Copper Hill Country Club

Copper Hill Country Club founded in 1927 by Cortland Betts, a New York City lawyer who first visited the Flemington area in the early 1900s. With input from noted golf course architect A. W. Tillinghaust, the original nine hole course was expanded to 18 holes in 1929. A small group of local investors acquired the Club in 1947, and established the basis for the equity ownership plan that is still in place today. Extensive course renovations, recommended by golf course architect Michael Hurdzan, were completed in 1992, and a new 15,000 square foot Clubhouse was finished in 1994. Copper Hill now stands as one of the finest private Country Clubs in western New Jersey.

1997 marked a very special year for Copper Hill Country Club. On April 26th the club hosted an Gala Event for its members to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment as a member-owned country club in 1947. In addition, 1997 marked the 70th anniversary of the opening of the golf course in 1927.

Golf first came to Hunterdon County in 1927 when Copper Hill Golf Course opened in Flemington. The man primarily responsible for the introduction of golf to the area was a New York City lawyer by the name of Cortland Betts. Near the turn of the century he became enamored with the rural atmosphere of the area and was determined to develop a place in the country to entertain his guests and clients away from the fast pace of the New York Social whirl. He began acquiring property near the village of Copper Hill and soon began the task of building what was to become the first golf course in Hunterdon County. His dream became a reality when the June 30,1927 issue of the Hunterdon County Democrat announced that, “Golf has made its appearance in Flemington” and issued a general invitation to “all who are interested in golf, to attend a tea at the clubhouse” for the formal opening of Copper Hill Country Club.

Yearly memberships were offered to local residents as well as to “a selected list from New York City” and by August of 1927 the club had over 70 members and had hired its first golf professional. The club immediately flourished and by 1929 the original nine-hole golf course was enlarged to 18-holes. Copper Hill quickly became a hub of social activity with many of the “New Yorkers” escaping the city by spending their weekends and vacations in the Flemington area. A circle was laid out near the club house and “cottages” were constructed as a small social development to provide the necessary housing for friends and family. Clay tennis courts and a swimming pool were constructed and both saddle horses and trap shooting were made available to the membership

The 1930’s saw the area cast into the world’s spotlight as a result of the Lindbergh kidnapping trial. Copper Hill played a small but important part in this piece of history as a number of reporters lodged in the men’s locker room while they were covering the trial. The 1930’s also saw the entire country fall into a deep economic depression which ultimately took its toll on Copper Hill. Membership dropped seriously and for the next several years the club operated as a public facility until it was closed during World War II and converted to pasture.

The golf course at Copper Hill remained dormant until 1947 when a small group of local residents began soliciting interest in re-establishing the golf course. When it became apparent that there was sufficient interest, a corporate structure was set up, stock was issued and the property which comprised the golf course as well as the clubhouse and the equipment to operate the club was purchased from the estate of Cortaland Betts.

As a result of being neglected for so long the condition of the course had deteriorated terribly including the loss of all of the original greens. A major construction project to revive the course and the club house facilities was undertaken. The first nine holes were completely re-designed to the extent that only two of the original holes remained intact.

During these early years funding to operate and improve the club were in very short supply. Most of the work conducted to re-build the golf course and update the other facilities were only possible through the hard work and generosity of the founding members. During the early 1950’s slot machines were “discreetly” operated in the club house to supplement the club’s revenue. Over the years as membership grew, finances improved and the entire facility was gradually improved. Numerous alterations were made to the original clubhouse. A bar, locker rooms, pro shop and a bag storage room were added. The swimming pool was re-built and the old tennis courts were reconstructed. Copper Hill was once again thriving. Reborn as a member-owned country club.

In recent years Copper Hill has undergone a similar transformation. Beginning in 1988 a major capital improvement project was undertaken. Major improvements were made to the golf course based upon the recommendations made by nationally known golf course architect Michael Hurdzan. A new irrigation system was installed, new tees and three new greens were built, existing bunkers were reconstructed and fairway bunkers were added. In addition, several holes were reconfigured and the driving range was expanded. The old farm house which had served many years as the club house was torn down and a new much larger modern facility which opened in the fall of 1994 was constructed. At the same time significant improvements were also made to the swimming pool and other facilities.

But many things about Copper Hill have changed little over the years. It is impossible discuss Copper Hill without mentioning Mike Amorelli. He has been an icon at Copper Hill, serving as golf professional for 33 years from 1951 until 1984 and since that time as the Director of Golf. His successor, Robert Nicolson, has been with the club since 1979 and is now in his 12th year as head professional. In fact, in 70 years the club has had just five different golf professionals.

Since its founding, Copper Hill has always prided itself on its family atmosphere. From its earliest years the club has always had both a very active women’s organization and a very strong junior program. The club also has a long tradition of community service, having served for many years as the home course for two of the county’s high school golf teams. In addition, since 1972 it has served as host and sponsor of an Invitational Tournament for the county’s scholastic golfers.

Another constant through the years has been the golf course itself. While it has undergone many improvements since it has first laid out in the 1920’s, it has always been rated as one of the better layouts and finely conditioned courses in the area. Copper Hill has long been a sought after site for tournament play and has had the privilege of hosting a large number of important state, regional and local tournaments. The club has also had a long standing tradition of producing some of the better golfers in the state, and is proud to have had members win both State and District Championships.