Augusta National, home of the Masters, is one of the most beautiful venues in all of sports, and much of that beauty comes straight from nature. Here, a few of the more distinctive natural elements that you’ll see all weekend at Augusta.
One of the most beautiful drives in the world of sports runs 330 yards from Washington Road right up to the clubhouse of Augusta National. Sixty magnolias, grown from the original seeds of the property, line the road, which still quickens the pace of every golfer who has the privilege of driving up it.
Augusta National sprawls across 365 acres, and many of those are covered by the iconic azaleas. The flower lines the entire run of the 13th hole that bears its name. An early spring meant that the azaleas bloomed too early last year, but the weather in Georgia has been gray for weeks … right up until Monday, in fact, leading to a right-on-schedule bloom.
The Center Gallery
In the middle of the enormous Augusta National course sits a vast, open field. "This happens to be one of the most attractive gallery centers I've seen on any course," wrote Bobby Jones, co-designer of the course. "Within a radius of 100 yards, one may observe five scenes of action." Easily visible without even moving are the greens of 2, 7 and 17, the tee shots of 3 and 8.
The Big Oak
Augusta's clubhouse dates to 1854, and the sprawling oak behind the clubhouse was planted right around the time construction was completed. It's now one of the most popular meeting spots on the course, and since players coming off 18 pass by it en route to the locker room, it's a frequent backdrop for postround interviews.
The Lone Palm
There are an estimated 80,000 plants on the Augusta National property, but only one palm. Behind the fourth green, on the western edge of the property, sits a single palm, the last relic of a time when a nursery stood nearby. Last year, a caddie promised his wife a diamond ring if she could find the tree…and none other than Bubba Watson pointed it out to her. (Bubba promised to buy the ring if he won the Masters…and you know how that turned out.)
The site of Bubba Watson's miracle
Deep – very deep – in the woods to the right of the 10th green sits a patch of dirt among the pines. It's from this point that Bubba Watson managed one of the great shots in Masters history, a hooking wedge that landed mere feet from the hole. It's already a popular spot for patrons to visit … and wonder how in the world Watson could have envisioned, much less completed, such a shot.
In 2011, Rory McIlroy was leading the Masters heading into the back nine on Sunday when he suffered one of the most brutal collapses in recent memory. He held a one-shot lead when he walked to the tee at 10, and proceeded to knock the tee shot into the tall pines, known as "The Pipes." One triple-bogey later, and the lead was gone for good.
The small, winding creek that enters Augusta National at the southeast corner of the property gives Amen Corner its distinctive risk-reward element. More than one golfer has seen his hopes for a green jacket roll off the green at 12 and into the shallow waters below.
The pond at 16
The par-3 16th is a 160-yard well-dressed menace, and the pond that fronts it is the site of one of Augusta's best practice-round traditions. Early in the week, players and caddies will try to skip a ball from the tee across the water and onto the green, and several players can pull it off. A few have even managed a skip-shot ace.
The Eisenhower Tree
Former president Dwight Eisenhower hit he century-old loblolly pine on the left side of the fairway at 17 so many times that he asked the club to cut it down. Since it's still standing, it's obvious who won that battle. Standing about 210 yards from the tee, the Eisenhower tree is rarely a factor any longer in the Masters, but its legend and lesson remain obvious.