Editor’s notebook: New York state of mind
The new maintenance facility at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, New York.
Guy Cipriano

Editor’s notebook: New York state of mind

Time at a quartet of courses leaves editor-in-chief Guy Cipriano with a packed notebook and even more appreciation for what golf has achieved this year.

October 23, 2020

Golf course sunrises are sweet. Sunrises over new maintenance facilities are a sign of vitality.
Earlier this year, the turf team at Monroe Golf Club, a 97-year-old club in Pittsford, New York, moved into a new 12,500 square foot maintenance facility. Conceiving, selling and pitching the need for a modern workspace fell on superintendent Matt Delly.
As I turned left off the brilliantly-named Golf Avenue toward the maintenance facility on a fall Sunday morning, Delly emerged from his bright office. He immediately and enthusiastically provided a tour of the offices, break room, locker rooms and storage areas he helped design.   
Everything seemed idyllic, especially when we turned around and noticed the sun rising above the pines to the north. Things were going so well on this mid-October morning that Monroe and its hardy upstate New York golf neighbors avoided weekend frost. 
Through all the obstacles golf has faced in 2020, brightness permeates at places such as Monroe, one of four private clubs within a five-mile stretch in suburban Rochester boasting a Donald Ross-designed course. Play is up, members and customers are happy, the weather is tame and well-managed facilities are treating the golf course as the star asset.
From the new maintenance facility at Monroe and the unveiling of a major restoration of the East Course at famed Oak Hill Country Club to superintendent-driven course enhancements at Skaneateles Country Club and Terry Hills Golf Course, a pair of mid-October days visiting courses in upstate New York yielded an abundance of positivity. Sure, questions exist about 2021 and beyond. But what’s wrong with reveling in the moment? 

The magical morning at Monroe involved touring a course where Ross and his team — which included a young Robert Trent Jones Sr., according to the club website — used sand beneath the ground and the flow of a ridgeline to create enduring variety. Monroe grips members, guests, visitors and employees. Delly grew up working on the course, returned as assistant superintendent in 2006 and became just the fifth superintendent in club history following the tragic death of Mark Hughes in 2007. He understands the responsibilities of the job, thus the tremendous pride and satisfaction he exudes when describing what his team has achieved in 2020. “This has been the best turf of my career,” he says while staring at the 18th green. 

On the trek back to the maintenance facility around 10 a.m., I pass a family with two young children playing a four-hole short course opened in 2002. Turf mounding separates the short course from the maintenance facility. There’s no hiding the obvious: Monroe’s future should excite anybody involved with its past and present.

Skaneateles Country Club’s surroundings contrast the suburban setting of Monroe and a new maintenance facility represents a dream instead of reality. Skaneateles (which is pronounced more like “Skinny Atlas”) takes the name of the 16-mile Skaneateles Lake, the easternmost of upstate New York’s charming Finger Lakes. Only one hole, the par-3 first, features an up-close view of the lake. A clubhouse, marina and picnic ground occupy the club’s lakefront property.   

Superintendent Alan Hammond operates a crew based in two maintenance facilities. Equipment is stored in a former airplane hangar parallel to the fourth hole and maintained in a shop near the 11th tee. The annoyance hasn’t slowed Hammond or his team. In just three seasons as superintendent, Hammond has added short grass near greens, expanded fairways and the practice area turf, removed trees, increased the amount of bentgrass in fairways, bolstered the topdressing program, and developed an energetic staff.

Skaneateles CC represents Hammond’s first superintendent job following stints as an assistant at Canterbury Golf Club in suburban Cleveland and Oak Hill. When he’s not looking down, Hammond walks out to the marina, pauses and stares at the lake. A career journey that started in his native Ireland led to a leadership position at a club where the possibilities are endless — and the views keep getting better.    

The chance to tell an upcoming story about the restoration of the East Course at Oak Hill served as the impetus for this entire trip. Starting a sunny Monday morning at Oak Hill touring the course with manager of golf courses and grounds Jeff Corcoran and club officials offered an inside and candid look at the restoration process, agronomy and club management. In short, a course roamed by every giant of the men’s game over the last seven decades has reached a new level of greatness. 

The sun continued into the afternoon as I entered Terry Hills Golf Course by turning between a miniature golf course and a red barn. I had no idea the red barn doubles as the maintenance facility until calling superintendent Thad Thompson from the parking lot. Thompson walked outside and greeted my arrival with a friendly wave. I was a bit surprised to learn the maintenance facility lurked at the entrance of the property. The high-profile location means Thompson must always factor red paint into the budget.    

Terry Hills is a 27-hole family-owned course. Golf outings and weddings account for a significant portion of the business, so uncertainty reigned as spring stretched into summer. Like thousands of daily-fee facilities, Terry Hills received a boost from renewed golf interest. Located between Buffalo and Rochester, golfers from New York’s second- and third-largest cities are flocking to Terry Hills and they will likely keep coming until it’s too cold to swing a club. 

Thompson is one of those golfers. The veteran superintendent enjoys the Terry Hills land and people, so he participated in multiple golf leagues in 2020. Work in the mornings, league play in the evenings, sunrises and sunsets over the red barn — and thousands of reassurances about the value of the product he provides between the beginnings and endings.        
Guy Cipriano is Golf Course Industry’s editor-in-chief.