Whatever happened to? Tree TLC working at Chambers Bay

The iconic fir tree at Chambers Bay Golf Course appears to have survived an infamous ax attack.

Though survival is not guaranteed, Pierce County officials believe a year and a half of tender loving care has stabilized the tree. That makes it likely it will survive to be featured in countless photos of next year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

“I spent a few minutes by the tree in October and it looked surprisingly healthy to me, with plenty of cones and new growth,” said Tony Tipton, the county’s Chambers Bay project manager.

Built on a former gravel mine in University Place, Chambers Bay opened in 2007 to national acclaim. The Scottish links-style course – which features sandy terrain and stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains – has been featured in numerous “best course” lists.

Photos of the Douglas fir – the course’s lone tree – have been featured in many articles.

In April 2008, Pierce County was basking in the announcement that Chambers Bay would host the amateur championship and the 2015 U.S. Open. But one night someone took an ax to the Douglas fir, leaving an 18-inch gash that cut 8 inches deep.

The early prognosis was grim. An arborist found that the tree already was in poor health. County officials feared it would die.

But the arborist stabilized the wound with metal straps and an epoxy putty. And the county began a long-term maintenance program of mulching, additional nutrients and watering.

The crime remains unsolved. But the tree appears to have recovered.

Tipton said Chambers Bay’s maintenance staff members monitor the tree regularly and have reported no signs that its health is deteriorating.

“I’m not sure we can say we are out of the woods yet on the ultimate survival of the tree,” Tipton said. “But let’s hope the positive trend continues in 2010.”

David Wickert: 253-274-7341




One in a series of stories over the holidays catching up with subjects featured in The News Tribune in the last year or so.