For the last leg of my trip Marty Baumann and I planned on heading up to Wasilla and Palmer to visit a few of the courses that I saw during my last trip. Marty had some chores to do first thing so I took the time to meet with Matt Leseman at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Moose Run Golf Course. Matt is a 17 year GCSAA member and has worked his way up the ladder to become superintendent. Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson had three golf courses on site. Eagleglen, which was 18 holes, belonged to Elmendorf AFB and was contained inside the base. Moose Run is 36 holes and belonged to Richardson Army Base and is located just outside the perimeter of the base. Due to budgeting, one of the courses had to be shut down and the decision came to shut down Eagleglen. They chose to keep Moose Run since it had 36 holes and was
Matt had to get to a meeting regarding Eagleglen but he managed to make time for a tour of his course. For some reason the architect must have not liked the Army because he made one of the most difficult courses I have seen. There was a 640 yard par five! I’ve seen this in Colorado before but then you’re over a mile high and the ball travels considerably further. This course was at sea level. The black tees were rated 140 and the blue was 134.
|Amos Stephens, Marty Baumann, John Krull, John Bayne|
I drove back to Anchorage Golf Course and picked up Marty and his assistant John Krull. Marty asked if John could tag along to see some of the other golf courses in the area since he is fairly new to the job. We drove to Wasilla first to visit with Amos Stevens at Settlers Bay Golf Club. Amos is a 16 year GCSAA member and serves as the clubs superintendent and general manager. Amos was eager to learn and asked tons of questions with note pad in hand. We spent a good part of the morning touring his course and discussed everything form covering the greens in the winter to helping him find a good pump guy that can service his pump station. As we looked at the greens I noticed they were in much better condition than when I visited two years ago. He states the winter makes all the difference. These were the first greens that I have seen in Alaska that were cut at 1/8”. I asked him what he did differently and he said he learned a new fertilization technique at the conference in San Diego and it has helped him tremendously. That was music to my ears of course. One of the things we discussed was coming up with a webcast/forum on winterizing your putting greens. Many areas in the NW including Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Montana and Alaska have a tremendous amount of snow and ice to deal with and he said he would love the opportunity to discuss, in a live online format, issues with other superintendents that share the same experience and how they deal with their greens each year. I told him I would discuss it with Lisa and see what we could do. I really think it could be helpful to many superintendents. I have found that supers learn best from each other and this would be the perfect format to do so.
Our next stop was at a small family run golf course called Fish Hook Golf Club. Two years ago we stopped to visit and the owner Skip Pellitier but were unable to meet with him. His son Ryan met us and informed us that his dad suffered a massive heart attack last year and passed away. The course is now run by Ryan and his sister. Their father built the 9 hole course three holes at a time from what was once a pasture. There would be no insult if you were to refer to this course as a pasture golf course. As a matter of fact there is even a website called PastureGolf.com and Fish Hook was featured.
the greens were cut as low as they needed to differentiate from the fairways and the fairways were cut just enough to be different from the rough. Grass survival is the key to success in Alaska and Ryan happened to have a couple greens with fine fescue on them. These greens were coming out of the winter without any damage so Ryan was thinking he may try to convert all of his greens to fine fescue. As I drove through the course I couldn't help but think of what golf courses must have looked like 100 years ago. I bet if I could go back in time this course would be right there. What I found most gratifying was that there were lots of people pulling their buggy and golf clubs and were having a terrific time. To me this was almost golf in its purest form.
|Ryan Pellitier (Left)|
Finally we stopped in to visit with George Collum and Dirk Sture at Palmer Golf Course. Due to their exposure to the elements and the proximity to glacial winds, this course normally doesn't fare so well after the winter. But this winter was unusual in that the snow stuck on the ground here where it didn't in other parts of the Anchorage area and they never really had the ice accumulation. The greens were in outstanding condition and they were reaping the benefits off lots of play. We had a quick visit with George and Dirk, catching up since my last visit, then headed back to Anchorage.
After this year and my previous visit to Alaska, I have developed an appreciation for what these guys are doing each and every year to bring the game of golf to the Alaskan population. I am happy to report that golf is alive and well in Alaska. You could almost call Alaska the Vegas of golf where you can play a round of golf 24/7 during the peak of the season.