Senior Voice -

By John C. Schieszer
For Senior Voice 

Playing through golf season around Alaska

Anchorage will host national event

 

July 1, 2022 | View PDF

Courtesy Anchorage Golf Course

Alaska's wildlife are known to visit local golf greens, including this one in Anchorage.

Alaska for the first time is getting a USGA championship. Anchorage Golf Course will host the 60th U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Championship, July 30-Aug. 4, 2022. It will mark the first time the USGA has taken one of its championships to the 49th state.

Located on a hillside overlooking the city of Anchorage, this course is a municipal golf course designed by architect Bill Newcomb. The 6,600-yard layout features rolling, tree-lined fairways that lead to well bunkered, undulating greens. The course offers views of three mountain ranges, including the tallest peak in North America, Denali.

The U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Championship is open to any female golfer age 50 or older who has a Handicap Index that does not exceed 14.4. The field will consist of 132 players who will earn entry into the championship via sectional qualifying at sites nationwide or through an exemption category.

Golf around the state

There are many incredible golf courses around Alaska, some with picturesque views of the surrounding mountains.

Open from May to September, Bear Valley Golf Course in Kodiak is the only golf course on the island. This 9-hole course features a full service pro shop and driving range. It's operated by the U.S. Coast Guard but open to the public. The course opens early and closes "two hours before sunset," which means there is an opportunity for some late rounds during summer solstice. For information, visit http://www.kodiakmwr.com/golf.shtml

One of the most unique golf courses in the world, Valley of the Eagles in Haines is located on tidelands that are occasionally covered by high tides. The tees and greens have artificial turf in order to avoid using toxic materials in this sensitive area and to provide a longer playing season.

The course is on land classified by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers as wetlands. It took more than seven years to get the required permits to build the course. The area is undergoing isostatic glacial rebound, rising about 0.9 inches per year in relation to sea level because of glacial melting and decreased weight pushing the earth's crust down into the magma.

Due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the area, pesticides and herbicides are not used and the course will never have perfect grass, fairways and greens. The course includes a 9-hole golf course and a driving range. Summer daylight playing hours are 3 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Stanley Jones, who is the prior owner and builder of the Valley of the Eagles Golf Course, said it is also a very low usage course, and about two-thirds of the golfers are over age 50.

"One of the beauties of golf is that it can be played by people from pre-teens to some in their nineties. You do not have to be aerobically fit to enjoy golf," said Jones.

He said the Valley of the Eagles is one of the top courses in the state of Alaska because the natural beauty is beyond comparison.

"The course borders the Chilkat River and the mountains immediately across the river rapidly rise to 5,000 to 7,000 feet and have glaciers and its ridgeline is the boundary of Glacier Bay National Park."

Visit http://www.hainesgolf.com for more information.

Luke Schaffer is part of the team overseeing Black Diamond Golf Course, near Denali National Park. "We believe golf is important to Alaska because it provides Alaskans with an outdoor activity that is not as strenuous or extreme as hiking, rafting or ATVs," Schaffer said. "It is also a great activity to do with friends and family. With harsh winters that keep people indoors, it is important to offer a variety of activities in the summer to keep people on the move while the summer daylight lasts."

His golf course offers a unique activity for the local crowd. Being located near Denali National Park, many of the local tours and activities get crowded with tourists. However, the golf course more often than not is populated with locals.

"Lots of retired people in our community come to play, often taking advantage of our yearly memberships. Golf is ideal for the older crowd because it is a play-at-your-own-pace game and offers the space to be socially distanced from others who are playing on the course," explained Schaffer.

The golf course hours are 7:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. Black Diamond Resort Co. is located at mile 247 on the George Parks Highway, just eight miles north of the Denali National Park entrance. For more information, visit http://www.blackdiamondtourco.com.

George Collum is the Director of the Palmer Golf Course and says that for Alaskans who do not hunt, fish or go camping, golf can be highly appealing.

"Although some of us might travel during the long winters, coming home for the summer and getting to play golf in one of the most beautiful locations in the world might just be part of why so many people return each summer," Collum said.

Golf is also a great way to meet new people and make friends. There are many fundraisers at the golf courses each summer for lots of great causes.

"Many of our golfers are over 50 years old. This is such a great way to get exercise, reconnect with friends and be outside after a tough winter. For many elderly Alaskans, golf is one of the only sports they might be able to participate in and feel safe during the pandemic," Collum said.

Palmer Golf Course is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The course offers senior rates on green fees, punch cards, and senior season passes. The website is http://www.palmergolfcourse.com.

Alaska has eight full 18-hole courses and eleven 9-hole courses, Collum said. "A few of the 9-hole courses are par 3s only. In my opinion, the top courses in the state, in no particular order, are Palmer Municipal Golf Course, Chena Bend (Fairbanks), Moose Run Creek Course (Anchorage/JBER) and Anchorage Golf Course. These courses are all 18 holes with a variety of tee boxes that will challenge players of all abilities. Of the 9-hole courses, I prefer Birchridge Golf Course (Soldotna), Bear Valley Golf Course (Kodiak) and Fairbanks Golf Course."

Photo courtesy Valley of the Eagles Golf Links

Valley of the Eagles Golf Links in Haines offers nine holes, a driving range, and a setting along the Chilkat River with spectacular views.

Tom Farris, PGA Head Golf Professional at the Anchorage Golf Course, said Alaskans are a hearty group and this certainly comes through in regard to golfing in Alaska.

"We see it all the time, bad weather, rough conditions early in the year, cold weather in the fall, and we still see so many golfers at our facility whenever there isn't snow on the ground," Farris said.

Many senior players take advantage of the opportunity to play during the week, filling two morning leagues in Anchorage with up to 40 players every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, one of which is an AARP Tuesday morning league.

"Being a senior can sometimes be isolating. With COVID that isolation only intensified. Golf experienced a tremendous boom during COVID, and for good reason because golf was one of the few activities that could be done with a mitigated risk due to being outside," Farris said.

 
 

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