Once upon a time there was a young Scotsman who landed on these beautiful shores with $2 to his name and dreamed of creating golf courses that would one day rival the master himself, Old Tom Morris, the legendary golf pro and architect from the Old Course to St. Andrews. , Scotland. The youngster, Donald J. Ross, would develop his playing skills, build clubs and learn to guard the greens at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club, but it was his apprenticeship under Morris at the Old Course where he honed his craft and gave her flight to her dreams of coming to America.

Ross seized his opportunity in 1899 when he took a job at the Oakley Country Club in Massachusetts and left for America, but it was his appointment the following year as a golf professional at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina that will forever seal its place in the annals. of golf history.

The Tryon Country Club is one of the oldest Donald Ross designed courses in North Carolina.

It was in the dunes, among the pines of Carolina, that Ross began to realize his dream of designing golf courses, including what would become one of the most famous and wealthiest golf courses. in world history, Pinehurst No. 2 which he completed. in 1907.

Around the same time, says Tracey Beaver, who is instrumental in compiling the history of the Tryon Country Club (TCC), local philanthropist, artist and author Emma Payne Erskine set her sights on building a golf course, one built with distinction. this would help differentiate the town from other mountain destinations and make Tryon a social, artistic and recreational destination.

Erskine and her husband, Charles built the Lynncote Estate in 1895 on the outskirts of Tryon. Shortly after Charles’s death in 1908, Erskine bought a cradled dairy farm in the mountains just west of Lynncote with the intention of building his golf course.

Hickory and steel clubs make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time at Tryon Country Club.

With rave reviews on the Pinehurst No.2 layout, Ross was tapped to design and build courses around the country. Erskine traveled to meet Ross at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville and was able to retain him to build his golf course on the dairy farm. According to the Donald Ross Society Course List, the Tryon Course was laid out in 1914 and will open in 1916, making it one of the oldest Ross courses built in North Carolina.

Ross designed the nine-hole layout to play 18 holes using two different sets of tee placements, one set for the front nine and another for the back nine, in the tee box of each hole. It allows for a challenging 18 hole, par 72 course. The layout uses the natural contours of the land, which Ross was known for, in the valley formed by Little Creek.

The Tryon Country Club is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior. The rustic clubhouse and pro shop are literally a step back in time. Both are log cabin style built in 1922 and were moved to their current site on the north side of the course after the original clubhouse was replaced.

The Donald Ross-designed Tryon Country Club golf course is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

They look distinctive with white filler between the logs. The clubhouse features impressive exposed beams, original hardwood floors and an inviting stone fireplace. It’s not hard to imagine a scene from the past of a warm fire and a gathering of golfers, sharing their stories of the day’s round with a vial or two to aid stories of missed approach shots or of lipped putts.

The pro shop has its own charm with a nostalgic nod to golf history. The pro shop is a place that draws you in and makes you pause and enjoy the game. There are several golf displays and canvas golf bags that hold hickory and steel clubs. There are also accessories from a more distinguished era when golf was a gentleman’s sport. A picture of old Tom Morris and a framed copy of the original Rules of Golf hang on the wall. There is also a fascinating pre-1940 photograph of the fifth hole which shows one of the original rectangular oil sand greens designed and built by Ross.

As you walk across the bridge that overlooks the ninth green, you see the same sight that must have caught Ross’ eye and fascination as the Scot contemplated his little gem Tryon.

Lore is as thick as the mountain mist that sometimes nestles between the peaks surrounding the golf club. Member Joey Prince took a moment before his chipping lesson to share a few tidbits about the club and some of its history that he finds interesting.

Tryon Country Club USGA Professional Gerald Weathers gives member Joey Prince a chipping lesson.

“First of all, there’s no better place to play golf than here in the fall – it’s absolutely stunning,” Prince says as he gazes at the beauty of the hilly course that unfolds. extends over his field of vision. “There was a hut opposite on the hill behind the fifth hole and there was a spring between the hut and the clubhouse (indicating a grove of trees separating two holes). The family who lived there brought milk and other perishable foods and placed them in the spring to keep them cool.

Prince says there was a second spring on the ninth fairway that provided golfers with fresh, cold mountain spring water as they played.

He also shared a lesser-known piece of golf history on Ross. The architect was originally to design Augusta National, which hosts The Masters golf tournament. According to various historical records, Ross and Bobby Jones had a handshake agreement to design a course for Jones near his home in Atlanta. However, at the 1929 American Amateur Golf Tournament, Jones unexpectedly lost his first-round match at Pebble Beach.

With time ahead of him before his trip back to the East Coast, Jones spent the week playing at Cypress Point on California’s Monterey Peninsula and got to know course architect Alister McKenzie. Jones made the decision to hire McKenzie over Ross for Augusta National. It was a decision that many say was under Ross’s skin.

Hiring McKenzie prompted the Scotsman to focus on his craft again, and Ross put his refocused energy into perfecting Pinehurst No. 2 into the golfing masterpiece he is today. In total, Ross is credited with designing and building over 400 courses throughout his illustrious career.

Tryon Country Club USGA Professional Gerald Weathers is just the 10th professional in the club’s 106-year history.

Perhaps no one appreciates Ross’ Tryon course layout more than USGA pro Gerald Weathers. He has been a golf professional for over 30 years and is only the tenth chief professional in the TCC’s 106-year history.

Weathers says he’s been fortunate enough to play at a number of Donald Ross courses, but it’s clear he’s most proud of his association with TCC and of TCC’s reputation.

“The golf course is on very solid footing and we have been able to make many small improvements to maintain the quality of the course while staying true to Donald Ross’ original design,” Weathers says looking at the tee times for the upcoming weekend. “We have a very strong field team, and they keep the course in top condition.”

Weathers says the course as a whole looks very much like it did when it was first built, except for the oiled sand greens which were replaced with grass in 1940. He says the holes remain as they are that Ross laid them out, so playing the course is truly a step back in golf history.

For anyone lucky enough to play Ross’s jewel in the valley, the Tryon Country Club remains what Erskine envisioned for his little dairy farm, a golf course of distinction that still charms members and guests of this mountain destination. .

Donald Ross has built some of America’s most famous and storied courses, and the Tryon Country Club layout is one of North Carolina’s oldest courses.

Story and photography by Terry Brown

aerial photography by Cher brown