One of Wisconsin’s oldest country clubs is selling off its golf course due to debt

Wisconsin Club, one of Milwaukee’s oldest private clubs, is negotiating the possible sale of its golf course and country club − but will keep its downtown site.

The club has a letter of intent to sell the country club to Lake Mary, Florida-based Concert Golf Partners, according to a presentation to club members that was shared with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Any sale agreement needs approval by club members. That could come within 60 days.

Wisconsin Club is facing a high debt level that has placed it in a precarious financial position, said Rick Whiting, club treasurer, in a recent presentation to members.

“We don’t have the capacity to borrow additional money,” Whiting said.

Meanwhile, an estimated $1.3 million is needed to repair the golf course’s bridges and dams that are a key part of its irrigation system, said Whiting and Fred Joachim, club president.

Concert Golf Partners would assume that responsibility as part of a sale agreement − which could also generate around $1.2 million in cash for Wisconsin Club, according to the presentation.

The club’s financial difficulties, including an $880,080 loss during its last fiscal year ending Oct. 31, are tied to a decline in members, Whiting said.

The club has more than 1,200 members, Joachim told the Journal Sentinel. That compares to around 1,500 in 2015.

The $880,080 loss “can primarily be attributed to post-pandemic challenges, and then surging inflation costs for labor, services, and food and beverage,” said Lora Zuercher, Wisconsin Club director of marketing.

Concert Golf Partners, which owns and operates around 30 private golf and country clubs nationwide, says it invests in clubs “to fund capital projects, build new amenities, pay off all club debt, and ensure that member assessments are a thing of the past,” according to the company’s web site.

Wisconsin Club bought the country club, formerly known as Brynwood Country Club, in 2011 for $2.7 million. The 200-acre grounds included the golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and clubhouse.

That purchase made the Wisconsin Club one of just a few U.S. private clubs that owns both downtown facilities and a golf course.

The downtown club, at 900 W. Wisconsin Ave., was founded in 1891. It has been in its present location, the former home of Milwaukee industrialist and banker Alexander Mitchell, since 1895, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The club’s amenities include dining rooms, bars, a grand ballroom, and a concierge and shuttle service to area concerts, theater and sporting events.

“We believe our future will include two thriving locations: a well-capitalized country club under separate ownership and a reinvented city club,” Wisconsin Club said, in a statement to its members. “The sale of the country club probably preserves this for both places.”