Juneau's golfing history

Links to the past

Posted: Sunday, September 01, 2002

Juneau has an old and distinguished golf history stretching back to 1915, when Juneau's first golf course was established in the Mendenhall Valley by Bart Thane and other mining and business executives.

The eight-hole course was part of a country club that included a tennis court. Membership and dues totaled $200.

Although evidence is fragmentary, sometime during the 1920s a second golf course, Thane Golf Links, was established where Sheep Creek empties into Gastineau Channel near the present-day Thane Ore House. Like the Sandblasters site established in the early 1960s on Thane, it was located on mine tailings.

Territorial Gov. George Parks was one of Alaska's earliest and most ardent golf supporters and a frequent visitor to the Thane Links during his tenure as governor, 1925 to 1933.

The State Historical Library's Parks Collection includes one of Parks' Thane Links scorecards, which carries an advertisement from Juneau Ferry and Navigation, marketing a special golfers ferry from Juneau to Thane leaving three times daily. A blurb on the same card from Alaska Electric Light & Power announced golf supplies and golf clubs repaired.

An unidentified 1930 news clipping announced Juneau's second indoor miniature golf course in the Arctic Brotherhood Hall on Third Street. The 18-hole, felt-grass "Tom Thumb" course took up the entire third floor. The course included hazardous traps such as an igloo and a roadhouse.

Mike Grummett said his father, Stan, started the Lena Point Golf Club after suffering a stroke in 1954. Although the nine-hole putting course served primarily as gathering place for friends and acquaintances of his father and mother, it probably helped bridge the gap between Parks' 1920s course and the Sandblasters in the 1960s, Grummett said.

After the Sandblasters' course closed in the late 1970s, Mendenhall Golf, near the Brotherhood Bridge at the end of Industrial Boulevard, opened in 1984 and remains in business today. Between 12,000 and 15,000 rounds of golf are played each year on the nine-hole course, owner Tom File said. That compares to 2,200 rounds played on the Sandblasters' course in 1970.

The Juneau Golf Club developed out of the defunct Sandblasters organization, said Grummett.

"They were looking for other places to play," he said. The organization has sponsored tournaments in the Lower 48, and a recent event in Arizona attracted more than 100 Juneau members, said Dale Schmitz. Schmitz and his wife, Jennifer, both former Sandblasters, are members of the club.

Local golfers have been trying to develop a high-quality 18-hole course in Juneau for more than 22 years. The city in 1994 issued a request for proposals to develop a course on city land past the end of North Douglas Highway.

Totem Creek Inc., a local nonprofit group with ties to the Juneau Golf Club, has had an application for a conditional-use permit for that site pending before the Juneau Planning Commission for nearly five years. Alaska Department of Fish and Game concerns about protecting the water quality of nearby streams are expected to be resolved soon.

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