The Richmond County Country Club Story

 

The RCCC, organized on April 18, 1888 and incorporated in 1891, is the only private club in New York City.  It is well known, not only on the continent, but in many other parts of the world, and is one in which the citizens of Staten Island, the Club’s members and its staff may well be proud.  The RCCC continues its tradition as a cohesive organization promoting family values and amenities that a first-class country club has to offer. The RCCC features an 18-hole golf course, pro shop, tennis courts, swimming pool, snack bar, fine dining ranging from classical to contemporary cuisine; numerous theme night productions and the catering of weddings and other celebrations, golf outings and charity events.

The Richmond County Country Club was organized in 1888, the same year St. Andrew’s was formed.  Within a decade, the club had compiled a distinguished history associated with three popular sports of the day:  fox hunting, lawn tennis and golf.  Most of the Club’s founders were members of the Richmond County Hunt Club, which had been organized in 1887 to formalize an organization that had been active on Staten Island for nearly a decade.  As housing developments began to dot the island’s landscape, fox hunting became less practical and ceased by 1915.

Golf came in 1894, led by George Hunter, George Armstrong and James Park, Englishmen who began playing over the Fox Hills in the fall of 1893.  Hunter and Armstrong were members at St. Andrew’s, and participated there in the “unofficial” amateur championship of 1894.  Staten Island was a summer retreat at the time, and Richmond County a summer club.  The pioneer golfers laid out a 9-hole course, and Hunter donated a medal, which has been awarded to the medalist in the qualifying round for the club championship sine 1895.  It is one of the oldest medals in continuous competition in American golf.

The Club moved in 1897 to its present site on the Dongan Hills to accommodate the growing number of golfers.  A 9-hole course went in immediately, and a second 9 followed the next season.  The present clubhouse was part of a lavish estate, built in the 1840’s by a shipping magnate who liked to watch from his porch as his ships entered New York Harbor.  Lawn tennis became popular in 1899.  A quarter-century earlier, the sport was imported to this country from Bermuda by Mary Outerbridge, the sister of two of the Club’s founders.  Eugene Outerbridge took the lead in forming a national organization to govern the sport, helping found the United States Lawn Tennis Association in 1881.

The golf course was revised in 1956 when logistical and financial considerations led to the sale of the 1st and 18th holes, both par threes and the only two holes on the Clubhouse side of Todt Hill Road, which had become a busy thoroughfare.  The present 11th and 12th holes replaced them, and a pro shop-caddie house was constructed.  The sales separated the clubhouse from the course, an inconvenience the membership endured gracefully.  Despite one hole that falls off the face of the earth and the longest (644 yards) par five in the Metropolitan Area, the course derives its character from the dramatic undulation of its greens.  A seemingly ever-present creek crosses or borders ten holes.  And while relatively short, the course is no pushover.  The 3rd is the once-famous "Wee Drop" hole, a short par three that falls 200 feet from tee to green.  A pond fronts the green, a pair of bunkers waits behind.  Played from an elevated tee that offers a spectacular view of the Lower Bay, the 10th drops precipitously in the drive zone before rising sharply, then proceeding slightly down hill with a moderate pitch to the left before reaching a pair of cross bunkers 100 yards from home.  A deep swale precedes the green.

In 1989 New York State manifested its interest in Staten Island’s Green Belt by purchasing the golf course, then giving the Club a 99-year lease at an annual rent of $1.00.  This has allowed the Club to finance considerable course improvements and cover annual maintenance costs, as well as build a modern Clubhouse adjacent to the golf course.