TEEMING WITH TOP-TIER AMENITIES AND ALL-INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCES, THIS WHITE-GLOVE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB OFFERS THE LUXURIES OF A FAR-FLUNG RESORT WITH THE FAMILIARITY OF A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
BY ELIZABETH HAZARD • PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
“Always extraordinary, never stuffy.” That’s how Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club in Farmingdale describes itself. Perhaps it’s the precise alchemy of luxury and comfort that has made the full-service club such a welcoming, sought-after destination, an institution celebrated for its commitment to providing a first-class experience. Here, amid the rolling greensand lush native trees, lifelong memories are formed. The club serves a diverse group of members with a singular focus: to provide quality experiences in a relaxed, gregarious atmosphere. Eagle Oaks is designed as resort-style, five-star destination, one that wouldn’t be out of place in Hawaii or Scotland, but in its members’ backyards. Members run the gamut, from active empty nesters to young families, prominent politicians and sports legends to local movers and shakers.
Spread over 350 lushly landscaped acres, the Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller designed golf course (the only Nicklaus-designed course in New Jersey) has attracted a medley of notable figures over the years, from Joe Pesci to Adam Levine and Mark Wahlberg to Bill Parcels.
Players can work on their swings in the state-of-the-art practice and training facilities. But the amenities here reach far beyond golf alone. There are Har-Tru tennis courts, cabana-lined saltwater swimming pools, and separate male and female fitness centers complete with massage service rooms to indulge in a moment of self-care after a long week at work or afternoon in the sun.
The 125,000-square-foot clubhouse, with a Southern charm, has a sweeping event space for weddings and special events. And when cravings strike, there’s no shortage of dining options on site. Prime & Vine is the club’s rendition of a traditional fine-dining steakhouse, cloaked in a glamorous 1920saesthetic. The adults-only steakhouse and wine bar serves prime dry-aged beef and fresh seafood alongside a specially curated wine list (the restaurant offers private wine lockers as well as private rooms for special occasions for up to 16 guests). Also on site is St. Andrew’s Grille &Pizza Bar, known as the heartbeat of Eagle Oaks. Here, members and guests can enjoy all-day dining in a convivial atmosphere.
An outdoor patio offers the option to feast on bubbling pies under the sun, or diners can take advantage of cabana service at one of the pools. During the winter months, the patio transforms into an ice rink. There’s also the social hub 19th Hole Bar & Grill, surrounded by waterfalls and a packed koi pond. A stirring new addition is the Oaks Room, a members-only cigar lounge that radiates luxury and sophistication. Here, members can kick back and relax with private, individual humidors while sipping on an 18-year Scotch. This is but one of the myriad enhancements owner Domenic Gatto has green lit as he looks toward Eagle Oaks’ future. A 6,000-square-foot, all-glass, climate-controlled conservatory for indoor wedding ceremonies is another recent add-on to the already sprawling event space.
The club currently offers posh overnight accommodations in the Savannah House, and construction of the 6,000-square-footCharleston House with six guest suites, a yoga studio, pool, sauna, and juice bar is still on the drawing board. Pickleball fanatics will obsess over the soon-to-open pickleball courts within the club’s racquets complex. Gatto and a few minority investors purchased the flailing Shore Oaks Golf Club in 2002 and converted it into Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club.
After employing a sweeping multi-million-dollarremodel in 2006, the owner knows that continuing to reinvest in the club is vital to its ongoing success. “There are many private clubs in the area, but none have invested as much as we have in our club,” he said. Gatto, an Army veteran and former school bus operator-turned-successful businessman, noted he keeps a running list in his pocket at all times detailing improvements he’s made and would like to make. “Just like in my former business, I reinvest tremendously in the business. People notice the little and the big things, and continual reinvestment back into the club shows that I care about the members and their experiences. Over the years, and especially recently, people have taken notice of this, and it has been gratifying to watch my vision become a reality.”
After a long, fruitful 43-year career as the founder and CEO of Atlantic Express, a company he grew into the largest American-owned bus company in the nation (he retired from Atlantic Express in2013), Gatto now directs all his professional energy into Eagle Oaks, where he plans to spend his retirement years continuing to improve upon an already-successful model. Guided by the mantra “I’m glad I did it,” rather than “I wish I did it,” his goal each day is to provide members with memorable experiences. “There’s so much to do at the club, and we aim to make sure we aren’t a stuffy atmosphere,” he said.
Even beyond the accolade-toting golf course– which has played host to several high-profile tournaments, including the New Jersey PGA Championship – there’s plenty of special events and gatherings for families, including fishing derbies, drive-in movie nights, family bingo nights, Halloween hayrides and costume contests, brunch with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, petting zoos, pony rides, Mother’s Day brunch, and more. Offering more interactive events and amenities for non-golf members has been a key factor in Eagle Oak’s growth and success, noted the owner. He said his staff ensures a calm and gregarious environment, offering a deluxe but approachable place for members to relax, laugh, make new connections, spend quality time with loved ones, or simply escape the stressors of daily life.
Eagle Oaks Golf &, Country Club 20 Shore Oaks Drive, Farmingdale 732.938.9696 / eagleoaks.com