The Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National Golf Club

The first thing you need to know about the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National Golf Club is that it no longer exists. But once upon a time, it was one of the best-known — one could argue it was the most-famous — tree on any golf course anywhere. And why is easy to see in our very first sentence above: Dwight Eisenhower and Augusta National.

Augusta National Golf Club is, of course, the home of The Masters Tournament. And Dwight Eisenhower? Only, in his time, the most-famous person on earth. Commander of the Allies in World War II, architect of D-Day and the defeat of the Nazis, later two-term President of the United States. He was also an avid golfer who hated, we mean really, really hated, one particular tree at Augusta National. The tree that came to bear his name.

Naming the Eisenhower Tree

Before we tell you more about that Eisenhower Tree, let's take note of a different one of the same name. On Aug. 28, 1954, a pine tree was planted at Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania by members of the World Wars Tank Corps Association. During World War I, Eisenhower was the commander of what was known as Camp Colt, which was located on the Gettysburg battlefield. The tree was planted at what had been the site of Eisenhower's Camp Colt headquarters, and the tree was named, you guessed it, Eisenhower's Tree. That Eisenhower's Tree was later killed by a lightning strike.

Move forward two years from the Gettysburg tree planting to 1956. Then-President Eisenhower is a member at Augusta National and is in attendance at a meeting of the club's governors. He proposed that the big tree on the left of the 17th fairway be cut down and removed. Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts immediately ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting.

The tree Eisenhower wanted gone was the tree that immediately became known (if it wasn't already) after that meeting as the Eisenhower Tree, sometimes called Ike's Tree. And Eisenhower hated it so much because the golf balls he hit off the 17th tee so often were gobbled up by the tree.

The Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National Golf Club

Eisenhower Tree Location, Size, Impact on Golfers

The Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National was located about 210 yards from the tee on the 17th hole (named Nandina), on the left edge of the fairway. It was a 65-foot tall loblolly pine, and it had a larger spread than most pine trees: it was a wide load that jutted out into the fairway to the left side of the fairway's center.

It got in Eisenhower's way constantly. It got in the way of a lot of shots in The Masters Tournament, too. It wasn't uncommon for golfers to play the hole as a slight dogleg to the left, hitting their drives a bit out to the right and drawing the ball around the tree. And any of the Masters golfers could encounter problems with Ike's Tree if they misplayed a drive or pulled a drive to the left, or if they tried to hit over it or around it and didn't pull off the shot.

As distances in golf grew, the impact of the Eisenhower Tree in The Masters lessened. Most of the modern golfers in the field could fly right past it. It still popped up to grab errant shots from time to time, however. (It always remained an issue for club members.)

Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) incident happened during the 2011 Masters when Tiger Woods hit a poor drive that came to a stop below the tree. Woods had to squat under its branches while standing on pine straw to attempt his next stroke. And playing that shot resulted in him straining his left knee and left Achilles' tendon. Woods finished the tournament and was even in contention, but missed a big chunk of the remainder of the 2011 season.

The Death of the Eisenhower Tree

In February of 2014, a major wintor storm struck Augusta, Georgia, covering parts of the city in ice. At Augusta National Golf Club, Ike's Tree suffered major damage to its top and left side. The club called in arborists to assess the situation, and the news was what everyone feared: There was no chance the tree could survive the damage.

The club made the only decision it could under the circumstance: take it down. The tree was removed over the weekend of Feb. 15-16, 2014.

At the time of its death, the Eisenhower Tree was believed to be from 100 to 125 years old. And you know a tree means a lot when famous golfers start issuing statements upon learning of its fate. This is the statement Jack Nicklaus put out:

"The Eisenhower Tree is such an iconic fixture and symbol of tradition at Augusta National. It was such an integral part of the game and one that will be sorely missed. I hit it so many times over the years that I don't care to comment on the names I called myself and the names I might have called the tree. 'Ike's Tree' was a kind choice. But looking back, Ike's Tree will be greatly missed."
As Tiger Woods comments in the video at the top of this page, the removal of the Eisenhower Tree turned the tee shot on the 17th hole of Augusta National from a slight dogleg into a straightaway shot. It certainly removed quite a bit of tradition, and at least a little bit of character, from the golf course.

But Augusta National is planning for the future. First, though, the club created a couple large cross-sections of the removed tree, one as a presentation piece to the Eisenhower Library, another as a display piece at Augusta National. And the club began growing one seedling and two grafts of Ike's Tree with the possibility that one of them might some day take the place of its famous predecessor on the left-hand side of the 17th fairway at Augusta National.

Photo credit: Shannon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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