Augusta National: A history of course changes - Part 5
Mother Nature has played a major role in shaping Augusta National through the years.
“Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course on it.”
– Bobby Jones, upon seeing the Augusta National property for the first time
Some of the world’s best architects have worked on Augusta National, and their influence is still felt today.
Then there’s Mother Nature.
Augusta National was blessed with a head start since it was built on the site of Fruitland Nurseries, a former indigo plantation. The site had a great variety of flowering plants and trees, including magnolias, pines and azaleas.
But Mother Nature wasn’t always kind. Weather has been responsible for some of the many changes that occurred at the home of the Masters.
In October 1990, a flood of epic proportions hit Augusta. A pair of tropical storms, Marco and Klaus, converged over the Augusta area and dumped nearly 15 inches of rain. The region was declared a national disaster area.
Augusta National was not spared. Water from Rae’s Creek hit the famous stretch of holes known as Amen Corner particularly hard, destroying the entire 11th green and the members’ tee at the 13th hole. The green and the front bunker at the 12th hole also were damaged.
The Hogan and Nelson bridges spanning Rae’s Creek weren’t damaged, but the Byron Nelson plaque at the 13th tee was torn from its footings.
According to records, about 8 1/2 inches of rain fell on Augusta in a 12-hour period from 7 p.m. Oct. 11 to 7 a.m. the next day. The Augusta-area Corps of Engineers compared it to a 200-year record rainfall.
Augusta National was quick to repair the damage. The club relied on original drawings from course architect Alister MacKenzie as well as detailed contour and topography maps.
The course was ready for play by Thanksgiving Day, about six weeks after the heavy rains.
In 1999, the 11th green was raised two feet and the pond guarding the green was raised a foot. Rae’s Creek was widened that year behind the green, and a dam now controls the water and is covered by a wooden structure.
In 2014, Mother Nature struck again.
The Eisenhower Tree, the loblolly pine that guarded the left side of Augusta National’s 17th fairway and tormented former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, fell victim to an historic February ice storm. The tree suffered major limb damage and was removed.
Two grafts and a seedling from the loblolly pine were preserved by the club. To date, a new tree hasn’t been planted where Ike’s Tree once stood.