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Jim Evans, senior assistant golf course superintendent at the Augusta National, demonstrates how he and his crew treat mole cricket holes with soap and water. (File/Staff)

Nothing cosmetic

Mother Nature and environmentally friendly maintenance practices create awe-inspiring beauty of Augusta National Golf Club

Augusta National Golf Club's fairways and tees are the greenest.

The blooms on the dogwoods and azaleas are the brightest and prettiest.

And the ponds that guard some of the most famous holes in golf are picture-book shades of blue.

Must be an aggressive fertilization and watering program, right?

Guess again.

Natural timing and natural beauty are just two of the reasons golf fans typically ``ooh'' and ``ahh'' each year when they arrive for the Masters Tournament.

Contrary to popular opinion, the club does not apply heavy doses of fertilizer or pesticides to keep appearances up, key personnel at Augusta National say. In fact, the opposite is true.

``At Augusta National Golf Club, we are concerned about the environment,'' said Hootie Johnson, club chairman. ``A state-of-the-art irrigation system and a primarily curative versus preventative philosophy are just two examples of our commitment to the environment.''

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Mother Nature has been kind to Augusta National. Real kind.

The 365-acre property off Washington Road once was an indigo plantation. In the 19th century it became Fruitlands Nurseries, and many trees and plants were imported from all over the world. When the nursery closed in 1918, many flowering plants and trees remained on the property.

When Masters co-founder Bobby Jones discovered the property after he retired from competitive golf in 1930, he was awestruck.

``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,'' Jones said on his first visit.

Over the years, Augusta National has evolved into the Taj Mahal of golf courses. Cutting-edge technology, and a corresponding budget, make it the envy of courses around the world.

But some answers to commonly asked questions are rather simple.

Why is everything so green? Augusta National's tees and fairways are Bermuda grass, but they are overseeded each fall with rye grass.

Does the club pack the flowers in ice to ensure they bloom in time for the Masters each year? No. With such a large property, it would be virtually impossible to do that. Most of the varieties, such as the dogwoods and azaleas, bloom in the spring around the time of the tournament.

A state-of-the-art maintenance facility is where it all begins. Inside are meeting and training rooms, a shop area, a soil lab and an on-site weather station to help the club tackle any problem. Outside, a wash rack for equipment and a water recycling system keep unwanted chemicals in check.

The facility doubles as a staging area during Masters Week, where dozens of volunteers from other courses come to Augusta to help with the tournament. The club's intern program promotes awareness of environmental issues, and more than 100 golf course maintenance professionals have been trained at Augusta National.

Another factor that is largely ignored is the fact that Augusta National is a seasonal club. The course is shut down each May and reopens in October, thus eliminating a lot of wear and tear during the peak summer months.

That time of year is when improvements and construction on the course take place. Extreme care and attention are given to the course's famed greens. Because they are bentgrass, a cool-season grass, particular care is taken during the hottest months.

Keeping the greens - Facts about the Augusta National

  • Natural timing to minimize use of pesticides, fertilizers and water
  • Hand water trees, shrubs, flowers and greens to conserve water
  • Airflow technology to improve the health of the turf and reduce need for fertilizers, pesticides and water
  • Live radar is used to predict rain and timing of applications to minimize runoff
  • About 55 acres of property, off the left side of 11th hole, are native forest to provide wildlife habitat
  • Tree reforestation program is ongoing, with more than 100 trees planted in 1997 and more than 60 in 1998
  • Parking areas for tournament are left unpaved to reduce surface runoff and provide habitat for ground-nesting birds
  • Tree mulching program prevents soil erosion, conserves water, improves soil quality and recycles tree industry waste products
  • Trees are kept healthy by using support cables for weak trees and providing lightning protection
  • Raw water is used for irrigation
  • Property serves as refuge site for thousands of migratory birds

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