The Manor Country Club includes two pools, 27 holes of golf, several tennis courts and a clubhouse. The dues are $500 a month, but residents of the Manor Park neighborhood can join without paying the $40,000 initiation fee. ( Amy Reinink FTWP/PHOTO BY AMY REININK FTWP)

Cathy McCarthy says living in Rockville’s Manor Park neighborhood and belonging to the Manor Country Club are like going to a college with an active student center.

The club, which sits in the heart of the Manor Park neighborhood, off Georgia Avenue just south of Norbeck Road, serves as the community’s central gathering place and social center.

Kids make lifelong friends on the swim and dive teams each summer; parents bond with their neighbors on the golf course; and the Holly Ball, a black-tie party held at the club every December, is known as the “party of the year,” said Tim Fahmy, who has lived in Manor Park since 2000.

“The club is very, very family-focused, and it really brings the neighborhood together,” said McCarthy, 58, a retired federal government employee and a 23-year neighborhood resident. “Not everyone who lives here belongs to the club, but those who do, enjoy an incredible social life.”

Manor Park grew around Manor Country Club in the 1920s, when Rockville was considered the far-flung countryside, according to a history posted on the country club’s Web site. Charles Zeller designed and built several stone cottages to offer Washingtonians “relief from the heat and pressures of the city,” according to the account.

The neighborhood eventually grew beyond the cottages, and the club started extending memberships beyond neighborhood residents. Residents are exempt from the $40,000 initiation fee for the club, though they’re responsible for the $500 monthly dues, said Fahmy, former president of the club’s board of governors.

Many of the Zeller homes still stand, and they anchor the eclectic mix of houses that defines Manor Park today.

Dale Rickenbach, an agent with Keller Williams Realty who has lived since 2003 in Manor Village, the townhouse community adjacent to Manor Park, said the neighborhood’s roughly 350 unique homes, many which overlook the golf course, are a major selling feature.

“You see a lot of planned subdivisions that feel a little more sterile, with cookie-cutter houses and trees that aren’t quite as mature,” Rickenbach said. “You don’t have that in Manor. It’s more like the neighborhoods many of us grew up in, with a mix of split-levels, Colonials, ramblers, Tudors and other homes shaded by mature trees.”

Rickenbach said the neighborhood’s central location is another major draw, especially with the construction of the Intercounty Connector just minutes away.

“You can shoot down Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, or shoot down 28 to Rockville Town Center,” Rickenbach said. “Now that Olney’s more developed, people do a lot of shopping there, too.”

Fahmy said the neighborhood is also conveniently located for travel to Northern Virginia and Baltimore.

“You’re not in Bethesda, where you can walk to all these big restaurants a stone’s throw from your house,” Fahmy said. “But you’re three miles from Rockville Pike and Rockville Town Center, and you can get to most places you need to go quickly and easily.”

Plus, Fahmy said, “I wouldn’t trade living here for some of the nicest places in Bethesda or Potomac, because you have such a great social life here.”

The main attraction of Manor Park, and the center of most of its activity, is the country club.

Fahmy, 46, a sales executive, said he and his wife, Brigid, decided to move to Manor Park from Olney with their two sons in 2000 after joining the club in 1998.

“I was playing golf all the time, the kids were on the swim team, and once we actually lived in the neighborhood, it was an even better experience, because we could just walk home,” Fahmy said. “For basically the past 12 summers, my sons head out to the pool at 8 a.m. for swim and dive practice, come home to rest and eat lunch, then head back out to the pool for the rest of the afternoon, or head out to play golf. Between junior golf, the swim team, the dive team and tennis, the kids are just consumed with activities all summer.”

Adults also enjoy the club’s 27 holes of golf, two pools and several tennis courts, as well as two restaurants and a pub at the clubhouse, which offers regular social activities, such as comedy nights, karaoke and wine tastings, Fahmy said.

The club gives Manor Park residents the chance to mingle with neighbors they might otherwise not get to know socially, Fahmy said.

“I’m 46, but because we all see each other at the club, I hang out with people who are in their 30s, or in their 70s and 80s,” Fahmy said.

The Manor Country Club Community Association also sponsors events, including the annual Great Oak-toberfest on Great Oak Road, an oak-lined lane that runs through most of the community

McCarthy, president of the Manor Country Club Community Association, said that between the club itself and the community association’s events, kids form lifelong friendships.

“It’s a wonderful childhood,” McCarthy said. “My 20-year-old still hangs out with his friends from his play group.”

The sense of fellowship extends beyond the neighborhood’s kids, said Brigid Fahmy, 44, a real estate agent with Gribbin Realty.

When an older couple started having trouble walking their German shepherd, a cadre of neighbors agreed to take turns dog-walking, she said. When one of the neighborhood’s huge oaks fell on a resident’s house, “she was inundated by offers to come stay over until it was repaired,” Fahmy said.

“I think having a central meeting place at the club is really beneficial, because everyone gets to know each other,” she said. “I can name pretty much everyone on my street, which I think is pretty special.”

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.