Augusta National's beauty centuries in the making

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email

News 12 Midday, April 7, 2010

AUGUSTA---The usual reaction for most first-time visitors to Augusta National Golf Course is "wow". Making it look this good has been in the works for centuries.

With its rolling hills and millions of flowers, plants, and trees, Augusta National is truly one of a kind.

"It will be beautiful," said ornamental horticulturist Jenny Addie of Green Thumb West, showing off what will one day be a flowering crab apple, just like the ones that line hole number 4. Each of the 18 holes showcases a specific plant.

"It's gorgeous," she said of the National. "It's absolutely magical, and it's so unique."

The grounds started as an indigo plantation. In the 1850s a Belgian baron named Berckmans and his son bought the land with plans of a nursery.

"They did some incredible hybridizing," Addie said. "They were the parents of peach trees in this area. They developed a lot of peach trees, a lot of pear trees and they also developed the most incredible azalea: the Southern Enticer azaleas."

Decades after it was transformed into a golf course, the land still resembles a botanical garden.

"It's huge, and it's so amazing what they've done," Addie said. "There is not anything like it in the world."

Addie says about 50 years ago the founders of Green Thumb West helped plant the first big showing of azaleas out at the course. Today, more than 300 varieties of the flower come into focus.

"We had a tractor trailer load of azaleas, and we planted them throughout the course," Addie said. "And then when they put the cameras on them the next morning, they said, 'It's not enough'."

From Magnolia Lane to Amen Corner, every single flower and plant has its place. Addie calls it an art.

"They'll put them in their microclimates so they perform to their very best, and it is an art, and they've got some wonderful horticulturists out there."

When it comes to getting ready for that one week, the grounds crew has it down to a science.

"It's all night, every night before the Tournament starts," Addie said. "They're just so well prepared and so well manicured, it's just like a smooth oiled machine. It is truly incredible what they accomplish."

Addie worries that the colder winter will have the azaleas running a little behind this year.

"I'm not sure that they're going to be in full bloom this year," she said. "I think that probably by the end of the week they'll be showing color, but I don't think they'll have the full flush."

"There's not much you can do if Mother Nature's not really ready," she added.

But Addie says full bloom or not, you can bet the course will look spectacular.

"It's a showcase for our town," she said. "We're on display to the world this one week."

This year's new 3-D television coverage, which starts Friday, should really make the course come alive for viewers.

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