Troon Selected to Manage Home of Florida State University Golf Teams
Finding a turf team that maintains golf course characteristics similar to their 1920s presentation means circling around a 2,200 acre reservoir to reach the aptly named Golf Course Route in Rome, New York. The first glimpse of the golf course appears when motorists notice a large green, two bunkers and a trifecta of mounds.
Teugega Country Club oozes Donald ross of the roadside overview.
Parking in the parking lot, which borders Lake Delta, gives a physical chill, especially on a fall morning – it’s central New York City, after all. It also produces emotional chills. Who doesn’t want to ride a course with greens that closely mirror what Ross and his associates designed in 1921?
The hole responsible for the first impression of coming back is actually the third hole, a muscular par 3 playing 223 yards from the back tees. Wearing a hoodie under a jacket and holding a well-insulated mug full of coffee, Superintendent Ian daniels stops behind the green and explains what makes the putting surface and other parts of the hole genuinely impressive. This is the third such description. Fourteen more detailed descriptions await you. At the 10th hole, the coffee is gone, yet Daniel amplifies the fervor of his words.
Standing on the front of the 11th green on two levels: “I love this green. ”
While contemplating a breathtaking view of three holes from the 12th tee: “It’s wonderful to see the landforms. ”
Walk to the 16th fairway, which tilts left and right, then tilts sharply: “This hole is going to blow your socks off.”
Hours later, it’s warm enough to chat on a patio overlooking the lake, and Daniels reflects on his five seasons to maintain the unique land he loves.
“We have something that you cannot create,” he says. “You either have it or you don’t. And we’re lucky that things haven’t changed significantly in the 100 years here. There are Donald Ross courses that are very well known and they don’t have what we have. They cannot claim to be who we are because we are genuine.
The third tee at the Teugega Country Club.
Preserving this real version of Ross requires a keen sense of golf – Daniels is low handicap and calls the game “his escape” from the demands of work and life – agronomic skill and ingenuity. Daniels worked at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and Glens Falls Country Club in the Adirondacks early in his career, so he came to Teugega with the knowledge of Ross. But Teugega contrasts with most of Ross’s original designs, as the greens are still 3½ acres, they still support knobs, knolls and slopes, and they still surround bunkers with a careful restoration program.
Teugega is Rome’s only private course, with a population of 32,127 and 45 miles northeast of Syracuse. Once known for its copper prowess, then as the headquarters of Griffiss airbase, the city has lost more than a third of its population since 1990. Unlike clubs in more capital-rich areas, Teugega must exercise discipline when ‘it changes the course. This discipline, coincidentally, is a contributing factor in safeguarding Ross’s vision and characteristics. Architect Barry jordan created a master plan in 2004, and the club methodically executed elements of the plan through expanding greens and fairways, removing trees, and rebuilding original bunkers and grassing over non originals.
Teugega had been in the business for a decade when Daniels arrived in March 2017. “The club over the past 15 years has done a lot,” he says. “It’s not just the past five years.” Construction is taking place in manageable phases. Before and during the 2021 season, for example, the club restored 12 bunkers, worked with Faerys Golf to add drainage to a pair of fairways, removed five acres of outlying trees and built a new back tee on the sixth par- 4. .
The team that Daniels supervises consists of around 13 employees during the peak summer season and drops below 10 workers in the fall. Deputy Superintendent Nick Perrucci, equipment technician Kevin riley and Daniels are Teugega’s only year-round turf workers. Daniels is deploying available resources wisely on the premise that preserving Ross-designed greens is high on the priority list. The emphasis on maintaining and preserving the greens means walking half of the surfaces despite a small crew.
“This is something that a course with our budget usually wouldn’t do,” Daniels says. “But we have to do it to keep the greens the size they are and keep them as close to the bunker as possible. We invest a significant portion 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 to be impressed not only with the shape of the greens, but also with their quality.
The 17th green.
The more Daniels observes the surfaces, the more he is captivated by their shapes and sizes. Daniels was working as an assistant superintendent at the Corning Country Club in New York City’s South End when an industry sales professional informed him of the Teugega opening shortly before the 2017 season. Although he is a native from central New York City – his hometown of Groton is 85 miles from Rome – and working at the Corning Country Club since 2013, Daniels knew nothing about Teugega, including how to pronounce the club’s name. He correctly stated tee-you-juh-guh before learning a lot on the club grounds. Snow covered the ground when he traveled to Rome for his first interview in mid-March 2017.
“I couldn’t see the golf course,” Daniels says, “but I did my own research by just making phone calls and everyone I spoke to said,“ If you can get this job, you want this job ”. So I basically took the job without ever seeing the golf course.
He was offered the job less than a mile in the 140-mile drive to Corning after his second interview. Sixteen days later, he began his term as superintendent. It all happened so fast that Daniels says it took him two years to finally understand the beauty of the course. Aside from protecting Ross, Daniels considers promoting what separates Teugega from hundreds of clubs with the same architect on the scorecard an essential part of his job.
“Our brand is just genuine Donald Ross,” he says. “This property has stunning views and the use of the terrain is amazing. I’ve had a lot of people say to me, “I played the first nine, it’s great and I was impressed. And they don’t believe it, but the last nine are still getting better. You are constantly in awe of each hole as you go. Each hole has a different character and none of them are really the same.
Guy Cipriano is the editor-in-chief of Golf Course Industry.
The fourth green.