There’s something about the bygone-era charm of Augusta National that makes smoking a cigar at the Masters a tradition unlike any other. “Masters week is the equivalent of our entire Christmas season,” says Russell Wilder, owner of Top Shelf Cigar in Augusta. And even though Augusta, Georgia, passed a strict smoking ordinance that is now in effect, it's still legal to smoke on the course (or in the crowd).
Wilder grew up across the street from Augusta and his quaint shop and lounge enjoys a nice bump in business every first week of April. Masters week accounts for nearly 12 percent of Top Shelf’s annual cigar sales. Pro golf is one of the last cigar-friendly spectator sports, so many fans—whether they are regular smokers or not—take advantage of the rare opportunity with a cigar in hand.
“We still get our fair share of seasoned cigar smokers in the shop,” says Wilder. “But for other people who come in, it might be the only cigar they smoke all year.”
Then there are Augusta’s longtime tournament badge holders. These lucky folks have the pleasure of returning each year to indulge in their tradition of walking the storied grounds with a cigar. “I have customers who have been coming in for 20 years,” explains Marcella Perez, owner of Marcella’s Fine Cigars & Tobaccos in Augusta. “They only come in once a year, but they always come back.”
Marcella’s is located just half a mile from the gates of Augusta National—certainly not a bad location for a cigar shop. In addition to its retail store, Marcella's plans to sell cigars in a temporary tent that will be set up across the entrance of Augusta National.
Perez has even had the opportunity to attend the Masters. She went to the final round in 2014 and enjoyed a cigar while watching Bubba Watson don a green jacket for the second time. “Golf and cigars,” she says in her unassuming southern drawl, “they just really go together.”