Oh, trees

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October 5, 2021

So, what’s your stance on trees?

I loathe how the wrong ones in the wrong places cause unnecessary hassles for our readers, followers and listeners. I love being surrounded by them.

Yes, I’m conflicted.

Last month, I visited Redwood National and State Parks in far Northern California. The center of the 139,000-acre park, jointly managed by the National Park Service and California State Parks, is closer to Bandon, Oregon (154 miles) than it is to San Francisco (313 miles). Pockets of towering coast redwoods rising to 380 feet are attraction 1a, with a ruggedly refined section of the Pacific Coast representing attraction 1b.

The six courses at Bandon Dunes are the most well-known golf options near the redwoods. Unfortunately, this trip didn’t include a trek that far up the Oregon Coast. Next time! The KemperSports folks managing Bandon Dunes are marketing wunderkinds and label the resort on the website as being “true to the spirit of Scotland’s ancient links.” First translation: Bandon Dunes is your place if you want to experience something akin to the “Home of Golf” in this country. Second translation: proceed elsewhere if you need trees lining turf.

Coast redwoods are ancient (up to 2,000 years old) and majestic specimens. Walking beneath them produces solitude and meandering landscapes filled with them offer opportunities for reflection and introspection. Naturally, my mind wandered to golf and this magazine a few dozen times on the trip. Sorry, Lindsey. I promise I wasn’t thinking about golf as the sun perfectly peeked through Stout Grove on the evening of Sept. 13, 2021.

On your journey through these pages, you will encounter a story about — what else? — tree management (page 46). John Torsiello spoke with superintendents, architects, agronomists and consultants to a craft a feature titled “Has tree removal become an easier sell?” Calculated tree removal also represented a commonality in the efforts to restore, honor and reveal the Golden Age architecture at Blythefield (Michigan) Country Club, Montclair (New Jersey) Golf Club and Baltusrol (New Jersey) Golf Club, a trio of private courses featured in our “Construction and Renovation” section.

The acceptance of tree removal, especially at private clubs, as a necessity for the peerless conditions that members demand is one of the best boardroom developments over the past decade. Expectations for modern green performance are soaring higher than a redwood, and more sun and air, and fewer surrounding roots, make the seemingly impossible objective of repeating member-guest Saturday multiple times per week somewhat possible.

The benefits of tree removal are articulated in Torsiello’s story and illustrated in the imagery supporting this month’s course features. If you’re encountering trouble convincing your owner, board, committee or general manager why the wrong trees must be cleared, subtly hand them this entire issue.

A successful tree management program requires patience and compromise. The right trees do exist, and they are likely a reason why golfers spend significant time and money experiencing the course you maintain. Attempting to punchout at 90 degrees under and around a cluster of feeble maples can be agonizing. Trying to fade a 6 iron around a robust oak can be mesmerizing. People need a place to chill for a minute or two when playing 18 on a sweltering afternoon. Trees provide that spot. Sometimes looking up, and seeing green, red and yellow can help reset a cluttered mind.

Acknowledging the role of the right trees can make it easier to remove the wrong trees. Even better, the industry employs hundreds of architects, consultants, arborists and agronomists equipped to handle the politics of tree tussles.

Don’t judge all trees by the unsightly elms blocking sunlight trying to reach the 12th green. Don’t judge all trees by the towering redwoods serving as the perfect backdrop to a lifechanging moment.

We need trees in our lives and along most of our courses. We just need them in the right numbers at the right places.

Guy Cipriano Editor-in-Chief gcipriano@gie.net