Illustration and insight from John Strege's Local Knowledge in the latest Golf World:
Those participating in this week's Nissan Open might notice that two stately redwood trees on the bank left of the 18th fairway at the Riviera CC are no longer there. They weren't removed without considerable consternation, either. In Japanese culture trees are thought to have souls, and to ensure the redwoods were dealt with properly, Riviera owner Noboru Watanabe summoned a Shinto priest to perform the ritual ceremony. A small temporary shrine was erected in front of the green. The ceremony included traditional chants on behalf of the souls embedded in the trees. The proceedings also reportedly included an O Harahi purification ceremony to cleanse the souls of those wielding the chainsaws that brought down the two trees, which were part of Riviera's landscape for about 50 years. The trees were removed in conjunction with the installation of a new irrigation system. The trees rarely came into play, and their removal is not thought to have altered the character of the course in any fashion.