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Golf: Masters phone ban has fans dialed into the action

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - If not for the modern clothing styles, photos of the lucky patrons attending the last round of the U.S. Masters on Sunday could be confused with ones from another era since no one will be holding up a smartphone.

FILE PHOTO: Patrons use landline phones to call out as cell phones are not allowed on the course during Monday practice rounds for the 2017 Masters at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Augusta National has strict rules that forbid anyone from taking a phone or camera on to the course, a throwback to the days of spectators who focused solely on the action as opposed to capturing a selfie or tweeting.

Standing in front of the course’s massive manually operated scoreboard along the first fairway, 17-year-old Sanford Satcher said he could enjoy the tournament more without the pressure to document every moment.

“If I had my phone on me right now, I’d feel that I have to snap pictures instead of just evaluating it with my own eyes,” he said. “It makes you value what’s around you and who you are with.”

And it is not just the millennial generation that appreciates the break from technology.

Ramon Zalanea, 69, said he was anxious about leaving his cell phone in his hotel room before coming to the course on Saturday.

“I didn’t think I could live without it,” he said with a laugh. “But now that we’re here, I feel less stress. I can just enjoy the game.”

Zalanea’s son Dennis said being phoneless made him appreciate elements of the serene course he may have otherwise missed, from the chirping birds to the towering pines.

“You’re actually in the moment rather than trying to capture the moment,” he said.

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The consequences of being caught with a phone or any other digital device at the Masters are severe - immediate expulsion and a possible lifetime ban from the tournament.

Patrons hoping to capture a photo at Augusta National can wait in line while an official photographer takes their picture at Founders Circle, the famous spot at the end of Magnolia Lane with the Masters logo formed by yellow pansies.

Security guard Vicki Cromley said the ban makes her job easier.

Concession and restroom lines move more quickly, people appear less stressed, and it encourages the patrons to focus on the golf, the atmosphere and their loved ones.

“It’s good for them,” she said. “People actually talk to their children and each other.”

Around the timeless fairways of Augusta, people who rely on their phones as watches too are constantly asking Cromley what time it is.

“It’s nice not to see people Tindering or playing on Facebook,” said Kris Aylett, who lives in Augusta. “I can’t think of another place like this.”

But just because there are no cell phones at Augusta National does not mean there are no phones at all.

Patrons can make toll free calls to anywhere in the world at public phone banks located in the Augusta National grounds.

Dennis Zalanea said he called his sister who was thrilled to see “Augusta, Georgia” pop up on her cell phone’s caller ID.

He wanted to make more calls but realized he did not know many of his friend and family’s phone numbers. They are saved on his cell phone, which was back in his hotel room.

Editing by Frank Pingue and Ed Osmond