Tryon Country Club plans 100-year celebration April 30 and May 1

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, April 14, 2016


By Leah Justice

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The Tryon Country Club will be celebrating its 100-years of formation on April 30 and May 1 with a party, a tournament and an ice-cream social.

Tryon Country Club was formed in 1916 by Emma Payne Erskine, who had hopes to build a golf course and residential development. Designed by golf course architect Donald Ross, the 9-hole course was laid out in 1914 and is designed to include two different sets of tee placements to allow the golfer to play the same fairway and green twice for an 18-hole round.

The celebration will include a party on Sat., April 30 at 5 p.m. On Sun., May 1, there will be a golf tournament at 2 p.m. and an ice-cream social at 4 p.m. The events are for club members only and specially invited guests.

Country club history (history obtained from the National Registry of Historic Places and Jane Templeton)

In the 1890s, many visitors began coming to Tryon, mainly for its climate. Many of those visitors were artists and writers who helped to promote Tryon as a first-class resort town at the turn of the century. Charles and Emma Payne Erskine came to Tryon in the early 1890s from Racine, Wisc. after leaving Asheville because it was becoming too over-crowded. Emma Payne Erskine was the daughter of Alfred Payne, who was a founder of the Chicago Art Institute. Emma Payne Erskine was a painter and writer and she and Charles had six children.

Charles Erskine was secretary for the Case Machinery Company, manufacturers of farm and construction equipment. The Erskines were staying at the McAboy Inn (later the Mimosa Inn) in 1892 when they decided on a place to build, on a hilltop near the McAboy Inn, which was later named Lynncote. The Erskines were seasonal residents of Tryon for a number of years at Lynncote and Charles Erskine invested heavily in land all around Tryon.

Charles Erskine died in 1908 and he left Emma with the titles to all his land. The family’s house in Wisconsin was sold and Lynncote became their primary residence. Emma built houses on her land and sold them as well as purchased more land. She bought an old dairy farm and had plans to turn it into a golf course and to sell the surrounding property as building lots to create the first golf course community in Tryon.

Emma Payne Erskine brought her idea to the Lanier Society in Tryon and in May 1915 it was reported that the newly formed Tryon Country Club gathered stock pledges of $1,700 from local residents and visitors. The original incorporators of the Tryon Country Club were Eugene Brownlee, Broadus L. Ballenger, Richard Kichner, George H. Holmes, Francis P. Bacon and E.E. Misseldine, who formalized the incorporation on April 28, 1916. By this time Emma Payne Erskine Corwin had remarried and she served on the board as well with a pledge of 54 acres deeded to the country club. Robert A. “Burt” Leonard came to Tryon as well from New York to build a golf course for the Mimosa Inn, which was destroyed by fire in 1916. Leonard constructed the Tryon Country Club course and served as its first golf professional. The Town of Tryon loaned the country club employees and heavy equipment to help expedite the construction of the golf course, which opened in 1917.

When the golf course was first constructed, members entered the course from Horseshoe Curve Road. A small house that no longer stands served as the original clubhouse.

The country club was an immediate success and by 1922 a spring-fed swimming area was constructed in the middle of the course as well as a clubhouse and tennis courts. The tennis courts no longer exist but members enjoy a swimming pool.


The entrance of the country club was moved after the opening of the clubhouse to Country Club Road and the golf course was renumbered so the players could begin and end at the clubhouse.

Burt Leonard left the country club in 1923 to build a golf course in Rutherfordton, but he kept his Tryon home where he built a par-three golf course on his property in 1931, called Leonard’s Lucky Links.

Maintaining the golf course during the depression was a challenge and sheep were used to eat the grass, but cows were said to damage the sand greens. Grass greens were added in the 1940s and the membership decided to reposition/elongate five tee boxes to accommodate stronger golfers.

A new building for a pro shop was constructed in 1935 and the swimming pool was rebuilt in 1942.

Frequent visitors to Oak Hall Hotel in Tryon frequented the Tryon Country Club. David Niven, screen actor, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his friend, Ernest Hemingway, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge (Grace) and Mrs. George C. Marshall (Elizabeth) and Maurice “Lefty” Flynn, husband of Nora Langhorne (sister of Lady Astor) all frequented the Tryon Country Club. Margaret Culkin Banning, author of several novels set in Tryon, actor Zach Randolph, Randolph Scott and Ken Lackey (one of the original Three Stooges) also frequented the Tryon Country Club.

In 1951, Tryon Country Club golf professional Ted Fox invited his friend Sam Snead (the reigning Masters Champion) to give a clinic in Tryon and play a round of golf.

Around 1958 golf cart paths were built and by the 1960s caddies were part of every golfing event. The club encouraged members’ children to carry the bags and caddies learned about the game at a young age. There are more than 20 professional golfers and 10 professional golf course superintendents who got their start at Tryon Country Club. The Tryon High and Polk County High School golf teams also played and play at the Tryon Country Club with several teams winning state championships, with Lloyd McKaig and Fred Edwards Jr. both winning individual state recognitions.

Margaret Hannon was a state champion in 1964 and she started the Blue Ridge Ladies Golf Association. Hannon continued to dominate ladies golf at the state level from the 1970s and into the 1990s. She was later challenged by Tryon Country Club member Isabel “Inky” Cloud in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tryon Country Club was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2013.