Alaska's fairway to heaven

New golf course more than a walk in the park

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2006

HAINES - Stepping over moose tracks, listening to eagle wings and watching bears catch salmon are not usually amenities included in greens fees.

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This being Alaska, though, why not?

All of those are typical experiences at the new nine-hole Valley of the Eagles Golf Links, according to owner and developer Stanley Jones.

"It's the world's most beautiful golf course setting," he said.

The course, located at 1.5 Mile Haines Highway, has sprawling fairways that wind through nearly 50 acres that at times hug the shoulder of the Chilkat River. Wildflowers speckle the rough and bear paws are left unraked in some sand traps.

"There are coyotes, and there are bears and moose," Jones said. "You can see moose tracks and bear tracks if you look for them."

Ravens also make their presence felt at times.

"They sometimes steal the balls from the driving range and carry them off," he said. "We haven't had too much trouble with the golfers having their balls stolen, but it certainly can happen."

The course didn't just spring up overnight. Jones, who has owned the property since the mid-1960s, said he wanted to do something with it that was environmentally sound, while at the same time putting the land to good use.

Valley of the Eagle Golf Links

Golf fees

• Single game: $9; All-day pass: $30; Club rental: $10; Pull-cart rental: $5.

Driving range

• Large bucket: $10; Small bucket: $5.

Unlimited golf

• 2006 Club Membership: $500.


(907) 766-2401

"I decided, 'Well, maybe a golf course would be something we could do,'" Jones said.

It has taken nearly a decade for the course to open this spring with a clubhouse, resident golf pro, and the nine holes. Last summer the course was semioperational, with a driving range and six holes open part of the season.

"It took 712 years to get the permits to build the course," Jones said. "Then after we got the permits we moved the first dirt July 22, 2003. And then we opened the driving range July 22, 2004."

Jones' wife, Kathy Pardee-Jones, said the course was her husband's "Field of Dreams," and like in the baseball movie of that name, they are hoping that "if you build it they will come."

Jones said people are beginning to come to the course and they seem to be enjoying it.

"The two most common expressions are 'wow' and 'awesome,'" he said.

Haines residents and tourists, from Southeast Alaska and as far away as Australia, have had the chance to play the new course this season.

"It was good, a beautiful view," said Janet Gormely of Juneau, who was golfing on Memorial Day Weekend. "Everything was nice. It's a nice relaxing day - a great way to spend an afternoon after fishing."

John Rear, also from Juneau, lugged along his own clubs over the weekend after driving around the loop to Haines from Skagway.

"It's a pretty area," he said. "It's definitely more challenging than Juneau's. It's got more than par-threes, longer fairways and waterways."

Jones isn't your typical golf course owner. A local doctor for many years, Jones admits freely that he is not a master of the sport.

"I have not been a golfer, but it's fun to go out and bang a ball around," he said.

Because he does not know the ins and outs of the business, Jones hired David Canipe, a 10-year veteran of the PGA tour who won the 1984 Provident Classic. Canipe, a rules official in the winter for the Hooters Golf Tour in Florida, said he has never seen a course quite as wild as the Valley of the Eagles.

"I've seen some things close to it, but not with this abundance," he said.

On his first trip to Alaska, Canipe said he was awestruck by the scenery and the wildlife.

"We got some eagles in Florida, but not like this," he said. "But moose, I practically had one come into the clubhouse last week."

Canipe said the course also has some unique features he has not seen before, such as the synthetic greens. He said people should try more than one round if they have the time.

"There's so much daylight here so there is no reason to just play nine on a nine-hole course," he said.

Jones said the course is a continuing project that he will continue working on.

"Every day the course has an improvement because we're working on things to get them fixed up," he said.

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