Tryon Country Club seeks place on National Historic Registry

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Members of the Tryon Country Club are looking to the clubs past to help secure its future.

An application is under way seeking to include the Donald Ross-designed 9-hole golf course and the rustic pro shop and clubhouse on the National Registry of Historic Places.

TCC member Jane Templeton has led the application process, which is now in the hands of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and the National Parks Service.

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Tryon is a small community and this early Ross course clearly shines as an example of the role of a golf club in the early recreational history of the area, Templeton wrote in the application. The course qualifies for nomination under Criterion A for Recreational History. As a Donald Ross course, it qualifies for a local significance claim for landscape architecture. The Adirondack Camp style clubhouse built in 1921 and remaining free of major renovation is offered for consideration under Criterion C Architectural Merit.

Ross, whose work in North Carolina also includes the acclaimed four Pinehurst courses, designed the golf course in 1914 and it was constructed in 1916. The clubhouse was built by local craftsmen a few years later, according to the application.

TCC recently took part in Tryons 125th birthday celebration on Labor Day weekend by hosting a birthday tournament.

Head Professional Marc Brady said the tournament was fitting given that TCC has been a big part of the Tryon community for nearly 100 years itself.

This has always been a family club, said Brady. Generations of folks have played here. There are still no tee times. It still does what it was designed to do offer casual, fun, family-friendly golf.

But like many U.S. golf clubs, most of which are tied directly to the real-estate market, TCC has struggled financially in recent years. A plan to develop tracts of land adjacent to the nine-hole layout was met with a lawsuit from neighboring property owners.

Members of the club stopped contesting the suit, which was subsequently dropped, given the recent instability of the real-estate market.

Clubs all over the country are struggling and were no different than anyone else in that regard, said TCC President Geoff Tennant. Right now, were all right not as healthy as wed like to be.

With real estate development currently out of the question as a means to raise funds to help keep TCC in the black, Brady said the possibility of federal grants for restoration projects could prove helpful as the club moves forward as a potential site on the National Historic Registry.

Thats something were looking at, said Brady, whose admiration for Ross and the course he grew up playing has grown over the years.

Brady is a member of the Donald Ross Society. Ross, a native Scot, is largely considered the father of American golf course architecture. His courses built in the era of mashies and Calamity Janes, have stood the test of time. TCC, which never got around to adding the separate back-9 as intended by Ross, is no different, Brady said.

Its amazing that this course is nearly 100 years old and it will still give some people a tough time, he said.

It is unclear as to when an answer from the National Parks Service will take, but if TCC is granted Historic Landmark status, it would be an unique but not unheard of accomplishment. According to an article published earlier this year by The Golf Channel, 14 golf clubs have been named National Historic Landmarks.

Pinehurst received National Historic Landmark status in 1996. Other golf clubs granted such status include Ardmore, Pa.s Merion Golf Club, Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio and Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

We dont know how long that process will take, said Tennant. Its gone to Washington for that consideration. If the clubhouse is granted historical status, it may help us a little bit in regard to people wanting to come and be a part of the club.

Itd be a feather in our cap to have the clubhouse designated as a national historic building.