A 'Small Gem' of a Course
By John Emerson
LIBERTY ÷ July 7, 2000 -- It wasnât the first golf course in Sullivan
County but it is the oldest existing course still in operation.
And in the boom-boom, go-go atmosphere of modern golf, where
professionals routinely bomb the ball more than 300 yards from the tee
and golf courses are rated based on their length, it would be easy to
overlook Sullivan County Golf and Country Club.
That would be a mistake. On July 1 the little course on the outskirts
of Liberty celebrated its 75th anniversary of confounding golfers and
duffers alike with its demanding shot placements, side hill lies and
treacherous breaking putts that roll true but require careful thought
The club was organized in February 1925 when a group of businessmen
purchased a farm of a little more than 180 acres along what is now
Route 52 in the hills to the west of Liberty.
Members, anxious for the opportunity to play, opened the course in July
while it was still under construction. Over the years the golf course,
which is owned by the members but open to the public, has seen few
The original 9-hole layout remains substantially unchanged since it was
laid out in 1925. The course, which plays to a little more than 6,000
yards at par 72, uses alternate sets of tee boxes to provide 18 holes
Although the entire circuit is well maintained, the emphasis for the
four-member ground crew has always been placed on the greens.
ãWeâre well known for the way we keep our greens,ä said club
president Stacey Benton. ãWe always have the best greens in the
The course record, a magnificent 10-under-par 62, which included three
eagles, is held by Jack Coughlin, who started caddying at the course in
1928, its third year of operation. Now 85, Coughlin ruled the fairways
and greens during his playing days, winning more club championships
than anyone in the clubâs history.
He remains a frequent visitor to the course and dines regularly at
Bogeyâs, the clubhouse restaurant. It is Coughlin who is given a
strong measure of credit for the emphasis the club places on its
ãA golfer will forgive poor tees and poor fairways but not poor
putting greens,ä Coughlin is reputed to have said.
He has established such a presence at the club that in 1997 the members
initiated a 54-hole medal play event in his honor.
Open to any resident of Sullivan County, the Sullivan County Amateur
for the Coughlin Trophy, which is played in October, is rapidly
becoming one of the premier end-of-the-season tournaments in the area.
Unfortunately as the club has aged so has the membership.
Benton said she is actively pursuing new members, both as owner-members
and seasonal golfing-only members. She is also trying to make the
public aware that the course is open to anyone, not just members.
ãI think the name, Sullivan County Golf and Country Club, scares
people away,ä Benton said. ãI have a feeling that people think itâs
a members only course. Actually weâre open to anyone and one of the
things were trying to develop is to encourage kids to take up the
Discussions are also underway within the membership over whether to
seek an outside partner to develop the rest of the property and add
another nine holes to bring the course to a full 18-hole layout.