Robin Barwick's latest Masters blog discusses the loss of the famous Eisenhower Tree from Augusta National's 17th hole

Words: Robin Barwick

One of the prominent preview themes of the 2014 Masters is the loss of the Eisenhower Tree from the 17th fairway, which had to be removed in February after it suffered irreparable damage from a brutal and brittling winter freeze.

The renowned Eisenhower Tree was a loblolly pine that guarded the left side of the 17th fairway, some 210 yards from the tee, and was so-called because Augusta National famously refused to have the tree removed, despite the repeated pleas of one of its most famous members, President Dwight Eisenhower.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” solemnly declared Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National, two months ago.

Pristine fairway now lies where the tree once stood, and while a piece of Augusta National heritage has been lost, Payne’s sentiments have not exactly been shared by the players at the Masters, who have had to deal with the imposing frame of Eisenhower’s Tree blocking their view of the 17th fairway and playing on their minds, even if most tour golfers could clear the tree much of the time.

“I won’t mind playing the 17th hole without the Eisenhower Tree there, purely from a standpoint of having a lot more room to look at,” admits 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott. “It might be a nice thing for the hole [not to have Eisenhower’s Tree], because it has really been narrowed a lot over the past 10 or 12 years, by planting trees on both sides of the fairway. It became a very narrow hole, with the Eisenhower Tree blocking really the whole left-hand side of the fairway. From the tee you could not see much space there at all. So it might be a nice way for the hole to be now, without it. It will still play pretty narrow, but the players will get a better visual off the tee. It might change the dynamic of that tee shot a little bit.”

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, winner of the 2010 PGA Championship, agrees: “Without the tree, the 17th hole will look very nice to golfers from the tee,” he says, “When I first heard the news about the tree it was sad, but then I thought about it for a couple minutes, remembered that I had hit it a couple times, and now I don’t have to worry about doing that again!”

“The Eisenhower Tree is part of Augusta’s history, but these things happen,” says Bernhard Langer, Masters champion in 1985 and 1993. “Nothing goes on forever. The 17th had become a very difficult hole, so I don’t expect the pros to miss the tree too much. The members might miss it for sentimental reasons. I don’t know if the 17th will be improved without it, but it will make the hole more normal. There are not many golf holes that have a tree right in the middle of the fairway.”

The Augusta Chronicle reports that Arnold Palmer, who become close friends with Dwight Eisenhower, believes the late president would, in fact, have been sorry to see the tree’s demise: “He loved Augusta, and I think deep down he probably loved that tree just because it irritated him so much.”

Final words to 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera. This is what he told the Augusta Chronicle: “I never saw it. Now when I get [to the 17th tee] and [the tree] is not there, I will see it.”

Robin Barwick travelled to Augusta National courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Global Sponsor of the 2014 Masters Tournament.