With extreme weather and mountainous terrain, Alaska isn't exactly a golfer's paradise
Stan Jones from Haines, however, believes he built one of the world's most beautiful courses in the Southeast.
Last May, Jones opened Valley of the Eagles Golf Links and Driving Range, a nine-hole course with a driving range located in Haines. According to Jones, golfers thus far have been floored by the course's natural beauty and stunning scenery.
"I said it's the most beautiful setting in the world," the 73-year-old Jones said. "They have to agree it was something special."
Jones, who readily admits he's not a golfer, said he spent seven-and-a-half years obtaining permits and building his course in Haines.
The par-36 course spans approximately 2,900 yards from the back tees and features links-style holes along the lines of the rolling grounds in Scotland.
Trees don't play a factor, but hills and omnipresent creeks and rivers serve as intricate parts of play.
"We've got nine or 10 bridges on the course," Jones said. "One bridge spans a body of water about 45 feet long. I drove over it in my pickup truck."
Jones said another distinguishing mark of the course is its natural setting and beautiful environment.
The course is built on wetlands so Jones and course designer Mark Miller had to create a set of holes that not only played well but didn't disturb the surrounding environment.
"It took seven-and-a-half years to get the permits to build it," Jones said. "It's all on wetlands and when I built it I told them I would not use herbicides, pesticides and would try to do things on a very environmentally sound basis. The setting is just spectacular."
In addition to the scenery, the course also features an array of wildlife.
Jones said the rivers and creeks serve as rearing streams for salmon while moose and bears occasionally wander the course.
Jones said the response to his course has been positive.
"A fellow from North Carolina didn't play the course but took a tour and hit a bucket of balls at the driving range," Jones said. "I asked him, 'What do you think about it?' He said, 'It's like I died and went to heaven. It's like a little St. Andrews.'"
Though the reviews from golfers have been glowing, Jones said the number of customers coming out has been pretty low.
"It's certainly has not taken off," Jones said. "It's been very slow. Haines has a pretty limited population. Sometimes we only have three or four people use the driving range, If a half-dozen people play golf in a day, that's quite a lot."
Jones hopes word will get out of his hidden golfing treasure and more players will make the trip to test their skills. Greens fees are $20 and Jones said reservations aren't necessary.
"I'd like it to be a place where people can come, relax, and enjoy the scenery," Jones said. "They should bring their cameras because it's very spectacular. It's something, hopefully, someday it could pay for itself but it won't do that for a long time. It's something eventually tourists could enjoy, but more importantly for the locals and people from Juneau and Whitehorse to come here and play and have a good time."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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