Marion Hollins plays No. 11 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Julian P. Graham/Loon Hill Studios
Before the turn-of phrase was even a term, she was an influencer. She was a heavy inspirational hand in most of golf’s most prominent layouts. She did it all, and she played it all. She died young – too young – but left a lasting legacy.
Marion Hollins was something of all things. She is still celebrated 70 years after her death.
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. She was raised with four brothers and naturally gravitated towards sports.
Hollins was a pioneer in four-inhand carriage riding that helped her achieve great success on the green. 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 win three Metropolitan Golf Championships and two Long Island Championships. She also won eight Pebble Beach Championships. She was also the captain of the inaugural U.S. team at the Curtis Cup, Wentworth, England. The U.S. team defeated the Great Britain & Ireland team in an upset.
A pivot to course design pioneer
Hollins was an athlete of distinction, but she quickly became a pioneer of 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 an iconic Hollins vision with the help of Seth Raynor and Devereaux Emmet, two legendary architects. She was 29 when she traveled to England to study architecture of golf and took photos of the holes she liked.
The early 1920s also marked a key time for Hollins’ legacy.
Samuel Morse was the man who created Pebble Beach and most the Monterey Peninsula. She introduced her to Hollins in 1922. Given her talents, Hollins was soon named the athletic director at the Pebble Beach resort. She also started the Pebble Beach Championship in 1923 for women, which attracted all the top female golfers in America. After Alister McKenzie’s arrival, Morse appointed Hollins to Cypress Point.
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 influential woman. 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 saw opportunities, but she took them all.
“Samuel Morse wrote she had the best personality ever. That’s the ‘je ne sais quoi’ and she had it.”
Augusta National’s jump start
Hollins was always on the lookout to find the next great opportunity after Cypress Point was built. MacKenzie was hired by Hollins to design Pasatiempo. It was opened in 1929, around the same time as 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 MacKenzie to Jones. Jones then asked Mackenzie design the Augusta National Golf Club that would become 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 by her, however. She was interested in her opinions and impressions about how the work should be done.
“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. Her legacy is still alive, though she passed away in 1944 at 51.
“She was the ‘it’ girl of the time,” says Chorba. “How do you describe when someone could have such an impact on people?”
All photos in this article were taken and edited by Julian P. Graham. They are featured in the eBook “Marion Hollins: Her California Life in158 Photos”, by Barbara Briggs Anderson, which is available on Amazon Here. To view Julian P. Graham’s website visit JulianPGraham.comOr LoonHill.com.