Arboreal Top Ten

AVENTURA, Fla. — I promised yesterday to come up with a Top Ten list of my favorite golf trees, so here goes:
10. Coconut palms. How can you not love a course lined with the snowbird’s favorite tree? Even better: they’re so skinny that they’re hard to hit.
9. Redwoods. You don’t want more than a few of these forest titans on your golf course, because turfgrass needs sunlight to grow. But if you want a Hansel-and-Gretel golfing experience, check out the Alister MacKenzie-designed 9-hole Northwood Golf Course in Monte Rio, Calif.
8.  Figs. The fruit cookies may be tiny, but these trees are immense with above-ground roots that resemble poured concrete. The figs I’ve seen on Australian courses are so big you could build fairway condos in their branches.
7.  Lombardy poplars. Well, it’s a poplarity contest, isn’t it? These tall, column-shaped trees are tres European, and they’re typically planted in rows to separate fairways or decorate course boundaries. I like the lombardies at Saint-Nom-La-Breteche, outside Paris.
6.  Eucalypti. Tall, elegant, and they’ve got that cool, shaggy bark. Don’t call them "junk trees" in my presence.
5.  Hospitality oaks. That’s my name for those big-ass trees that people gather under at major championships. The best example is the giant oak behind the clubhouse at Augusta National — known to Masters-goers as "The Tree" — but I’m just as fond of the venerable oak behind the 18th green at Sunningdale, outside London.
4. Cottonwoods. These big shade trees grow along rivers and streams in Kansas. At Prairie Dunes, one of my favorite courses, sprawling cottonwoods provide stunning backdrops to the links-style holes.
3. Corks. I thought "put a cork in it" was just an expression until I walked the fairways of Valderrama in San Roque, Spain. The big, twisted trees and tumbling terrain made the 2002 Ryder Cup an aesthetic, if not an American, triumph.
2. Banyans. They’re actually a variety of fig — see No. 8 above and my previous posting. Banyans are safe climbing trees, which gives your kids something to do if you’ve dragged them to the Stanford International Pro-Am against their will.
1. Cypresses. If the most beautiful golf course in the world is called Cypress Point, doesn’t that say it all? These trees are so dramatic that they look just as good DEAD.
If you want my pick for Lifetime Achievement Award, tree division, it’s the giant mango tree on the Nadi Airport Golf Course in Nadi, Fiji. That’s the tree that Vijay Singh practiced under as a boy.
Unfortunately, Vijay’s mango couldn’t be here today, but accepting the award on its behalf ….
No, I guess not.

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