EAU CLAIRE — The saplings that were barely obstacles when brothers Neil and Charles Haselwander founded Princeton Valley Golf Course in 1976 have long since grown into full-grown hazards for golfers who miss the well-groomed fairways.
The Princeton Valley neighborhood surrounding the popular nine-hole course on Eau Claire’s northeast side also has blossomed into a home for hundreds of families during those 45 years.
Golfers, who initially accessed the course by two-lane LaSalle Street, now mostly arrive via the U.S. 53 bypass and the North Crossing.
But through all the changes, the ownership stayed the same. Until now.
The Haselwanders completed the sale of the golf course and clubhouse on Monday to Josh Walberg and Ally Weyer of Eau Claire.
The engaged couple, who have lived in Eau Claire for the past four years, hope to reopen the bar and restaurant by mid-March and can’t wait for the golf season to get into full swing later this spring.
“We’re really excited,” said Walberg, who has a background in turf management and worked at Eau Claire Golf & Country Club for about three years. “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to do something like this.”
Weyer, who grew up in Loyal and graduated from UW-Stout in Menomonie, has several years of experience in the hospitality industry.
The couple plan to keep the Princeton name and continue to operate the course much as it was in the past, although they expect to operate the bar and restaurant throughout the winters.
The biggest difference, at least at first, will be the presence of owner-operators, as Walberg and Weyer expect to be hands-on owners who spend much of their time at the business.
“We want to keep it the way it has been and have it be kind of a neighborhood hangout, not only for Princeton Valley but for the entire Chippewa Valley,” said Walberg, originally from the Twin Cities area. “We want it to stay a public course where anyone is welcome to come and play.”
Princeton includes a driving range, rolling terrain with multiple water hazards and sand traps, and a clubhouse featuring a pro shop and a large outdoor deck overlooking the course.
The Haselwanders leased the course to a series of operators over the years.
The deal, in discussion for more than a year, leaves Neil Haselwander feeling a mixture of sadness and gratitude, he said in a letter to patrons. The letter indicated the sale “represents the end of a long and wonderful run for our family at the club.”
The course, a par-36, 3,320-yard design by Dr. Gordy Emerson, offered the opportunity to meet a great group of people doing something they enjoyed, Haselwander said.
“They’re having fun for the most part,” he said. “The only time they get a little upset is when they hit a bad shot, but then they move on to the next one.”
Haselwander indicated there was no particular reason to sell at this time.
“But after owning it for 45 years, that’s a pretty good run,” he said.
And now the new owners are taking their place on the tee box and eager to take their best shot.