'The Whole Reason for Augusta National': How Marion Hollins Became a Golf Course Design Pioneer
By Adam Stanley
Marion Hollins tees off No. 11 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Julian P. Graham/Loon Hill Studios)
She was an influencer before the turn-of-phrase meant anything. She was a heavy inspirational hand in most of golf’s most prominent layouts. She did it all and played it all. She died young – too young – but left a lasting legacy.
Marion Hollins was a bit of everything. And now, 70 years after her passing, she continues to be celebrated.
Hollins, born in December 1892 in Long Island, New York, competed in all sports while growing up – golf, equestrian (Hollins was the only woman in the U.S. with an official handicap for men’s polo) tennis, swimming and even car racing and marksmanship. With four brothers, it was no surprise she leaned towards participating in sports.
One of the big things Hollins did that prompted her golf success was four-in-hand carriage riding. It required a tremendous amount of skill and hand power since there were four horses and four reins – she was phenomenally good at it. That’s where Hollins increased her wrist strength and how she was able to hit the golf ball so far.
“Because of her family’s wealth, they had access to all these hobbies and then having all these brothers … she was good at everything,” says Emily Chorba, the historian at California’s Pasatiempo Golf Club – an iconic layout that came to life thanks to Hollins.
Hollins won plenty of golf events through the 1910s and ‘20s. She finished runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1913, and eight years later, in 1921, she won the event – then considered the biggest tournament in women’s golf. It wasn’t just the U.S. Women’s Amateur she found success at, however. Hollins would go on to capture three Metropolitan Golf Championships, two Long Island Championships, and eight Pebble Beach Championships. She also captained the inaugural U.S. squad at the Curtis Cup in Wentworth, England. The U.S. team defeated the Great Britain & Ireland team in an upset.
A pivot to course design pioneer
While Hollins was considered one of the top athletes of her time, she quickly became a pioneer in golf course development. The Women’s National Golf and Tennis Club on Long Island opened in the 1920s – just a few years after women were granted the right to vote. It was a signature Hollins vision, with iconic architects Devereaux Emmet and Seth Raynor as consultants. At 29, she went to England to study golf architecture and would take photos of holes that she liked.
The early 1920s also marked a key time for Hollins’ legacy.
In 1922 she was introduced to Samuel Morse, the developer of Pebble Beach and most of the Monterey Peninsula. Unsurprisingly given her skills, Hollins was quickly named the athletic director of the Pebble Beach resort and started the Pebble Beach Championship for women in 1923, which attracted all of the top female golfers in the country. Morse also put Hollins in charge of what would become Cypress Point after bringing Alister MacKenzie to the property.
According to Chorba, while Hollins was working at Cypress Point, she convinced Morse to have an office in New York so then she could recruit her wealthy friends to buy real estate at Pebble Beach – talk about someone who was ahead of her time.
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“If we had the same resources back then that we had today, she would have had many, many Instagram followers. She was an influencer. And all she had was trains and telegraphs,” says Chorba. “She had her wealth advantage, but you can be a wealthy person and not have that inquisitive mindset. She had opportunities but she took advantage of it.
“Samuel Morse wrote she had the best personality ever. That’s the ‘je ne sais quoi’ and she had it.”
The jump start for Augusta National
After Cypress Point was developed, Hollins, always on the lookout for the next great opportunity, found 570 acres about 45 miles north of Monterey. With her own money she hired MacKenzie to design what would become Pasatiempo. It opened in 1929 around the same time of the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and after Bobby Jones’ loss at the Amateur, he went to Pasatiempo for an exhibition – playing with Hollins.
Hollins would introduce Jones to MacKenzie, then Jones asked Mackenzie to design what would become Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters Tournament.
“She was the whole reason for Augusta National,” says Chorba.
MacKenzie eventually wanted to send Hollins in his place for a site inspection of Augusta National, something Augusta’s Chairman, Clifford Roberts, objected to – since Hollins was, of course, a woman.
MacKenzie stood up for her, however, and was keen for her views and impressions on how the work was to be carried out.
“I do not know,” MacKenzie wrote, “of any man who has sounder ideas.”
Between her social influence, on-course performance, influential design ideas and much, much more, Hollins’ introduction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2021 was well deserved, if not a long-time-coming. She died in 1944, at the age of 51, but her legacy very much lives on.
“She was the ‘it’ girl of the time,” says Chorba. “How do you describe when someone could have such an impact on people?”
Seven photos in this article were taken by Julian P. Graham and are featured in the eBook, "Marion Hollins, Her California Life in 158 Photos" by Barbara Briggs-Anderson, available on Amazon here. To view Julian P. Graham’s website visit JulianPGraham.com or LoonHill.com.