Every year at the Masters, an old folk song plays in my head: “In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines ….” There are better tree songs, I suppose — Hoagy Carmichael’s “A Dogwood Died in Dallas” comes to mind — but Augusta National’s famous 18 meanders through a pine forest. In fact, when founder Bobby Jones gave course designer Alister MacKenzie his first tour of the Fruitland Nursery property, it was to point out that skinny Georgia pines, unlike Britain’s massive hardwoods, could be felled with a few strokes of a hatchet. And if for some reason you wanted more trees, pines were easy to transplant, having root balls about the size of a duffle bag.*
*The portability of pines is demonstrated annually on the National’s eleventh hole, where trees come and go with the nonchalance of guests at a high-end resort hotel.
The downside of the pine is its propensity for shedding pollen in the spring. A single loblolly pine, according an Audubon-knock-off pamphlet I can’t put my hand on, can produce two to three kilograms of yellow powder overnight — enough to cover a fleet of rental cars. Bees carry some of this pollen to flowers, but the rest drifts up against curbs and doorsills or is inhaled by guileless visitors from the north.
“The official Masters color might have to be changed from green to yellow,” Ron Green Jr. wrote in Monday’s Charlotte Observer. “There’s a soft yellow haze in the air and a heavy coating on most static surfaces around the golf course.”
Relief is promised in the form of thunderstorms, which are expected to rumble through Augusta in the next hour or so. Until then, the Augusta National Golf Club’s No. 7 ranking is suspended (subject to review by the executive committee).