There are few places in golf as special as Augusta National Golf Club. You probably never thought you’d be reading an article about a tree any more than I thought I’d be writing one, but yet here we sit. Then again, Augusta has a special place in the game’s history, and this isn’t about just any tree.
The ice storms that recently shut down much of Georgia cost the club the famed Eisenhower Tree that sat on the 17th hole. Former President Dwight Eisenhower was a member at Augusta and hated the tree so much that he petitioned then-chairman Clifford Roberts to have it removed. Of course, at Augusta, even being the leader of the free world only gets you so far, and that tree continued to cause players headaches in the decades since.
Current chairman Billy Payne told media that the course sustained no other major damage, and that preparations for this year’s Masters tournament were still moving forward as planned. Supposedly, the club has been planning for the loss of the 65-foot-high Loblolly Pine for years, and may even have a replacement picked out.
“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history,” Payne said. “Rest assured, we will do both appropriately.”
There is no doubt in my mind that the Augusta National brass will do a fine job respecting the history of the course, but rushing to replace the tree by the time Masters week begins in early April may not be the best course of action. It may just be a tree, but it defined the way the hole had to be played. If that can’t be done properly, then it shouldn’t be done at all. Perhaps a small plaque would do the trick.
One thing is for sure – while President Eisenhower may have finally gotten his wish, the course just won’t be the same without the pesky landmark.