Pebble Beach is known the world over for having some of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses ever designed, but despite this notoriety, most fans of the sport are unaware that one of these famed courses, the Cypress Point Club, exists in large part due to the vision and skill of a woman—rare in the world of golf today, but simply unheard of in the 1920s.
Marion Hollins was a visionary and powerhouse of a woman whose legacy to the sport of golf includes the development and success of three world-renowned courses—in addition to Cypress Point (1928), she is responsible for the development of The National Women’s Golf and Tennis Club in Glen Head, Long Island, New York (1923) and Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California (1929)—as well as the creation of many golf tournaments, including the Pebble Beach Championship for Women.
Hollins was born in 1892 in Long Island to an extremely privileged family—they were related to the Vanderbilts and her father was a successful Wall Street broker whose best friend was JP Morgan. She was raised with all of life’s advantages and excelled at most everything she did. A multi-sport athlete, she was an accomplished swimmer, tennis player, an equestrian and ranked polo player, but, most notably, she was especially skilled in the game of golf, traveling the world over to compete in and win many championships. She is also credited with bringing steeplechase racing to Northern California and is considered to be one of the best women athletes of her day. Through her personality and prowess, Hollins became a celebrity magnate of the sporting and entertainment industry.
As a young woman, Hollins marched with the suffragettes in New York City and later, in the same spirit, founded The National Women’s Golf and Tennis Club. At a time when women weren’t allowed to play on many courses or were expected to step back and allow men to play through, the club gave women priority. Hollins was an incredibly gifted amateur golfer and won many championships, including the US Amateur Women’s Championship in 1921. In 1922, she met Samuel F.B. Morse, the founder of the Pebble Beach Company. In addition to respecting her athleticism, Morse recognized Hollins’ business acumen and hired her to be the Athletic Director for Pebble Beach, giving her a crucial role in the development of the Del Monte Company. During her tenure, she organized the Pebble Beach Championship for Women, which she went on to win several times. She also assisted in the development of the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and it was during this time that she approached Morse with the idea for Cypress Point. In 1924, Hollins proposed the concept of creating the exclusive private golf course to Morse. Morse said she was the best saleswoman he had ever known, and they agreed on 150 sandy acres to be developed into the Cypress Point Club. Hollins hired Seth Raynor, with whom she had worked on The National Women’s Golf and Tennis Club, to design the course. But in 1926, during the course of the project, Raynor died unexpectedly of pneumonia and Hollins hired Dr. Alister MacKenzie to complete the design. MacKenzie credited Hollins with the layout of the famed 16th hole as a long par 3—when she teed up and hit the ball a brassy 219 yards across the crashing waves to the site of the future 16th green. In his book, “The Spirit of St. Andrews,” Dr. MacKenzie wrote about the experience: “To give honor where it is due, I must say that, except for minor details in construction, I was in no way responsible for the hole. It was largely due to the vision of Miss Marion Hollins (the founder of Cypress Point). It was suggested to her by the late Seth Raynor that it was a pity the carry over the ocean was too long to enable a hole to be designed on this particular site. Miss Hollins said she did not think it was an impossible carry. She then teed up a ball and drove to the middle of the site for the suggested green.”
In 1927, Hollins rode on horseback in the mountains of Santa Cruz on a former Mexican land grant known as La Carbonera. She envisioned a planned community for the land to be called Pasatiempo Country Club and Estates with homes surrounding a championship golf course, swimming pool, park area, tennis courts, bridle paths and a racetrack for equestrian events. To that end, Hollins started the Santa Cruz Development Company, which was financed by her British friend, F.C. Cecil Baker. Again, Hollins hired Dr. Alister MacKenzie to design the golf course and, as partial payment, had a home built for “The Good Doctor” on the 6th fairway of Pasatiempo. The building of the golf course began in January of 1929 and was finished on opening day, September, 8, 1929 with Bobby Jones, Glenna Collett, Cyril Tolley and Hollins playing an exhibition match with over 3,000 spectators.
In addition to her sports prowess, Hollins was also a shrewd business woman and, on October 9, 1928, Hollins’ Kettleman Oil Corporation struck black gold. Her share of the proceeds was a staggering $2.5 million. With her earnings, she bought property in Big Sur, which included Big Creek Hot Springs (renamed the Marion Hollins Hot Springs) and eight miles of coastline from Limekiln Creek to south of Rat Creek. She told the newspapers that she would be putting her new found wealth into her beloved Pasatiempo.
Tragically, Hollins’ convertible car was struck by a drunk driver on December 2, 1937, a day before her 45th birthday. She suffered head injuries and the accident severely altered her mental state, leaving her mind unbalanced and distorted. As a result, her financial situation began a downhill slide towards bankruptcy. Hollins was forced to sell Pasatiempo in 1940, at which time she moved back to Pebble Beach and began working again for Morse. Morse provided for her for the next four years. Hollins died of cancer in a nursing home in Pacific Grove in 1944 and is buried at the Cemetery El Encinal in Monterey.
Though Marion Hollins was recognized and celebrated during her lifetime, until now, her legacy has been largely forgotten. But to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her 1921 US Women’s Amateur win, in March of 2021, Hollins was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, a fitting honor for her legacy as a female golf pioneer.
A new eBook, “Marion Hollins, her California Life in 158 Photos,” by Barbara Briggs-Anderson, highlights Marion Hollins’ life and accomplishments through photos taken by the famed Pebble Beach photographer, Julian P. Graham. Marion Hollins personally hired Graham in 1924 to photograph her and he continued to chronicle her life through photography for many years. Graham’s last photo of Marion was in 1942, when she won the Pebble Beach Championship for Women.