Holly Tree Country Club, founded in 1973, is located south of Greenville, South Carolina, on a 252 acre tract that once comprised a portion of the sprawling Gilder Plantation. Dating to the 18th Century, the plantation was operated by Nathaniel Austin.
Captain Austin arrived from England about 1750, and first served King George III as High Constable and emissary to the Cherokee Nation. He and his ten sons, though, later joined the struggle for America’s independence. A sad footnote was the death of the Austin’s only daughter, Mary, affectionately nicknamed, “Polly.” She was slain prior to the Revolutionary War by Cherokee Indians. She is buried in a small graveyard next to the 13th tee.
Holly Tree began as a private development by Dr. James McNamara and four partners. In a 1974 article in the Greenville News, Sports Editor Dan Foster nicknamed Holly Tree “The Rocket Club” because it had a full complement of 475 members and a waiting list of 200 before the first round was ever played. In 1975 it was purchased by the members, and since then has developed a reputation for the best in southern hospitality.
The clubhouse was modeled after the famous Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. As the club prospered and grew over the years, there have been several major renovations, the most recent of which in 2002 expanded the facility by almost double.
An early member of Holly Tree was Marshall Beck, who organized a mini golf outing every Saturday morning. He would have his secretary secure the tee time and then call each participant on Thursday and remind each of them that “… Mr. Beck is expecting you to be there.” Over the years this tradition evolved into one of the Club’s most enduring traditions, the Beck Group. Nowadays, eight tee times are set aside on Saturday mornings, and anyone can sign up to play. It has become the single most important vehicle for new members to get to know everyone and be assimilated into the Holly Tree Club community. Most, if not all, golfing members would cite the Beck Group as a pivotal feature of their initial experience at Holly Tree.