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Golf Guide: Cobleskill G&CC still going strong

Friday, April 11, 2014
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— For more than eight decades, duffers and skilled golfers alike have left their marks on this course.

These fairways and greens would not have been around that long, though, if the course had not left its mark on the players.

The combination of the scenic Schoharie Valley and the inviting nature of its people has insured the endurance of the Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, which will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year, continuing to welcome back members who never tire of the course.

Even John Murray, who grew up just beyond what is now the 12th hole and joined the club in 1962, tees up several times each week. Whether playing in a foursome or alone, the course keeps calling him back.

“Good fellowship, always, or able to play alone in good solitude,” Murray said. “It’s a good place to think out your problems when you’re playing. I play, going on 84 years of age, I play four times a week.”

Even with snow still covering the region in late March, several longtime members gathered for lunch at Grapevine Farms just a half-mile down the road from the course and were walking the fairways of their memories.

The fellowship Murray spoke of was apparent and came up often. Murray said during World War II, when gas was rationed, members brought their own mowers filled with their own gas and mowed the course.

The sense of community continues today as the course is the home site for several high school teams, free of charge. SUNY-Cobleskill also uses the course for its teams, and the club offers high school and college students a membership rate of only $275 for the year.

Bill Downs sits on the membership committee and first became a member in 1977. What kept him coming back was how comfortable he has felt at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, even though he doesn’t consider himself a top-level golfer.

“I’ve always felt very comfortable at the golf course, and I’ve always been a struggling golfer. Never a golfer with those outstanding skills, but yet always feeling a part of the group,” Downs said. “I’ve enjoyed league play, extensive league play that afforded an opportunity to meet other people. I think that was a very important part of being in the community.”

Marks made

Most of the moments that remain frozen in the memories of these members happened in the tee box.

Murray made some of those memories with his sons, saying Cobleskill G&CC is a great club for families.

“I was able to bring my boys up on the course,” he said. “Unfortunately, in those days, the girls didn’t do much in athletics, and that’s terrible. Today, that’s reversed. But I played a lot with my sons, and it was a real family affair. We had great social activities at the club when I first joined.”

Don Bond has been a member since 1965 and, in recounting his top memories, admitted he didn’t even see one of them. It happened on a 530-yard par-5.

“I had a double eagle on, it’s now No. 9, but it was No. 7 then,” Bond said. “It was in August, and I hit it off the middle tee up on what is now the ninth tee. I was 160 yards out, I hit a 5-iron, the other guy said, ‘It went in! It went in!’ I couldn’t see it.

“And then as far as I know, I was the first member to hit a hole-in-one on No. 17. A week before, a lady in an inter-county or ladies’ invitational had one, but she was from another course.”

“It’s a two-tier green, and it’s really tricky,” added membership chairman Bob Smith, a member since 1998.

“[Four-time NENYPGA Player of the Year] Dal Daily used to call it his bogey hole, because he couldn’t par it,” Bond said of the 185-yard par-3. “He was the pro here for six years.”

Not all the top memories end with a ball in a cup, though, as Downs pointed out.

“My most memorable shot was on the old No. 7. I took out a 3-wood, and I really hit a long 3-wood,” Downs said. “I broke a clubhouse window.”

The new nine

Some of these holes were renumbered because there used to be only nine. In 1991, then-club president Gene Amedio, a member since 1980, led a meeting of members and stockholders who decided to add another nine holes.

The new nine was designed by member Rick Coyler, who was the club secretary at the time. The estimate for the addition was around $150,000, and once construction was finished, the new nine had cost about $200,000 to complete, which was quite a deal.

Even as a deal, though, it was still more money than the club was used to spending. Amedio said, though, things that need doing just seem to get done.

“The other thing I’ve found is the people, the volunteerism,” Amedio said. “They talked me into being president when we went to the back nine. The board was so cooperative. It was quite an undertaking for us. We’d never spent that kind of money before. All of a sudden, we’re talking $150,000, and the membership went for it, but the volunteerism was the big thing. Getting things done.”

The 18-hole Cobleskill G&CC has something the nine-hole version was short of — water.

“Right now, the best club in your bag is a ball retriever,” Amedio joked.

The membership turned out in force the first day the full 18-hole course was open.

“Just seeing the enthusiasm of all the members that day, I think we had a full course,” Amedio said. “Not having to play the same holes twice, like we did before from different tees. As a matter of fact, I played with John [Murray], Rick Coyler, who designed it, and [former WRGB newsman] Jack Aernecke was our fourth in that group.”

For Murray, the lasting memory of his first round on the new nine is of enjoying the fruits of the club’s labors and the nostalgia of playing once more on the same grounds he had explored in his childhood.

“I enjoyed the new nine because of the uniqueness of it,” Murray said. “Having worked on the development of putting it together with Horace Smith, who was our first contractor who couldn’t finish the job, then working with Hans Schoenecker after that, selling the bonds and just feeling a part of it, thinking, ‘I played on those fields when I was a kid.’

“They had a hurricane in 1938. It twisted the trees all through where Nos. 11 and 12 are now, and it made a tremendous jungle for young kids to play in. That was my memory of that whole area. Now it turns into a golf club for a very pleasurable afternoon.”

Decades after that hurricane, there is an island green that was part of the new nine design. Smith said the high winds and horizontal rain aren’t necessary, though, to cause a little anxiety for the golfers teeing up at the 345-yard, par-4 13th hole.

“It’s got a stream in the front, hazard to the right, hazard to the left and a hazard in the back,” he said. “It truly is an island green. It’ll scare you no matter what club you’ve got in your hand.”

Keep coming back

One of the reasons these members have returned time and again through the years is that the variety of shots needed to play here keeps the experience fresh.

“I played courses all over after I retired,” Bond said. “I traveled a lot. When I play a course, I say, is this a course I’d like to play every day? Up here, this is a course I used to play six times a week. It’s just always different. Never the same. The layout, the greens and the people you get to play with. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”

The addition of the new nine added to that freshness, the beauty, and the allure for non-members.

More on greens fees, membership rates and lessons with club pro Paul Jaycox can be found at www.cobleskillgc.com. Tee times also can be arranged through www.golfnow.com, an online service the club will start using this year.

The course is only a couple miles from Route 88, so it is convenient, and Amedio said the Eastern New York Golf Association and smaller touring groups have made their way to Cobleskill G&CC with more frequency.

“Having 18 holes, too, you’re having golfers from all around the northeast coming here,” Amedio said. “Before, when it was nine, you’d get a few who would come through here. But now, it’s not unusual to get a group of eight or whatever kids coming through, calling ahead to say they’d like to play your golf course.”

That and the membership deals the club offers have these long-time members hopeful there will be, 85 years from now, another group of long-time members sitting around talking about the mark the course has left on them.

“This year, we’re running a discount for all new single members and new family members,” Smith said. “We’re giving them a real healthy discount for this coming year, then once we get them, we hope we can hold on to them.”

 
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