It’s been one year since the Eisenhower Tree was taken down, and Augusta National Golf Club has no plans to replace the landmark anytime soon.
The loblolly pine that guarded the left side of Augusta National’s 17th fairway and tormented former President Dwight D. Eisenhower fell victim to last February’s ice storm. The tree suffered major limb damage and was removed.
Masters Tournament officials closely monitored how the hole played in 2014, but found very little difference from the year before. The difference in scoring was miniscule as the hole played to an average of 4.24 in 2014 as compared to 4.22 in 2013.
There was a slight decrease in the number of birdies (22, down from 25) and pars (185, down from 197) and there were more bogeys (85, up from 81).
Historically, the 440-yard par-4 has played to an average of 4.15 since the club began keeping records in 1942. That makes it the 10th hardest hole overall.
The tree was named because the former president and Augusta National member often hit into it, and at a club meeting in 1956 he proposed cutting it down. Masters co-founder Clifford Roberts ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting, and the tree was immediately linked to Eisenhower.
A year later, the club has not announced how it will honor the landmark.
“We are in the process of determining how to permanently commemorate and remember this wonderful part of our history,” Augusta National and Masters chairman Billy Payne said at his annual media session in 2014. “Needless to say, there are many important constituencies: The Eisenhower Library, the golf world, our own Eisenhower Cabin, the 17th hole itself, all of our past champions, and of course members of Augusta National Golf Club. Once again, we will take our time, and hopefully we will get it right.”
Opinions varied as to whether the tree should be replaced. Younger players, like 2013 winner Adam Scott, said they had no problem hitting over the tree. Veterans like Ben Crenshaw were in favor of studying how the hole played.
According to six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus, the tree is more problematic for members and has no impact on the modern game.
“Well, I look at the area, it does look a little naked,” said Nicklaus, who is also an Augusta National member. “It’s not only Ike’s tree, but Little Ike and a couple other trees were gone. But they really had no effect on the play of the golf tournament. I think the statistics show that I think there’s been an average of maybe five of six balls that have hit the tree a year by bad shots, and it affected the membership far more.”
No. 17 all-time:
Cumulative: 4.15 (10)
Low: 3.949 (1996)
High: 4.348 (1951)
No. 17 in 2014:
4 double bogeys
No. 17 in 2013:
3 double bogeys