was in attendance all by himself Tuesday morning, in from South Carolina, and looking around a bit sheepishly for a photographer of any kind. “Me and all my friends,” he joked as I snapped the shutter on the camera he bought “10 or 12 years ago” for his job at Michelin. Before iPhones took over the world, he used it every week to document flat tires or other deformities in the rubber. But this week, it’s paramount to remembering his first, and maybe last time visiting Augusta National.

“I’ve seen Pebble Beach and I’ve played Sawgrass and Sage Valley. These gorgeous courses,” he said. But Page laments that, despite his chance to be onsite this week, Augusta remains inaccessible in ways that the other courses aren’t.

“I can see her,” he said. “But I can’t touch her.” 

Thanks to an aging Sony Cybershot, he can keep looking for years to come.

Pro shop

Shop our selection of exclusive gear

Explore GOLF’s Pro Shop

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer and host for various video properties and podcasts. Check out his travels on Destination Golf and his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

Apple | Spotify | Stitcher | iHeart | PodBean