Johnstown group purchases North Fork Country Club

May 6, 2019

A Johnstown-based athletic business is set to invest $1 million in the North Fork Country Club in Davidsville to revamp it into a tourist destination and venue for all sorts of sports camps, clinics and lessons.

The Highlands Group, owned by Richland businessman Brian Durham, purchased the property last week. It will feature a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, soccer fields and eventually be the site for a banquet hall and picnic grove.

“Think of it as...one of our mottos is you’ll come to the Highlands to learn and to play in golf, tennis and soccer,” Durham said. “Those are three we will have right away. Each one has an academy. It’s a different model that’s very exciting. It’s not only a place to recreate. It’s a place to learn. It’s a commitment to teaching the sports as well as allowing a place to play. That’s a big difference between us and other recreational facilities.”

The Highlands Group currently operate Soccer City in Johnstown.

The North Fork Country Club dates back to 1926, when it was the premier golfing venue in the greater Johnstown area prior to the construction of Sunnehanna Country Club.

“It used to be for the Bethlehem Steel executives,” Durham said. “They went to North Fork. Then Sunnehanna was built and that’s where they went. It was mismanaged for a few decades though. and it fell on some hard times.”

Tennis lessons are also available.

Mike Kush will be the tennis pro. A program for the sport will be catered to all levels, from age 5 up to experienced adults. Kush has a unique approach to instruction.

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“It all depends on the age and their experience,” Kush said. “One thing we’ll provide at the club, which will be different from other clubs, is we will have tennis balls for special age groups. Sort of like basketball when they lower the net down. When we have kids five to six, they may have a foam ball.

“We have progressions of tennis balls. The first time will not deal with the hard balls. They’re too hard and too heavy. Kids might have a difficult time with that. So we’ll have smaller rackets for them as well. Those rackets will be designed for the specific ball they’re using. So whatever age they start out, they will progress from there.”

The country club is about 170 acres. On the upper half of the property, the group will develop the area into athletic fields. Durham hopes to have soccer available for visitors in the spring of 2020. He also hopes to have a beer garden there.

“Certainly the immediate surrounding area we hope will come,” Durham said. “Those who play golf, tennis and soccer. and then the general public for the events. Ultimately we have an opportunity to increase tourism as well. We will offer some unique things like sports camps, soccer camps, golf camps and tennis camps. Because of the schooling we do, that is hard to find in the area. We will draw people in from an hour away. But once we get into the sports camps, we will be able to draw from two to three hours away.”