Rome Country Club: A classic golf course in central New York merges history, good design and hard work by family owners

By Katharine Dyson, Special Contributor

ROME, N.Y. -- Local rumor has it that the late Geoffrey Cornish, a well known golf course architect who had once worked with Donald Ross, might have had some input into central New York classic rolling Rome Country Club.

Rome Country Club
Rome Country Club is one of the more beautiful classic golf courses in central New York.
Rome Country ClubRome Country Club golf course - 14thRome Country Club golf course
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Rome Country Club

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5342 State Route 69
Rome, New York 13440
Oneida County
Phone(s): (315) 336-6464
18 Holes | Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 6816 yards | ... details »

Indeed, the green complex on holes no. 1 and no. 9 -- redesigned by Cornish, it is believed -- is characterized by Ross-like "bumps."

"My gut feeling," says Wesley ("Wes") Cupp, owner, CEO and golf professional at Rome Country Club, "is that it's quite possible that Cornish or one of his assistants had a hand in this."

Located in the northwest corner of Rome in the foothills of the Adirondacks, this semi-private, 600-acre facility was originally a nine-hole private club founded by Joseph and William Rees in 1929 and opened for play in 1930.

A faded photo in the clubhouse shows rows and rows of fruit trees on the site now occupied by the golf course. In the 1700s, this land was historically significant as part of the "Oneida Carry," a key transportation and communications hub used by the Iroquois Indians and colonists.

Closed in 1942 due to World War II gas rationing, the course was sold two years later and would change hands a few more times. Bearing in mind that "Rome was not built in a day," another nine was added by the Acme Club of Rome in 1956, holes no. 1 and no. 9 were reworked (perhaps by Cornish) and the a new clubhouse was built not far from the old one that had burned down.

Known at that time as Beaverbrook Country Club, the name was changed to Rome Country Club when Ted W. Cupp purchased it in 1976. Ted, his wife, Kitty, and their three sons, Wesley ("Wes"), Josh and Jon, have been running it ever since.

Wes is CEO and head professional of golf operations; Wes's wife, Lauren, a superb golfer in her own right as runner-up in the New York State Mid-Amateur and Utica District Champion, is director of Rome's Junior Golf Tour, a success story for more than 28 years.

"It costs a player just $10 per event," says Wes. "It's been the same price since it started and that includes lunch."

Josh and Jon take care of the family interests in the Thirsty Owl Wine Company and Bistro on Cayuga Lake and the Thirsty Owl Outlet and Wine Garden in Saratoga Springs.

When the Cupp bought the golf course, it took a lot of work to make it viable.

"Ted and the boys have worked so hard all these years," says Ted's wife, Kitty, who continues to help out where she's needed. "The hours are long; you can never leave it."

Fortunately, the Cupps don't have to go far to get to work. Wes lives in old homestead, where the former clubhouse used to stand, while his parents live nearby.

Until recently, Rome Country Club was also home to Pinebrook Farms, a standardbred horse facility that produced many champions. The most well known, Teeth of the Dog, was born here and amassed $630,000 in earnings.

Rome Country Club gets high marks for conditioning

Over the years, Rome Country Club continues to get high marks for its conditioning and layout. Holes 2-8 are part of the original nine, so you'll find the front nine noticeably different from the back. For example, the front is more open while the back requires more precision as tall trees on either side of the fairways narrow your options, especially on holes 11-13, 15 and 16.

The course climbs up and down hilly terrain through pine forests and hardwoods while a skinny creek wriggles through the center. For example, the sixth hole, one of the tougher tests on the front, tempts you to take an extra club to carry the creek guarding the approach to the green.

You can expect some blind shots like on the par-5 seventh, where you are hitting over a hill on your third shot. With the green tucked around a pond unless you have prior knowledge, you may be in for a surprise.

On the 10th, a long par 5 playing 575 yards from the back, you are hitting over a creek on this dogleg left while the creek squiggles across the fairway in front of the green.

Hole no. 18, a slight dogleg right, is also a blind drive where you'd best get over the creek and be on the left in order to see the green on your next shot.

There are only about 15 bunkers on the golf course, but these are enough to cause some damage, especially on the newest hole, no. 14.

"We changed the routing on the 14th," General Manager Ron Weis said. "Whereas before you played alongside the pond, now you have to hit over it from an elevated tee. It's a really great par 3."

Always striving to improve the club, the Cupps recently refurbished the men's and women's club rooms with new lockers and showers, a pool table for the men's facility and new furniture and decor, while the bar and restaurant has a new plasma screen TV and room to accommodate up to 110 guests.

Rome Country Club: The verdict

Rome Country Club, one of the more beautiful classic courses in central New York with a four-star ranking from Golf Digest, is one of the state's finest old tracks. Although unprecedented spring rains have been known to do some damage in recent times, with hills, elevations, bunkers and an excellent irrigation system along with some of the best bentgrass greens in the area, this course is a must-play.

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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