The city’s best-kept golf secret begins and ends with community
by Marisa Procopio photos by alex barreto
A golf club is just a place where you play golf and have lunch, and you go home.” Dom R. Famulari succinctly detailed of the difference between country clubs and golf clubs. As the President of Richmond County Country Club (RCCC), one of the oldest in the United States, he would know, and is unabashedly New-York-no-nonsense about what makes it special.
Established in 1888 as a club focused on fox hunting, RCCC was incorporated in 1891, and has offered golf since 1894. Mary Outerbridge (yes indeed, of Outerbridge Crossing fame), the sister of two founding members, introduced lawn tennis, which soon became an attraction.
While fox hunting faded with the development of the surrounding area, the popularity of tennis and golf increased, and dignitaries and athletes joined Club members as frequent visitors. Today, it boasts 465 members, 280 of whom are golf members—the rest being tennis and house (social) members, who enjoy the use of tennis, pool, and restaurants. There are several 50-year veterans, as well as 24 junior members (under the age of 35.) Eighty percent of the roster is from Staten Island; others hail from Bayonne, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.
(An intriguing note: George Hunter, one of the first gentlemen to introduce golf to the U.S., co-designed a nine-hole golf course at RCCC in the late 19th century. He gave a medal to the Club, and to this day it’s awarded to the Club Championship’s lowest qualifier. It’s also one of the oldest medals in American golf.)
Most notably, this is the only private country club in New York City, and right here in Staten Island, which Famulari describes with a smile as “a beautiful suburb of the five boroughs.” He has been a member for 22 years, on the board for 12, and Club President since April of 2016.
“I’m very passionate about the organization,” he emphasized. “It’s an active place—a full-amenity facility.”
Amenities, by the way, that Famulari speaks of with pride and conviction. (“You have to continue to improve the club to make it attractive to people,” he said.) They include a redesigned and broadened aquatic facility. (“It looks like a resort. We’ve expanded the entire pool area with decking.”) That area includes cabanas—a boon for families.
RCCC’s Tennis Pavilion treats members to eight state-of-the-art har-tru courts; a spa-like lounge, and a Pro Shop stocked with tennis apparel, accessories, and equipment. The shop is staffed with USPTA professionals, available for advice on and off the court.
Other pastimes, such as the popular bocce leagues, add to the fun and good sport, but “the real attraction is the golf course,” said Famulari. Set on 125 acres and recently upgraded, its expansive panorama often surprises visitors who didn’t know the borough offered such beauty.
“Every 20 years you have to change the architecture of the course,” explained Famulari. “We have done just that, recently renovating the greens and traps with the direction of world-renowned golf course architect, Ron Prichard.”
Both major and minor changes and coordinating daily maintenance must be put in competent hands, and Famulari describes General Manager, Thomas Savvides, with nothing but superlatives.
“He’s a very astute general manager with 25 years in the country-club business,” said Famulari. “[Savvides] works in conjunction with the 14-person board of directors, and has put together an innovative professional team that prides itself on creating new concepts to keep members engaged.”
Savvides, for his part, enjoys his role in operations and strategic planning. “We offer a safe environment and oasis for members and their families,” he said. “A place to foster lifelong friendships and enjoy a great family-friendly social experience. We truly have an incredible membership—warm, inviting, and authentic.”
Family, for Famulari, is a theme that’s on par here with golf. “We have functions for the entire family,” he said, detailing movie nights, character breakfasts, and Halloween parties. “It’s all to make the kids feel welcome and part of the community.”
These sentiments are echoed by Stephanie E. Bulone, Director of Membership. She has been in the position for just over a year, and from the start, “it was clear that our members took pride in belonging to this special community. This place is constantly abuzz with activity and excitement, and we could not be more thrilled that it’s here where they come to feel at home. Our never-ending calendar of social activities and events captures the essence of RCCC—that is, family, fun, and friendship.”
The Club hosts events to bring member families together for all major holidays (its newly renovated Ballroom seats up to 300), as well as a Governors’ Ball—its premier, white-tie event—to honor board members. Executive Chef Manuel Ochoa presides over event dining, along with service for the Club’s five restaurants. The Grill Room and Main Dining Room offer a formal setting, with inventive takes on traditional favorites like fish, steak, and pasta. Chef Manny does not shy away from bright flavors, pairing mahi mahi with jalapeno and lime, and veal with green peppercorns and cognac, but also soothes with comfort food like roast chicken with a cheddar popover.
The Garden Room, Oak Bar, and Golf Clubhouse Restaurant feature more casual fare—burgers and sandwiches after a long day on the course or courts, and on a clear day, members dining on The Grill Room Terrace can enjoy meals with sweeping views of the harbor, ships ambling by, and even the dunes of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
Community, sport, fun, fine dining—all contribute to a sense of health and well-being, in a tucked-away spot on the Island.
“It’s a hidden jewel,” said Famulari.
Richmond County Country Club
135 Flagg Place, Staten Island / 718.351.0600 / richmondcountycc.org