They’ve come a long way, baby.
When Joe and Mary Bonura decided to go into the restaurant business in 1972, they didn’t think their first venture – a Perkins Restaurant in the town of Newburgh – would grow to become Bonura Hospitality, which includes Anthony’s Pier Nine in New Windsor, the Grandview in Poughkeepsie and several lucrative restaurant and hotel partnerships around the Hudson Valley. Now, the couple’s grown children, Joseph Jr., Michael and Mary, along with their spouses, are carrying on the family business with the same energy and spirit of innovation as their parents.
The Bonura family teamed up with Wayne and Carla Corts, owners of Falkirk Estate and Golf Club in Central Valley, to buy the former Orange County Golf Club in Middletown and rename it the West Hills Country Club, They closed on the deal in March. This is not the first time the families have entered into a partnership: In 2010, they bought the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, allowing the school to keep its doors open and preserving its pristine Hudson River view.
The Orange County Golf Club, which opened in 1899, had fallen on hard times. The recession took a toll on its membership. A harsh winter in 2011, followed by tropical storms Irene and Lee at the end of the summer, damaged the 112-year-old 18-hole course, with a large portion of the property flooded by the Wallkill River.
After Bonura Hospitality and Falkirk Management finished closing on the purchase, they immediately set to work. Nine of the golf club’s 18 holes are open for play and the others, which were being renovated, were to reopen June 9.
The partners also plan to put five holes above the flood plain and reconfigure the fairway, paving the way for the creation of a 9-hole, par-3 course in addition to the 18-hole course. “It will be a great addition to the club and will become part of West Hills over the next two years,” said Corts. “Right now we are focusing on getting the greens completed and the country club atmosphere we are creating here.”
Joe Bonura Jr. estimated the cost of the purchase and renovations at more than $7 million when all the improvements are made. The club’s two pools have been retiled and have six new private cabanas, along with a poolside bar and café. Tennis courts will be added.
A permanent tented ballroom will be able to accommodate 300 guests. For weddings, a gazebo is being added, with a stand-alone bridal suite just a step away. A 103-foot-long reflecting pool with waterfalls and a bridge will complete the picture.
“The tented ballroom we plan for West Hills is similar to our outdoor ballroom at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie,” said Bonura, “but we have the space to add more here than we have on the waterfront in Dutchess. The result is going to be a beautiful venue for weddings and special occasions.”
Those who came to the ribbon cutting May 30 also found the former club’s dining room totally renovated. “We added about five feet to it and opened up the vista to the golf course,” said Michael Bonura. Carla Corts is decorator of record for the project.
The two families say West Hills will rival Donald Trump’s Westchester establishment, calling it the only private golf and country club on the west side of the Hudson to offer these amenities. “The region is growing and the demand for upscale facilities is growing with it,” said Corts. “We intend to provide it.”
“It’s a terrific addition to Orange County and to the entire region,” said John D’Ambrosio, president of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, as he helped cut the ribbon on West Hills. “We are very fortunate to have people who believe in the beauty of the region and the recreational opportunities they are helping to expand and grow here. West Hills is truly going to be a unique and beautiful venue.”