At the Masters, the most exclusive spot is under golf’s most famous tree

At the Masters, anybody who is anybody hangs out under the iconic oak tree by the clubhouse. Why? You kind of have to be there to understand.

Darren Riehl

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Masters, and nothing can quiet the buzz under the most famous tree in golf.

Nick Faldo mingles. Super-agent Mark Steinberg waits for Tiger Woods. Scottie Scheffler’s parents are here. So is Colt Knost and Smylie Kaufman. Max Homa walks through with his caddie. Over there is Adam Scott’s father. And there goes Caroline Burns and Meredith Scheffler, heading out to the course.

The Big Oak Tree — yes, it’s capitalized — at Augusta National Golf Club has morphed into an iconic symbol of the club and the Masters itself. It’s a centrally located gathering hub of the game’s power brokers, agents, celebrities, the wealthy, players’ family members, guests of members, green-jacket holders and reporters writing about trees. Here, people catch up, talk about the tournament, their kids, and they schmooze. Boy, do they schmooze. Deals get done here.

Says one prominent golf figure of the tree, “It has to be big enough to get the whole golf world under it.”

The Big Oak has long been one of the most famous trees in golf. There’s the Old Macdonald ghost tree at Bandon Dunes, the Cypress on the 18th at Pebble Beach and that cluster of Cypress trees on 17 at Cypress Point. The Lone Fir at Chambers Bay is another, and so is The Eisenhower Pine (RIP) that was also right here at Augusta. All great trees, but none are this tree, the tree of trees.

Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones founded Augusta National in 1931 with grand plans to turn a former plant purveyor called Fruitland Nurseries into an elite golf club. This tree was already here then, as were those glorious magnolias that line Magnolia Lane. Most estimates say The Big Oak was planted in the 1850s.

It’s a tree that defies logic, or gravity, for that manner. Its trunk is as thick as Ian Woosnam is tall, but the way in which its limbs meander and stretch is truly a sight. It’s surrounded by a rock base and a hefty dose of mulch, and some of its enormous limbs are held up by suspension cables. There’s a lightning rod attached to it — Augusta National trying to protect one of its most valuable landmarks. The whole area is chained off.

Any mediocre real-estate agent would tell you location is everything, and that’s paramount to the prominence of The Big Oak. Did you know Augusta National has a palm tree on property? That’s pretty cool, too, but it’s location near the 4th green isn’t near as focal as directly behind the clubhouse. You can hardly gather under the Lone Palm, for cryin’ out loud!

Here, it’s in the middle of everything. Right by the media’s interview area, between the clubhouse and 1st tee, close to the locker room and just off to the side of all those stately white tables and chairs with the fancy green and white umbrellas. Players walk under it when they leave the practice area, head to the clubhouse or locker room and make their way to the 1st tee box or nearby putting green. Walking back to the clubhouse area from the course, The Big Oak is your lighthouse, visible from hundreds of yards away.

Jack Nicklaus strolls under The Big Oak during the 1978 Masters. Augusta National/Getty Images

It’s 10:45 a.m., and there go Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller, walking from the locker room, under the tree and out to the course. Patrick Reed and Kessler Karain nearly pass them on their way in. Mike Thomas, the father/coach of Justin Thomas, is out here wandering, too. Later this week this area will be even more teaming with celebrities and famous athletes, the gated area offering them a reprieve from curious patrons.

An hour from now, Ben Crenshaw will have lunch on the terrace outside; below, not far away, Tom Watson will be deep in conversation. Other prominent golf figures are roaming about, too: Chip Brewer, the president of Callaway; Dan Murphy, the Bridgestone Golf CEO; and Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the DP World Tour.

Come Friday afternoon, there will be a sense of urgency out on the course. The cut line looms. But this tree is immune to such unpleasant feelings of uneasiness. Here, people will gather, converse, drink and laugh, like they are now.

It’s 10:51 a.m., and the crowd beyond the tree roars while those near it quiet down. Flanked by four security guards — two in front and two behind — Tiger Woods makes his way through. All conversations pause, as the only person who can apparently silence those under The Big Oak passes through.

The Big Oak, where all the magic happens. Getty Images

Josh Berhow Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at