One of the grandest traditions in sports is an annual rite of spring here in Georgia. In early April, the world’s elite golfers travel to Augusta National Golf Club to determine who will claim the title of champion at the Masters Tournament.
But the players aren’t the only stars in this show.
The 86th Masters Tournament is April 7–10
at the world-famous Augusta National Golf Club.
When the eyes of the golf world turn to Augusta, they’re often focused on the spectacular natural beauty of the famous golf course. The Georgia gem, which opened in 1933, is legendary for its blooming azaleas, pristine greens and breathtaking vistas.
It’s no exaggeration to say the landscaping at Augusta National is a big deal. Golf fans take their Masters view very seriously. Evidence of that fact: A January 2022 announcement of the club’s intent to hire a landscape architect made national sports headlines. One reporter described the position as “the most pressure-packed golf gig we can think of.”
The emphasis on beauty as well as bunkers is
evident across the 365 acres of grounds.
The emphasis on beauty as well as bunkers has been evident ever since Georgia native and legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones conceived the idea of locating a championship-caliber course in the state. He found the right spot in 1931 — a 365-acre piece of land near Augusta that was an indigo plantation in the early 1800s and then a plant nursery for more than 50 years. Jones declared the location as “perfect,” adding, “and to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course upon it.”
Augusta National annually morphs into Shangri-La thanks to the year-round work of a dedicated grounds crew and greenskeepers. Before the pros tee off for the 2022 edition of the tournament, Walton Gas shares these facts about the magnificent natural environment where the contest will play out.
- The course was previously the site of Fruitland Nurseries, a floriculture business established by Belgian Baron Louis Mathieu Edouard Berckmans and his son, Prosper Julius Alphonse, in 1857. The two men imported many different types of trees and plants from other countries. Prosper is credited with popularizing the azalea plant in the U.S. Appropriately, Prosper’s 74-year-old son, Louis, was enlisted to choose the location of the course’s original azalea plantings.
- Henry Crowell, founder of the Quaker Oats Company and a gardening enthusiast who lived in Augusta in the winters, was the original landscape artist for the grounds. Crowell and Louis Berckmans supervised the initial installation of more than 4,000 plants and trees in the spring of 1932, including azaleas, dogwoods, honeysuckle and magnolias.
More than 80,000 plants frame the course.
- More than 80,000 plants of more than 350 varieties frame the course today.
- According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Augusta National has 100 acres of fairway and 40 acres of rough. There are 44 bunkers. Six water hazards come into play on holes 2, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16. Perennial ryegrass is used on the tees, fairways and rough; bentgrass is used on the greens.
- Each hole is named after the landscaping that adorns it. From the blossoming magnolias on hole five to the blooms of the pink dogwoods on the second hole, each name recognizes the beauty surrounding it. The Masters website offers detailed photos and information about the namesake plant for each hole.
The 13th hole is adorned with more than 1,000 azalea shrubs.
- Azaleas are Augusta National’s most famous plantings. More than 30 varieties of azaleas can be found around the course. The 13th hole, aptly named Azalea, contains more than a thousand of the shrubs.
- An ideal growth environment rather than chemicals is responsible for the Oz-like green of the lush fairways during Masters week. The grounds crew uses less water and fewer pesticides than many homeowners routinely do, and they don’t fertilize at all.
- A crew of 40 full-time employees and 60 volunteers (many of them traveling to Georgia from other countries) micromanage the grounds during the tournament.
Magnolia Lane is lined by 61 magnolia trees
that date to the late 1850s.
- Magnolia Lane, the 330-yard road extending from the golf club’s entrance gate to the clubhouse, is lined by 61 magnolia trees that date to the late 1850s. The trees’ branches meet overhead, creating a tunnel effect that is particularly striking when the trees are in bloom.
- The spring-fed, 3-acre Ike’s Pond on the eastern part of the club’s grounds is named for avid golfer Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower, the only U.S. president to ever be a club member. The World War II general suggested creating the lake so that he could also enjoy another pastime: fishing.
Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1933 and began hosting the Masters a year later. With the exception of a three-year hiatus during World War II, the club has welcomed players and guests for the premier sporting event every year since.
Whether you are among the lucky few who get to see it in person or watch it on TV, the Masters — and its Mother Nature co-star — is a rite of spring not to be missed.