Summer Swing: See golf's wild side in Alaska

Golf Channel's Summer Swing is chronicling golf in all 50 states through Labor Day.

Alaska is a breathtaking summer vacation destination, even if it's not top of mind for golf travelers.

It may be the biggest state in America but it has the fewest golf courses. Perhaps the single greatest selling point of a golf trip to Alaska is the sun: There isn't another golf destination with as much of it in the summer months. Golf junkies who want to play - quite literally - around the clock should point their compass north.

A handful of the best courses in the state are the result of courses built at military installations. While Elmendorf Air Force Base's golf course closed in 2014, others remain. Fort Rainwright's Chena Bend Golf Course is considered among the state's best. Not far from Anchorage is 36-hole Moose Run, located at Fort Richardson. The first course opened in the 1940s, while the new Creek Course opened in 2000.

Near Fairbanks, meanhwile, is America's northernmost golf course, North Star Golf Club. It's also home to a fitting local rule: "When a raven or fox steals a golf ball, a replacement may be dropped without penalty at the scene of the crime."

So who, exactly, takes a golf trip to Alaska?

We learned that one of our Local Golf Advisors has hardly been a "local" at all recently. Soren Jacobsen (username 'SorenJ') recently undertook an ambitious journey of playing golf in all 50 states. Alaska was state No. 49 before he and his wife departed for warmer climes in Hawaii for the final stop. Their visit to Alaska was brief - 18 hours - but they managed rounds at Anchorage Golf Course and Moose Run's Creek Course.

"When we landed we drove straight to Anchorage Golf Club and hit the first tee box at about 10 p.m., finishing well after 1 a.m.," recalls Jacobsen. "Civil twilight is absolutely a thing, we watched the sunset as we took the turn and still finished the round."

Video: Morning Drive on golf in Alaska

The short season and cold winters are certainly going to have an impact on golf course operations and conditions. The ground may not thaw all summer. One course near the port town of Sitka, Sea Mountain Golf Course, has artificial turf greens. Jacobsen said his early-season round's spotty turf was just part of the wild side of golf up north.

"There was something appropriate about the slightly rougher exterior we saw," said Jacobsen. "Set against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, there were some less-than-perfect lies on the fairways, but it just felt right."

Jacobsen's wilderness golf experience included being "escorted off" the course by a mama moose at Anchorage GC and being warned by a staff at Moose Run of a Black Bear in the area, along with the dubious advice from a local that "if the bear’s hair stands up and his ears go back, "it’s a sign he wants to be petted."

A moose defends par at Anchorage Golf Course.

The wilderness may be untamed and the temps often chilly, but that doesn't mean you won't receive a warm welcome when you're a visitor in Alaska.

"I can’t say enough about the hospitality we experienced in Anchorage," said Jacobsen. "At both courses we were welcomed and had really enjoyable interactions both by the clubhouse and out on the course. This also extends to our lodging where, after hearing us mention how tricky it can be to get a newspaper or postcards while flying around the country, both were waiting for us as we checked out in the morning. In short, expect to be treated well in Anchorage, on the course or not."

Jacobsen's travels can be viewed on his Golf Advisor profile page as well as Follow him on Twitter at FNF2017.

Have you played golf in Alaska? What's it like? Let us know in the comments below!

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
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i am coming to Alaska in June and i was looking for any information i could find about the Golf there someplace who will send me information on the whole state??

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We too are on the ambitious adventure of playing golf in all 50 states, and we made that decision to do so while on a retirement trip/cruise in Alaska. I had the opportunity to play Moose Run and had the same instructions about bears and such. Luckily, we didn't have to deal with them. The course is outstanding and it hooked the Mrs. on golf for good and she mentioned that we should try and play in all 50, having Alaska already out of the way. The weather was perfect in June, everything was lush, and the mosquitos were big ( bring spray). The staff was friendly and informative about the course.

A lot of cruises in the summer head that way in the summer and if you can squeeze in a excursion day, certainly take the time to play Moose Run.

Commented on

I've played every regulation course (I've not played the 3 par 3 courses, Sleepy Hollow, Russian Jack Springs, and Fox Hollow) in the Anchorage Metro area and the Mat-Su Borough.

In my view, the course at Elmendorf was the best of the bunch and that's the one that closed.

Anchorage Golf Club is next; a while (2011-2012) back they'd contracted Forrest Richardson to do some master planning work to attempt to get a USGA Championship up there. I've fallen out of contact with Forrest so I am not sure how that plan ended up.

Moose Run (Creek) is fantastic as well. There's a cool Bottle hole, #4, and a couple holes that run through an old quarry, 6 and 11. Very good.

Moose Run (Hill) is average. I suspect, but am not certain, that the nines were built at different times. The front nine is very compactly designed while the back winds around through the trees. Very average.

Palmer GC is OK, I liked it better than most. Some holes have awesome views of Pioneer Peak which towers over the course. The course is very flat and part of it buts up to the river. Some compromised were made in the routing because it winds around the airport. Interesting aside for this, in my one round there, I played with a gentleman who could have masqueraded as Santa Claus without wearing makeup...the kicker is that he was the retired Chief of Police in North Pole, AK. Heck of a golfer, he's won the Alaska Senior Am several times.

Settler's Bay is the only course in a housing development in AK, as far as I know. It's sort of OK, not bad. Does have a mild Biarritz-ish green at the end of the very long par 5 7th hole. The present 16th hole is a par 3, but was originally a par 5; this is pretty apparent because of the 300 yard distance from 15 green to 16 tee.

Fishhook is the final course I have played. Fairly rudimentary nine hole course, but I'd recommend playing it because it's the only nine hole course in the area and it just a fun course to play.

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Summer Swing: See golf's wild side in Alaska