In his retirement, Joe Renzulli has taken up golf. He likes to get started early in the day and he knows where to go. Andrew Ruscito lives in Anglesea on Warwick Neck. He has had major back surgery. Swimming and walking in water are prescribed therapy, and he knows where to go.
Both Renzulli and Ruscito have discovered Harbor Lights on Warwick Neck, the venture owned by former Governor Philip Noel and his son, Joseph, that links the former Seaview 9-hole golf club with the nearby Harbor Light Marina. An infinity pool, with its edge melding with a view of Greenwich Bay and the distant Jamestown Bridge, is the latest addition to the complex. The pool and its amenities include a bar opened about 10 days ago and a short walk from the marina to the clubhouse.
Already, the pool offers seasonal family and individual memberships and is free to boaters using the marina.
Ruscito signed up before it opened. He was delighted to have the facility in his backyard.
“You can order food and they’ll bring it down [from the golf clubhouse]. It’s really great,” he said drying off after walking in the pool several times last Tuesday. A few other people lounged in chairs, reading or soaking in the sun.
On weekends, as many as 30 and 40 gather around the pool, but it’s not crowded.
That’s what Renzulli likes about Harbor Lights.
“It’s a hidden secret. Not too many know about it,” he said.
But Harbor Lights and the more than $3 million the Noels have invested over the last year are not likely to remain a secret too much longer. The golf course, which the city once considered acquiring and was the site for a proposed housing development later, has undergone extensive work in the past year, according to Edward Berube, country club and banquet manager.
Hopping into a golf cart, Berube offered a quick spin around a couple of fairways with views of the bay and the hills of Cowesett and East Greenwich on the horizon. The course’s greens were velvety smooth and trees flanking the fairways had been cleared of dead and low-lying branches.
Berube has been friends with Joe Noel for years. They both attended Hendricken and, when Joe bought and renovated the former weather station on Block Island, he frequented the club Berube owned. He tapped Berube when they bought the former Seaview club and then put together plans to revive and enhance the property.
“He does things right and puts a lot into his projects,” Berube said of his friend.
The city is in agreement. Chief of Staff to Mayor Scott Avedisian, Mark Carruolo, complimented the development, saying, “They’ve done everything they said they would.”
A lot is still on the drawing boards for the clubhouse, although the property has already undergone a major facelift. It has also become a significant provider of jobs, with 21 employees and an additional 12 working the marina.
With an addition to the east side of the clubhouse, is a planned addition that will enable banquet space capable of seating 350. The building will have three kitchens, including an open-air kitchen. The club will also offer catering services.
The changes have started to pay off. Berube estimates that course play has doubled since last year and he said the club is booking weddings for next year.
A public-private course, Harbor Lights charges $19 for nine holes, a rate that will drop to $1 a hole later in the fall. It also has membership packages for unlimited play at $750 for an individual and $950 for a family. With golf membership, there is a $250 discount on pool membership, which is $500 on its own.
But the Noels’ vision is greater than a golf and swimming club. It incorporates the marina and the idea of a destination for boaters unlike any other in Rhode Island. Boaters will be able to dock their yachts while playing a round of golf, enjoying the pool and dining at the clubhouse, all within a short walk.
Putting it all on the map hasn’t been as easy as it would seem. Last week, Berube was working with Google to ensure that “Harbor Lights,” rather than “Seaview,” will pop up on GPS systems when the address is entered. There are a few unobtrusive signs to help motorists find the golf course and marina, but it’s not easy for those who aren’t familiar with Warwick Neck. The connection by sea is easiest of all. Harbor Lights is at the mouth of Warwick Cove, a first stop, so to speak, for a boater.
Berube is confident that a good thing wouldn’t remain a secret for long.
Several leagues played the course this summer, including a Police Athletic League. PAL players aren’t generating revenue but that doesn’t trouble Berube. He’s excited to have young players learning the game and sees it as a way to give back to the community.
Berube brings another skill to his job, one that few club managers can boast of. He is a master gardener, Rhode Island Tree Steward and a Coastal Resources Management Council invasive plant manager. As he drives the club’s fairways, keeping a watchful eye not to interfere with play, he talks about “Japanese knotweed” and “mile-a-minute vine,” two invasive plants to be watched.
But his main focus is on what’s happening at Harbor Lights.
With completion of the banquet facilities next year, he sees additional jobs and, as people experience Harbor Lights, he expects the word will travel. For the time being, his message is that it wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the Noels.