Along the left side of the 17th fairway sits a massive loblolly pine tree that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to have removed — until he ran into the club’s chairman and founder, Clifford Roberts. The tree is now a symbol of how ruthless Roberts could be, and another piece of what makes Augusta so special.
The story goes that Eisenhower hit into the pine so often that, at a governors meeting, he raised the issue of doing away with it. He was quickly rebuffed by Roberts, who ruled him out of order and promptly adjourned the meeting.
The pine’s limbs are now so prone to being hit from the 17th tee that it’s the only tree on the course with four ball-spotters surrounding it.
“All the amateurs hit it,” said one of those spotters, Nick Van Kluyve, who estimated that one out of two tee shots has nicked the branches this week.
The loblolly is now so cherished that it’s rumored that a replacement is being cultivated in case the Eisenhower tree is damaged or dies.
“The rumor is that it’s an insured tree,” said Van Kluyve, “which means that if it does go down, they have a close replacement that they would bring in, but they don’t let anybody know where that tree is.”
The 87-year-old tree’s limbs are now supported by wires and a steel beam, and it has a lightning rod attached to the top, as do most of the taller trees on the course.