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Jack RossIf you make the pilgrimage to Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters tournament this April you will still be able to walk past the Eisenhower Cabin.  But, alas, the legendary Eisenhower Tree will no longer guard the 17th fairway, a victim of an ice storm that struck the course last week.

One of the most famous trees in golf, the 65-foot tall Loblolly Pine was located in the left center of the fairway about 210 yards from the Masters tee.  It posed few problems for most professionals, who could drive over it, but was a constant source of annoyance to Dwight Eisenhower, who joined the club in 1948 and used it frequently as a retreat during his presidency.  (Eisenhower probably played more rounds of golf than any sitting president – even Barack Obama.)

After countless tee shots suffered gnarly encounters with the dreaded pine, Eisenhower lobbied to have it removed.   His efforts were rebuffed by club chairman Clifford Roberts, demonstrating that there are limits to presidential power.

For years, the tree was supported by cables, but the latest storm proved to be the crushing blow.  “The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in a statement.  “We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible. “  There are rumors that the club will replace the tree before this year’s Masters.  No doubt, Jim Nance will deliver an emotional tribute to the tree during the CBS broadcast.

As for Eisenhower, perhaps he’s smiling down from the heavens, but also wondering why the ice storm couldn’t have struck 65 years ago.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to make it to the Masters while the Eisenhower Tree was still standing guard over the 17th fairway.   (The tree is in the left background in photo.)  I did not have the opportunity to play the course, so I’m not sure whether I would have fared any better than Eisenhower against the sprawling foe.  It quite possibly could have interfered with the pull-slice I sometimes play off the tee.

However, there are some problematic trees I’d like to remove from the courses I do play.  So, in memory of the Eisenhower Tree, here are my Problem Tree Removal Nominations:

1.  The large hardwood on the left of the fairway of the 18th hole at Quail Hollow, about 100 yards from the green.  This obstacle makes it difficult for me to hit a lay-up shot after a poor tee shot, because it creates a very narrow channel between the tree and the hazard. It is a majestic tree, I admit.

2.   The large hardwood in the center of the fairway of the 18th hole on the North Course at Stowe Acres.  I have enough problems hitting fairways without having to contend with a tree on the rare occasion that I drill one down the middle.

3.  The large hardwood left of the water hazard on the 7th hole at Kettlebrook.  Typically on my second shot on this par-5 hole my options are to lay up short of the immense hazard (leaving a challenging shot over the hazard to the green) or hit left far enough past the tree to have a short iron to the green.  Invariably, I end up in a position where I am blocked by the tree.  I have at times pulled off some creative shots through the tree, but more often have watched with dismay as shots deflected off limbs into the hazard.  Simply unfair.

4.    The large hardwood on the right of the fairway on the 10th hole at Green Hill, which narrows the driving zone on a hole that slopes to the left.  I have no doubt that had Eisenhower played Green Hill, he’d have suggested removing this tree.

5.  The hardwood to the left of the tee on the 12th hole at Holden Hills.  If the tee markers are on the left tee box, this huge tree blocks a large portion of the fairway.  I have been lucky enough to hit some fine shots through the top branches that landed unscathed in the fairway.  (An easier solution than removing the tree would be to abandon the left tee boxes.  Perhaps I’ll send a link of this article to Jeff Bailey.)

I’m sure my appeals to remove problem trees would fare no better than Eisenhower’s campaign to remove his nemesis pine at Augusta.  Which is probably the way it should be.  Trees are a part of the course.  Learn to hit better shots, and quit complaining.

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