Will Augusta National look as lovely as our Nebraska pasture?
My dad and I are getting set to pay a visit to the Masters golf tournament this week, an event that seems almost as well known for its setting as for the championship golf itself. For dad, who turns 85 this summer, this is a "bucket list" deal; we're looking forward to the drama of seeing the world's greatest golfers compete for the green jacket.
Of course, the Masters spotlight this year is shining on Tiger Woods. But, I'm as much interested in seeing what the ethereal grounds of Augusta National look like close up.
How can a place engineered to be so beautiful for golf and television be created from the same stuff as any old pasture—soil, water and grass?
The thousands of fans trampling the turf and golfers punching out divots must put the same sort of pressure on the resource as does a tightly packed beef herd mob grazing through paddocks, no?
I’ve had the same kind of question about how tennis at Wimbledon can be played on grass for two weeks steady, or how football games can be grinded out on on frozen turf in late autumn. And how do they keep those perfect patterns mowed on outfield grass in major league ball parks through the dog days of summer?
Augusta National is in a class of its own, though: The carefully tended dogwood, the azaleas, and pines frame perfectly coiffed fairways, shining white sand traps, vibrant greens and magical flows of water. Adding to the atmosphere are the legendary names of the natural features--the Eisenhower Tree, Rae's Creek, and Amen Corner....
Dad and I won’t be providing a lot of on-site coverage. Augusta’s environment is tightly controlled. Cameras and cell phones aren't allowed. You stay behind the ropes. There’s no running allowed.
A media contact in the golf course management trade press tells me that “everyone at Augusta is contractually prohibited from discussing anything connected with course maintenance or preparation of the course.” Steve Ethun, director of communications for the Masters, said this morning that "it's a tough week to line up an interview with the agronomics team." Understand. If Augusta were a farm, this would be harvest season with a winter storm rolling in.
So we don't expect to learn the secret formula of Augusta this week. But, Dad and I’ll be there taking in the sights Thursday and Friday, joining the crowd rambling around the ol' Georgia pasture. If you’re watching on TV, look for the two guys wearing Successful Farming caps.