With Masters Week upon us, I was asked if I could highlight some of the agriculture related to the Augusta National Golf Course and famous tournament – in all honesty, I’m surprised I haven’t thought to do this before now!

Prior to 1856, the property on which the Augusta National sits was an indigo plantation. Then, from 1894 until 1930, the 365-acre property on which the Augusta National sits was actually a plant nursery called Fruitlands, owned by the Berckman’s. This nursery had a big impact on horticulture in the south through plant sells, importing new species, and developing varieties adapted to Georgia’s climate. The Berckman family imported more than 40 varieties of azalea’s, popularizing their use in the south, and was also responsible for the planting of Magnolia Lane. In 1930, Bobby Jones purchased the plantation with the intent of building a world-class winter golf course in Georgia.  The Masters Tournament itself was first held in 1934 in an attempt to draw golfers and crowds to the new club, and the rest is history.

The Augusta National is a seasonal club, meaning it’s not in play year-round – it closes from around May to October to help reduce the amount of wear and tear on the property during summer months. One big reason for this are the species of turf used on the course. The primary species of perennial grass on course is actually a hybrid bermudagrass, just like many of our yards. However, come fall, those bermudagrass tees and fairways are scalped down and heavily overseed with perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season species, meaning it grows lush and green during the fall and spring. This ensures that come Master’s week in April the course looks lush, green, and beautiful. Once May comes along, the perennial ryegrass is killed using herbicides and mowing to allow the bermudagrass foundation to be managed correctly through the summer.

If you’re a golf lover, you may have noticed I didn’t mention the greens above- and there’s a reason! While the majority of the Augusta National is a bermudagrass base with perennial ryegrass overseeded, the greens are actually a variety of bentgrass. Bentgrass is another cool-season grass, known for thin blades that grow densely and can be mowed very short. In order to maintain this species, the Augusta National actually has a sub-green cooling system to help preserve the bentgrass during our hot summer months.

In addition to turfgrass, there are over 350 varieties of over 80,000 plants placed throughout the Augusta National. Many of these plants, such as dogwoods and azaleas, are specifically chosen because they bloom in the spring, right near Master’s week. In homage to the original Fruitland’s nursery, each hole on the course has been specifically landscaped and named after a specific plant. For example, the 13th hole, called Azalea, is home to over 1,600 azaleas of more than 30 different varieties. The hole names, in order, are: Tea Olive, Pink Dogwood, Flowering Peach, Flowering Crab Apple, Magnolia, Juniper, Yellow Jasmine, Carolina Cherry, Camellia, White Dogwood, Golden Bell, Azalea, Chinese Fir, Firethorn, Redbud, Nandia, and Holly.

As you can imagine, the time and resources it takes to maintain that many plants and turf requires significant investment of time, resources, and labor. If you get to visit the Masters this year, be sure to keep an eye out for the beautiful, historic landscaping on the property. If you have any questions about this or other agricultural topics, let us know at uge3181@uga.edu or 706-359-3233.

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