Joseph Emory Sirrine stands tall in Heritage Hall, surveying all who pass through Greenville Country Club. Clutching his vintage, hickory-shaft iron, and sporting a three-piece leisure suit complete with tie, “Cap’n Joe” is ready to hit the links. Instead, the club’s longest-serving president, and one-time savior, is relegated to hanging on the wall in oils, barely recognizing the modern-day structure around him.
House Beautiful // The newly renovated Greenville Country Club clubhouse (right) offers 45,000 square feet of modern amenities, including a wellness center, daycare playroom, pro shop, café, and many other features for members to enjoy.
In 1923, Cap’n Joe spearheaded G.C.C.’s move from a stately Victorian home and nine-hole course at San Souci to a Dutch Colonial clubhouse and 18-hole course on Byrd Boulevard. The Depression soon hit, and Sirrine, an engineer to multiple textile mills, used his own funds to keep the club afloat. Not only did G.C.C. survive, but it thrived, warranting a bigger, modernized clubhouse in 1954. With the turn of the millennium, members again requested an upgrade. Crews spent 16 months pushing dirt and raising rafters, to now produce a Southern Georgian-style facility that’s a golfer’s dream. “Everyone loves it,” reveals general manager Greg Hobbs. “Leadership had the vision to create a 20-year master plan. We wanted a new clubhouse, but didn’t want it to look new. Once the surrounding landscaping matures, it will look like it’s been here for years.”
Italian marble, 16-foot-tall ceilings, and an exquisite mix of antique furniture and modern amenities fill the 45,000-square-foot space. While Greenville Country Club may be synonymous with golf, the clubhouse offers activities far beyond the green. Men and women bounce about a 2,500-square-foot Wellness Center during yoga, barre, and cross-fit classes, guided by trainers from Greenville Health System. Three dozen sun-kissed children romp inside a daycare playroom. Tweeners hang out inside their private lounge, while teens play cornhole and bocce ball on the Event Lawn. A stone’s throw from the Pro Shop, range, and swimming pool, ladies in sports skorts snag snacks from the Riverside Café, where G.C.C. “signature” scones and a rainbow of freshly-pressed juices sit on display. “The café is a new concept,” explains Hobbs. “We’ve hired a pastry chef who bakes everything fresh daily. It’s slightly healthier fare, like smoothies and salads, that members can grab on the go as they head out to golf, tennis, and exercise.”
On Course // A classic view of the 1923 clubhouse from the number 10 fairway.
The Board of Governors sought the services of Chambers, the largest hospitality design firm in the nation, to build the structure. Those entering through the porte cochère discover an understated elegance. The grand foyer (once a boxy lobby) is now open, giving way to a rich, dark-wood-paneled pub, contemporary family grille, and multi-use ballroom. Everywhere visitors turn, large windows provide breathtaking views of the Riverside Course . . . views previously hidden by staff workrooms. Touches of history linger, including elegant crystal chandeliers, lovingly moved from one clubhouse to the next. Yet modern-day function sits a fingertip away with private, climate-controlled wine lockers, spacious steam rooms, and wide-screen TVs. The price tag for such opulence, comfort, and convenience: $15 million. But G.C.C.’s 1,200 members, and their spouses, say it is worth every penny.
Beyond the Green // The 1949 Club Championship whose winner was Billy Delk. The tournament is now in its 97th year.
MODERN ERA PLAYER
“We take phenomenal pride in this new clubhouse,” says second-generation member Kelly Odom. “The country club business is a hard business to be in right now. We’re an anomaly in that we continue to grow and we’ve been able to make capital improvements.” Kelly grew up across the street from the Riverside Course. He never questioned joining as an adult. “I spent my days walking up to play golf, play tennis, or going up to the pool,” he recalls. “The nice thing about it, this was before cell phones. I knew when I went up there, I’d have friends up there. That’s where you’d meet up and you’d spend the day when you were seven, eight years old.”
Nowadays, Kelly lives across the street from the Chanticleer Course, where he swings his driver with his eight-year-old son, Wade. He knows 10 years from now, Wade can experience another G.C.C. rite of passage: entrance to the Men’s Lounge. “I remember coming home from college, and meeting my father and his tennis partner up there for dinner for the first time, and how cool that was. I listened to them share their stories of what happened on the court that day, and stories of what happened ten years ago as well. I wanted to have that with my friends.”
Full Swing // The Greenville Country Club brings members into a new era. The renovated dining deck features open views of the Riverside Course (above). The men’s lockers are outfitted with name plates (below).
A couple of times a week, Kelly visits the lounge with its private staff. Businessmen sample craft brews below a sepia-toned photo of players wearing wool caps, plaid ties, and pleated knickers. It appears to be a vintage photo, until you read the fine print. The date’s stamped 2005, from a special event when everyone competed with the game’s gear of old: feather-stuffed leather balls and hickory-shafted clubs . . . just like Cap’n Joe’s. In fact, a large photo of Cap’n Joe hangs in the Men’s Lounge as well, and rightly so.
“He definitely felt a personal responsibility to see the club through,” shares Kelly, who chairs G.C.C.’s History & Traditions Committee. “No one knew what was going to happen with the U.S. economy during the Depression, and he poured his own money into the club to keep it going.” Hobbs explains during the design of the new clubhouse, it was important to recognize the past, while building for the future. “Cap’n Joe had such a great passion for the club and Greenville,” the G.M. discloses. “He was president for 30 years. That’s the challenge in building a new club. You have to try to mesh new technology and function, but keep the history and tradition of old.”
Legacy abounds through the current clubhouse, linking members with their heritage and each other. The newly positioned edifice features an expansive wrap-around deck, presenting a sightline of every activity on the grounds. Athletes from different sports gain energy from one another with this new-found ability to connect. “This is the heartbeat of the club,” Kelly reflects. “It flows. It’s the one thing we didn’t have with the ’54 clubhouse. This place is bustling. Membership hit a homerun with this one.” And there’s more to come. This fall, demo crews will raze the old pool house to make way for a $2.5 million aquatic center. It’s the next step in the 20-year master plan. No doubt, Cap’n Joe will approve, gazing beyond the engraved trophies and silver platters from his vantage point in Heritage Hall.