Augusta removes Eisenhower Tree

One of the most famous landmarks at Augusta National Golf Club had to be removed over the weekend due to severe damage suffered in a recent ice storm.

The Eisenhower Tree -- named in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower -- was located on the 17th hole and has played a prominent role in many Masters Tournaments.

It was particularly annoying to the former president, who famously asked to have it removed -- and was rebuffed by the club leadership.

"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept," club chairman Billy Payne said in a statement. "We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.

"We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history -- rest assured, we will do both appropriately."

The tree was estimated to be 100 to 125 years old and was located about 210 yards from the Masters tee in the left center of the fairway. It was a Loblolly Pine that was about 65 feet high.

Another tree that had in recent years been planted behind Ike's Tree also had to be removed due to the storm.

Eisenhower, an Augusta National member from 1948 until his death in 1969, played the course frequently during his presidency and was known to hit his tee shots at the tree, and thus lobbied to have it removed. At a club meeting in 1956, Augusta chairman Clifford Roberts ruled Eisenhower out of order and adjourned the meeting -- and the tree has been linked to him ever since.

In 2011, when playing his second shot from the pine straw beneath Ike's Tree, four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods suffered injuries that weren't disclosed until after the tournament. He had knee and Achilles issues that caused him to miss four months, including the next two major championships.

"The Eisenhower Tree is such an iconic fixture and symbol of tradition at Augusta National," said Jack Nicklaus, an Augusta National member and six-time Masters winner. "It was such an integral part of the game and one that will be sorely missed.

"Over the years, it's come into play many, many times on the 17th hole. When I stood on the 17th tee, my first thought, always, was to stay away from Ike's Tree. Period. ... 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."

Augusta and much of Georgia was subjected to a severe weather storm last week and photos surfaced of snow and ice on Magnolia Lane and lots of clean-up work.

"Like so many of our family, friends and neighbors in this community, Augusta National Golf Club has been busy cleaning up after the historic ice storm last week," Payne said. "Everyone affected remains in our hearts and prayers and we likewise hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all."

The Augusta Chronicle obtained a photo of the tree after the storm, which showed the left side of the tree missing most of its branches. For years, the tree has been held together by cables.

As for the rest of the golf course, which is set to host the year's first major championship starting on April 10, Payne said: "I can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for member play and we will be unaffected in our preparation for the 2014 Masters Tournament."

There has long been conjecture that Augusta National was preparing for this day, and that it has a replacement picked out from some undisclosed location. Whether or not that can or will occur in time for the 2014 Masters is to be determined.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.