Finding a turf team that cherishes the golf course features of their 1920s presentation means winding around a 2,200 acre reservoir to reach the appropriately named Golf Course Road in Rome, New York. The first glimpse of golf arises when motorists notice an expansive green, two bunkers and a trifecta of hills.
The Teugega Country Club exudes Donald Ross from the street preview.
If you drive into the parking lot that borders the Lake Delta, you can catch a physical cold, especially on an autumn morning – this is the center of New York, after all. It also creates emotional chills. Who wouldn’t want a place with greens that reflect exactly what Ross and his colleagues created in 1921?
The hole that is responsible for the first impression of relapse is actually the third hole, a muscular par 3 that plays 223 yards from the back tees. With a hoodie under a jacket and a well-insulated mug of coffee clutched, Superintendent Ian Daniels stops behind the green and explains what makes the putting surface and other parts of the hole so authentic. This is the third such description. Fourteen more detailed descriptions are waiting for you. The coffee is gone on the 10th hole, but Daniel intensifies the ardor of his words.
On the front of the two-tier 11th green: “I love this green.”
From tee 12 you can see three holes unhindered: “It’s breathtaking to see the landscape.”
Walk to the 16th fairway, which slopes left and right, then drops sharply: “This hole will knock your socks off.”
A few hours later, it gets warm enough to chat on a terrace overlooking the lake, and Daniels reflects on his five seasons tending to the unique land he loves.
“We have something you can’t do,” he says. “You either have it or you don’t. And we’re lucky that things haven’t changed much in the 100 years here. There are Donald Ross courses that are very well known and not what we have. You cannot claim to be what we are because we are authentic. “
The third tee in the Teugega Country Club.
Maintaining this real version of Ross takes golf acumen – Daniels is a low handicapper and calls playing the game “his escape” from the demands of work and life – agronomic dexterity and ingenuity. Daniels started his lawn career at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and Glens Falls Country Club in the Adirondacks, so that he came to Teugega armed with Ross knowledge. But Teugega contrasts many of Ross’ original designs as the greens are still 3½ acres, they still support pimples, hills and slopes, and thanks to a careful restoration program, they are still bunkers.
Teugega is the only private golf course in Rome, population 32,127 and 45 miles northeast of Syracuse. Once known for its copper prowess and then home to Griffiss Air Force Base, the city has lost more than a third of its population since 1990. This discipline happens to help protect Ross’ vision and functions. architect Barry Jordan drew up a master plan in 2004, and the club methodically implemented elements of the plan by expanding green and fairway, removing trees, reconstructing original bunkers and greening non-original bunkers.
Teugega had been on the job for a decade when Daniels arrived in March 2017. “The club has done a lot in the last 15 years,” he says. “This has not only been the case for the past five years.” The construction takes place in manageable phases. Before and during the 2021 season, for example, the club restored 12 bunkers, worked with Faerys Golf to drain a pair of fairways, removed 5 acres of peripheral trees and built a new rear tee on the sixth par-4 hole.
The team that Daniels oversees includes around 13 employees during the summer high season and drops to under 10 by the fall. Deputy Superintendent Nick Perrucci, Equipment technician Kevin Riley and Daniels are Teugega’s only year-round lawn workers. Daniels uses the available resources prudently with the premise that the preservation of Ross-designed greens is high on the list of priorities. The emphasis on green maintenance and preservation means that despite a modest team size, half of the areas are mowed at stride.
“This is something that a course on our budget wouldn’t normally do,” says Daniels. “But we have to do this to keep the greens as big as possible and to keep them as close to the bunker as possible. We invest a significant part of our budget in the quality of our greens. We make sure our greens are the things that shine the most. When people come here, we want them not only to be amazed by the shape of the greens, but also by their quality. “
The 17th green.
The more Daniels looks at the surfaces, the more he is fascinated by their shapes and sizes. Daniels was working as an assistant superintendent at Corning Country Club in New York’s Southern Tier when an industry sales professional announced the opening of the Teugega just before the 2017 season. Despite being a native of central New York – his hometown of Groton is 85 miles from Rome – and has worked at the Corning Country Club since 2013, Daniels knew nothing about Teugega, including how to pronounce the club’s name. He correctly pronounced tee-YOU-juh-guh before learning a lot about the club’s country. Snow covered the ground when he was in Rome for his first interview in mid-March 2017.
“I couldn’t see the golf course,” says Daniels, “but I did my own research by just talking on the phone and everyone I spoke to said, ‘If you get this job, you want this job . ‘ So I basically took the job without ever having seen the golf course. “
After his second interview, he was offered the job, less than a mile on the 140-mile drive back to Corning. Sixteen days later he began his tenure as superintendent. It all happened so quickly that Daniels says it took him two years to finally understand the greatness of the course. Daniels sees not only protecting Ross but also promoting what sets Teugega apart from hundreds of clubs with the same architect on the scorecard as an important part of his job.
“Our brand is simply authentic Donald Ross,” he says. “This property has some breathtaking views and the use of the landform is incredible. A lot of people said to me, ‘I played the top nine, it’s great and I was impressed.’ And they don’t believe it, but the second nine get even better. You are constantly in awe of every hole as you go. Every hole has a different character and no two are alike. “
Guy Cipriano is the Editor-in-Chief of Golf Course Industry.
The fourth green.