Masters Economy in One Word: Booming

Ian Poulter of England hits an approach shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
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Ian Poulter of England hits an approach shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

If the Masters golf tournament is any indication of how the U.S. economy is faring, then things seem to be looking up.

At least for some.

Ticket prices are soaring. Private jet travel is back in a big way. And you can't find a hotel within 120 miles of Augusta, Ga.

"The demand is at least twice as big as last year," says James Dizoglio, owner of Jimmy D's tickets. He's sold tickets to the Masters for more than a decade and says supply for this year's Masters is the tightest he's ever seen.

With limited amounts of available tickets, and thousands looking for them, a single daily ticket is going for more than $2,500—some asking prices for Sunday inched over $3,000—and four-day passes were going for $8,000 to $10,000.

"I've never seen it this bad," said retiree David Breslin, who spent the morning looking for a ticket ... unsuccessfully. He drove into Augusta after staying at the only hotel he could find, which was two hours away.

Breslin settled on hoping to find someone leaving early and scooping up a half-day pass at a discount.

Tim Nordhal was a little bit luckier.

He found three tickets for $1,600 each, but was struggling to find a fourth.

"I've been here before where we paid $1,100 for a four-day badge," Nordhal said.

Masters tickets aren't the only hard thing to come by.

Hotels are booked solid all the way to Atlanta and South Carolina. If you're lucky enough to find a modest room, expect to pay an almost unbelievable premium.

For instance, a room Clarion Suites can go for $429.

Next week?


Private jet travel is another example of a booming Masters economy.

In fact, Augusta Regional Airport had to cap how many private jets could come in for the first time ever, implementing a strict reservation system back in February.

"Our flight segments into Augusta for the Masters have doubled from last year," says Mike Silvestro, CEO of Flight Options, the nation's second-largest operator.

NetJets is the biggest. According to the company, it has more private jets flying to the Masters this year than it did flying to the Super Bowl.

That's rare—possibly unprecedented.

So what's behind such high demand? Companies are starting to spend again, guilt free, on hospitality.

"I haven't seen dollars being spent like this on the Masters since Tiger (Woods) made his first appearance in the 90s," said Robert Tuchman, president of Goviva, a sports and entertainment company that coordinated travel to the Masters for more than 500 clients.

Augusta has always been a great place to entertain clients, but now two new female members have broken a long-established gender barrier at Augusta National.

The golf club admitted former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and financer Darla Moore last year, and it's had a surprising impact: More companies are coming to the tournament.

"The fact that Augusta is now including women into their membership has had a significant positive effect on the number of companies that are willing to use the Masters as an entertainment platform," said Charlie Besser, president of Intersport, a sports media and marketing company that owns the Double Eagle Club, which provides corporate hospitality at the Masters.

The Double Eagle charges $500 per person, per day, so that corporate clients can get high-end food and drink right across the street from Augusta National.

It is completely sold out—just like everything else in and around Augusta.

So, when you add all these things together, it paints a pretty good economic picture of the economy ... at least for the so-called 1 percent.

—By CNBC's Jessica Golden and Brian Shactman; Follow Brian on Twitter @bshactman