Southern Hospitality Is Not Gone With The Wind?

Southern Hospitality Is Not ‘Gone With The Wind’

Augusta Sports Council and CVB offer private lodging for ‘at-home’ comfort during the Masters

By John Buchanan

My mother had a lifelong obsession with Clark Gable. As a young woman, before I was born, she had encountered him in a revolving door at a New York City hotel, just after “Gone with the Wind” had made its 1939 premiere in Atlanta. She never fully recovered from the experience. As a result, particularly since I grew up in the Civil War town of Petersburg, Va., a certain notion of Southern grandiosity and hospitality has always shaped my work as a travel writer. I may not be the next William Faulkner, but I know a good thing when I see it.

So it was that I arrived at the hospitality house hosted during the Masters golf tournament in April by the Greater Augusta Sports Council and Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). For the last six years—and for the last four consecutive years in the same pillared mini-mansion in the Walton Way neighborhood of Augusta—those two organizations have combined forces to ensure quality time with sports event owners, meeting planners, travel writers and other VIPs. It’s like being a private guest in someone’s home—because, well, you are. The house is owned by a prominent surgeon who has excellent taste in art, antiques and cookbooks. He and his family go on vacation each year during the Masters to escape its mayhem.
 
For me, the two-day immersion in one of the world’s most revered spectacles of sporting life was a revelation. And while it does have its share of mayhem, the Masters hospitality house offers the luxuries of privacy and quiet amidst the week-long insanity of the hottest VIP ticket in corporate America. Guests of the hospitality house have run of the kitchen, with a fully stocked refrigerator from local caterer French Market Grill. Instead of a mini-bar found in many hotel rooms, the hospitality house is stocked with premium liquors. There’s also full laundry facilities, so guests can throw in a load of laundry while they enjoy a Continental breakfast and gaze at the garden. But best of all, the hospitality house is conveniently located close to Augusta National Golf Club—and a personal driver allows guests to sit back and enjoy the ride there.
 
It’s no wonder, then, that Tammy Stout, executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council, and Augusta CVB President Barry White consider the house an excellent investment.
 
“There’s no comparison between using a house and a hotel,” said Stout, whose organization draws a long list of prestigious sports events to Augusta each year, including ESPN’s Bassmaster Elite, the Nike Nationals and USTA Georgia Cup state championship. “You have all of the conveniences of traditional housing, and we’re able to provide personal amenities, such as personal menus based on the requests of our guests. It also allows us to build [one-on-one] relationships in 48 hours that normally would take years.”
 
According to White, the hospitality house opens doors to other sports events and attractions in Augusta. “It’s a way to use the prestige of the Masters—the greatest sports event in the world—as leverage and as a springboard to talk about what there is to see and do in Augusta throughout the year.”
 
It’s also an excellent way to catapult a journalist into the genteel world of Rhett Butler, if only for a couple of days. My mother would have been proud.
 
For more information about sports events, venues or lodging in Augusta, visit www.augustasportscouncil.org. For general tourism information in Augusta, visit www.augusta.org.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read John Buchanan’s special report, “The Masters Secrecy To Success.” Read how the CIA-like secrecy of the event has helped build its tradition as the most prestigious sports event in the world.