This Luxe New England Sporting Club is a Shooting Sports Paradise
The Preserve Sporting Club features a five-star luxury lodge, clay shooting, bird hunts, fly-fishing, golf, an equestrian center, a Bentley off-road driving course, and more.
In the middle of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, serial entrepreneur, car collector, and conservationist Paul Mihailides has created something everyone said would never work: a nearly 4,000-acre private club dedicated to the outdoors lifestyle, with an emphasis on shooting sports.
The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences, located in Richmond, about 30 minutes west of Newport, is a year-round enclave with an incredible array of offerings: clay shooting, upland bird hunting, a firearms range, tactical weapons training, fly-fishing ponds, an equestrian center, 18- hole golf course, off-road driving course, safari tents, a 50,000-squarefoot sporting shop with a fine gun room, a five-star luxury lodge, a world-class restaurant from famed chef David Burke, a spa, swimming pool, tennis courts, helipad, zipline, and an impressive portfolio of luxury real estate, among other amenities.
Mihailides, a Rhode Island native, has spent 40 years creating a diverse portfolio of real estate across the world, while building and scaling several other businesses, including FAMARS, a high-end knife and gunmaker founded in Italy in 1967.
A dedicated conservationist, lifetime enthusiast of the outdoor lifestyle, and an automotive, wine and cigar aficionado, with The Preserve he has managed to combine all his passions, as well as a successful real estate venture, in one property.
With the entry point for one of the growing number of luxurious, privately-sited residences Mihailides has built on Preserve lands, with complete membership privileges from golf to hunting, costing around $500,000 according to Forbes, it is still less expensive than many of the private clubs around the country which pride themselves on exclusivity, while offering half as many activities.
Unsurprisingly he has attracted a fair number of high-profile members, homeowners, and regular visitors, including the billionaire CEO of one of the world’s largest banks (New York City is just 30 minutes away by private jet); and numerous sports legends.
“When I first put my plan forward they thought I was too ambitious,” Mihailides laughs. “I said I was going to build a 100-mile trail system, an 18-hole executive golf course, clay shooting range, upland hunting fields, equestrian stables, tennis courts, a pool, sporting shop, a spa, and a main lodge…. Then when it started to catch on I went from too ambitious to visionary. And now we’re very fortunate that it’s turned into a success.”
When he started, “the property was very small, just 100 acres. Now we have over 3,800 acres. The property is four miles by six miles. So essentially, it’s 24 square miles, which means we own roughly a half-a-percent of Rhode Island. It’s pretty spectacular.”
Upland bird hunting, taking place from October to March, is a major draw. Mihailides’ breeders raise about 15,000 pheasants a year, which are released at various times for staged hunts. “The property is so vast that the areas where hunting is allowed are miles away” from the rest of the facilities, he notes.
Eight lush sorghum fields are maintained as hunting grounds, with English-style shooting blinds, and there’s also a lodge with a shooting porch that offers protection from the elements in colder months. The hunting here has come to be recognized as some of the finest in the country; get to know Mihailides and you’ll quickly realize that key to his success is never settling for second best.
“If you look at The Preserve, every element of it is truly first rate,” he says. “And so I don’t want to compare myself to places like Palmetto Bluff [in South Carolina], Magee Homestead [in Wyoming] or the Ranch at Rock Creek [in Montana]. They’re all beautiful places that I’ve visited and they all offer a very nice experience. If you want to maybe learn how to shoot a gun, maybe shoot a .22, or if you want to go and shoot sporting clays, you might have two or three traps and a place to shoot clays there.
“But here you have 41 clay stations, and world-class, military and competition grade, professional-level facilities for every type of firearm. We have the longest indoor automated firing range in the world, with no caliber limit.”
In addition, “I have four former Navy SEALS who work for me, former Delta Bravo Force commanders, Green Berets, 40-year NRA instructors, former Olympians, and we train people from all over the world here. We have 17 municipal contracts. So there’s just nothing else like it.”
The Sporting Shoppe is another showstopper. “We have the largest inventory in the country,” Mihailides says, “more than $30 million worth, with several million in the fine gun room alone. If you’re a gun enthusiast, we probably have every type of pistol known to man,” along with scores of beautiful handmade rifles and shotguns.
He notes that The Preserve is “touted by [legendary gunmakers] Beretta and Holland & Holland as the finest upland bird sporting ground in America, bar none. Not the second, not the third, not the fourth. The best.”
Mihailides has been a Bentley owner since the early 1980s, so it makes perfect sense that he recently inked a partnership with the British luxury marque. The Preserve is now the first-ever venue for the Bentley Outdoor Experience; in order to convince Bentley that he was the right person to collaborate with, Mihailides built a world-class, 2.2-mile off-road course—at a cost of over $2 million, on spec— for a Bentley event. When they saw the result, Bentley decided to make it permanent.
Now members and guests can test drive models like the Bentley Flying Spur and Continental GT Speed, part of a rotating eight-car fleet now based at The Preserve, while all-wheeldrive Bentaygas are on hand for use on the off-road course, where challenges include water traps, steep inclines and even steeper descents, and other obstacles which the über-luxe SUV conquers with ease. And a $4,000 per night Bentley-themed suite is planned soon for the Hilltop Lodge for those who want full immersion.
After a day on the sporting clays range, the off-road course, the fly-fishing pond, or all three, there’s no need to travel off the property for a world-class meal. The Preserve’s signature dining experience is the Double Barrel Kitchen, which has the largest wine cellar in Rhode Island.
“We have more than $1 million worth of wine,” notes Mihailides, who is partial to big-name Napa Cabernets of various vintages, with the most expensive bottle priced at $18,000. The restaurant is staffed with chefs and sommeliers brought in with the help of The Preserve’s new partnership with internationally acclaimed chef David Burke.
The Preserve also shares reciprocity with the Ocean House in nearby Watch Hill, which is frequently ranked as the top luxury hotel in New England. Preserve guests can also use the Ocean House’s beautiful beach club.
At The Preserve’s nearby 63-acre Equestrian Center, soon to be joined to the rest of the property with another land acquisition, there are more than 30 horses in residence, from small ponies all the way up to Mihailides’ personal mount, Big Bear.
“He’s a 19-hand Percheron, really majestic,” he tells us. “If you think of any of the battle movies or the Excalibur movies, they’ll have enormous horses just like these”—Percherons were originally bred as warhorses. “We actually have three of them, massive Percherons, all 19 hands,” making them some of the biggest horses in the world. “So if you want to ride something really magnificent, we can do that, or a sleigh ride if that’s more your speed.”
On the fishing front, The Preserve’s dozen picturesque ponds are stocked with different types of trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and soon, landlocked salmon as well. Next up he has plans for a state-of-the-art medical center dedicated to life extension, a fully stocked general store, a combat marksmanship range, tree houses, and another 100 luxury rooms and suites for overnight stays to add to the impressive 24-suite Hilltop Lodge, Which Mihailides invested in to the tune of more than $1 million per key.
One of the most popular features on the property are the Hobbit Houses, for which Mihailides has partnered with Maker’s Mark to offer a tasting menu in the unique venues complete with bourbon pairings.
“There’s a five-course pairing with five different types of Maker’s Mark, from Maker’s 46 to Maker’s Cask Strength, to our own Maker’s Mark Preserve Reserve drawn from barrels that I personally selected down in Kentucky,” he tells us.
If cigars and Scotch are more your thing, there are also a trio of safari tents on the property furnished with antler chandeliers and leather club chairs where you can indulge in the smoke of your choice along with drams of Laphroaig single malt, another one-of-a-kind partnership that Mihailides brought to the table.
His enthusiasm is infectious, and he personally oversees, and obviously enjoys, every element of the property, and interacts with the members and guests like old friends.
One thing becomes immediately apparent; spending a day at The Preserve isn’t really feasible. Several days would be needed to do it justice and partake in all the activities and amenities on offer. But a few months would be even better. Hence the astounding success of Mihailides’ residential real estate offerings, from small cabins to 6,000-plus-square-foot luxury estates.
“We’re lucky to enjoy some of the highest sale prices per square foot in the country, with the last sales in excess of $3,000 per square foot,” he enthuses, an infectious grin lighting up his face. “Right here in little old Richmond, Rhode Island. On average per foot, that’s more than Beverly Hills.”
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Maxim.