Friday, April 25, 2008

AVENTURA, FLA. – I’ve found a new tree.

A few weeks ago, I extolled the virtues of the eucalyptus trees that line the fairways of the Mission Hills Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif. I even let slip that I sometimes lie down under a certain tree during the Kraft Nabisco Championship, let my cap slip down over my eyes, and practice rhythmic breathing to a mantra taught me by a Coachella Valley mystic. (It goes, “Zzzzzzzzz … Zzzzzzzz …,” etc.)

Anyway, I was out this afternoon walking the Soffer Course at the Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, when a banyan tree to the side of the 18th fairway caught my eye. Banyan trees, if you’re not from Florida (or Maui or India) are the craziest, most wonderful shade trees in the world. They grow by dropping new roots from their limbs to the ground, and over time those root bundles become new trunks, so that after a century or so you’ve got a tree as wide as a football field with cave-like spaces between the trunks and horizontal limbs big enough to host parties on.

The banyan tree on 18 is still a pup, but it’s already 20 feet high, and its canopy is impenetrable; I’m guessing it can shade 50 adults at a time. Best of all, my tree is directly behind the lay-up area on the island-green par-5, affording spectators at the Stanford Invitational Pro-Am a perfect view of Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer as they hit their wedges to the flag. (Or the amateurs as they skull their fairway woods into the water.)

The only shortcoming of banyan trees, aside from the fact that they soak up water like a sponge, is that you can’t grow grass under them. The greenskeeper at Turnberry Isle has dealt with this by putting a waste bunker around my tree. It looks good. But if I wanted to sleep on packed sand and gravel, I’d go to the beach.

Tomorrow, in continued observance of Arbor Day, I’ll share my Top 10 list of golf course trees.

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