Purchased by the Storm Family Group in late 2020, the Menomonee Falls, Wis. club, previously owned by Waukesha County, will offer guests an expanded menu and enlarged outdoor seating at the newly remodeled clubhouse. Much of the winter was spent removing 150 of the 320 ash trees infected with emerald ash borer.
Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, Wis. will open under private ownership in 2021, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Formerly owned by Waukesha County, Storm Family Group purchased the property late last year.
Scott Schaefer of Storm Family Group told the Journal Sentinel the plan calls for opening the clubhouse at the end of March and the golf course as soon as the weather is nice enough. He also said he plans to raise fees slightly—maybe a dollar.
The new ownership group wants to build on last year’s success, he told the Journal Sentinel.
“Last year was our best season,” Schaefer said.
He said Wanaki will be the same golf course the community has loved since 1970, the Journal Sentinel reported. But Schaefer said the clubhouse has been “completely remodeled.”
“It will have a modern, rustic feel,” he said.
Additional seating will be offered outside, for a total of 14 tables on the patio, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“It is beautiful outside, and we created more outside space,” he said.
The newly named Turn Bar & Grill will also have new bathrooms and will open at 10 a.m., the Journal Sentinel reported. He said that the restaurant can be for nongolfers to dine or for golfers.
“We want people to stay as long as possible,” he said.
Turn Bar & Grill got its new moniker because people on the patio can see “the turn”—the point where golfers finish their front nine holes and make the turn to the back nine, the Journal Sentinel reported. Schaefer noted that since the course is now privately owned, with a liquor license, the clubhouse can offer a full beverage menu—which it couldn’t have under county ownership.
“People can drink wine and many different drinks [at Wanaki this season],” he said. “We will have a full beverage menu.”
As owner of several local restaurants, Schaefer said he will incorporate some of those menu items at the clubhouse, the Journal Sentinel reported. While the menu hasn’t been set yet, Schaefer said they plan to offer pizza, bar menu items and a Friday fish fry.
Schaefer said the clubhouse remodel took up most of the time this winter, the Journal Sentinel reported. But there were some upgrades to the course, as well.
Crews have already removed 150 of the 320 ash trees infected with emerald ash borer, the Journal Sentinel reported. The rest of the infected trees will also be removed, and trees will be planted to take their place, he said.
Schaefer also plans on bringing in 60 new carts, replacing the old carts and expanding the fleet, the Journal Sentinel reported. His team plans to decide later whether to use the course for skiing or selling Christmas trees during the winter.
“We will definitely do something,” said Schaefer.
He told the Journal Sentinel the clubhouse area may be too small for weddings or big events, but it is possible to have some activities there.
In July 2019, Waukesha County announced its plan to close Wanaki for financial reasons, the Journal Sentinel reported. C+RB also reported on the planned closure at the time.
The Save Wanaki group lobbied to keep it open, and in November 2019, the county agreed to run it for one more season before selling it to a private developer.
The sale of the 148-acre golf course to Storm Family Group was finalized Nov. 30, 2020, the Journal Sentinel reported. The Storm family owns and operates Brookfield Hills, Delafield’s St. John’s Northwestern and Mequon’s Missing Links golf courses. It also owns Storm’s Golf Range in Brookfield.
Schaefer noted that Waukesha County ran the course for 50 years—and he sees no reason his group can’t run it for another 50, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“We plan to keep it open as long as our family is able to run it,” Schaefer said.
When longtime Wanaki General Manager Jim Ehnert learned of the county’s plan to close the course, he called it “devastating,” the Journal Sentinel reported. His family home borders Wanaki’s fifth hole, and Ehnert grew up on the course. He started working there at age 16 and worked his way up. In 2000, he was promoted to General Manager. He has worked at Wanaki for more than 35 years, he said.
When he learned about the possibility the course would be sold to private owners, he realized the new owners might not want to keep him, the Journal Sentinel reported. But the day after Storm Family Group took over, Schaefer met with Ehnert and put those concerns to rest.
“They are incredible. This was the best possible outcome,” Ehnert said.
Ehnert said they plan to add new leagues and grow existing ones, the Journal Sentinel reported. He said they plan to increase youth golf activities and have more social and couples leagues.
Ehnert added that Wanaki has been the home course for both Brookfield Central and Brookfield East high school golf teams and that the Menomonee Falls and Sussex Hamilton high school teams use it often, the Journal Sentinel reported. He plans to continue having those teams and other high school teams use the course.
Ehnert said he would like to build on the support he saw in the fight to save the golf course.
“I did not expect that,” he said. “It was very humbling. Now, people are more engaged. We created a Wanaki family.”