Field Notes: Golf in Alaska is a beauty

The largest American state has the fewest golf courses, so most probably haven’t considered Alaska when planning the next trip on the links. 

But if you’re into the great outdoors — and some relaxing and uncrowded golf experiences — Alaska is worth a try. 

“Golf in Alaska is not like golf anywhere else,” says Terry Thornhill, the executive director of the Alaska Golf Association. “We play the same game, we have the same rules, but we don’t have the same golfing environment. Most of it prettier than you can imagine.” 

Few, if any famous golfers have been groomed in Alaska. The state’s claim to fame is that noted golf instructor Butch Harmon was once stationed at one of the Army bases in the 1960s. In addition, don’t expect to find any Pete Dye or Tom Fazio designed masterpieces. Golf here is simple — and with stunning beauty. 

Anchorage Golf Club, Anchorage, Alaska :: Photo: Anchorage Golf Club

“The state is famous for hunting and fishing — and not so much for golf,” Thornhill says. “You don’t hear much about golf because people come to Alaska for the rugged outdoors, the mountains and the scenery.”

With a population of just 700,000 for the entire state that’s the size of Texas, California and Montana combined, golfers are more likely to encounter a moose during a round than a backup on the first tee. 

The Alaska Golf Association lists just 18 layouts in its course directory, with less than half being 18-hole courses. 

“I have a video when we were playing Moose Run Golf Course north of Anchorage and we were on the other side of the green and a black bear just came and got one of the pull carts and dragged it down by the woods,” says Rick Boyles, one of the top senior golfers in the state. “The bear was trying to get a candy bar out of the bag. It’s like a circus sometimes. It’s non-stop wildlife on the courses around Anchorage.”

Golfers who are into something off the beaten path are in for quite a scenic treat as Alaska boasts 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S., with Anchorage Golf Course offering a stunning backdrop. It is framed by magnificent views of the Chugach Mountain Range, the Anchorage city skyline, Cook Inlet and Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, which is the highest mountain peak in North America with an elevation of 20,310 feet. 

“When I first came to Alaska in 1983 from southwest Florida I asked my brother who lived here if there were any golf courses around, and I found out there were some really good golf courses,” says Anchorage Golf Course general manager Rich Sayers. “People in the oil industry moved up here from different parts of the country and they were golfers, and there are some good golfers here, too. If anyone from the lower 48 gets to see our golf they will be blown away by our scenery. It is spectacular.” 


The World Golf Hall of Fame is getting a mulligan.  

First founded in Pinehurst in the 1970s before moving to Florida and the World Golf Village in 1998, golf’s hall of fame has returned to the North Carolina Sandhills, this time about a 5-iron away from the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course, in a new building that will be managed by the USGA. 

While the move to the Florida location near St. Augustine was expected to draw more attention to golf’s hall of fame, attendance dropped off dramatically after the first few years, prompting a move back to Pinehurst more than two decades later. The idea that folks would stop to visit while heading to or from vacations along Interstate 95 turned out to be a flawed concept. 

Memorabilia from the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open that were played on successive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2. :: Photo: Jason E. Miczek / USGA

“In the last 15 to 20 years, Pinehurst has become the No. 1 golf destination in the United States, with 10 courses now, great infrastructure and more than a million visitors playing golf every year,” says Mike Trostel, the new executive director of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “All of that connects to the new location for the hall. The original hall was a little bit off the beaten path, but now if you are at the Carolina Hotel or in the Village of Pinehurst, or you are going to play golf, you will walk right by or a shuttle will drop you off right at the door.” 

Entry to the World Golf Hall of Fame will be free until July 1, which includes the masses who will be attending the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in mid June. After that, general admission entry will cost $10 or $5 for North Carolina residents. USGA members will get in for free. 

The new hall has also changed its overall concept. 

“The new World Golf Hall of Fame exhibit space is down to about 9,000 square feet versus the 60,000 square feet it was down in Florida,” says Trostel, who has been with the USGA since 2006. “It’s more sustainable, more modernized. For the USGA, this isn’t about making a profit. We want to preserve and celebrate the game’s history and having a physical space where fans can experience the stories of the game’s most accomplished and influential figures, and walk away inspired is really what we’re trying to do.”

Trostel said there is an estimated 3,000 artifacts in the new hall of fame, which is filled with a locker-themed experience from some of the game’s greatest players. 

“We’re talking hundreds of golf clubs and golf balls and trophies,” Trostel says. “But I probably gravitate to some of the personal items, some of the player’s passions off the course. For example, we have a Girl Scout sash and hat from Nancy Lopez. We have a Samurai sword from Jumbo Ozaki paying tribute to his Japanese heritage and a ping pong paddle that Phil Mickelson played competitively with.”

There is even a Purple Heart medal from Lloyd Mangrum, who served in the Army in World War II, and just a single artifact in Betsy King’s locker — a Bible opened to her favorite verse. 

“There is power in not just the golfing accomplishments, but to find out who these people were off the course or before they became superstars,” Trostel says.  


Wyndham Clark logs his fair share of travel on the PGA Tour, and he added to those miles showing off his U.S. Open hardware from last year … a.k.a. Stanley Cup style.  

The reigning U.S. Open champion, now ranked third in the world, certainly enjoyed his first major and then some.

“Well, first off, it’s a scary experience because I have the Open trophy with me and you worry about someone stealing it or you losing it or breaking it — or all the above. But we had so much fun with it.” Clark says. “I have a lot of friends that battled with me throughout the years on my journey.”

The U.S. Open trophy made its way to New York City, Las Vegas, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — even to a Denver Nuggets NBA game and a Colorado Avalanche NHL game — to name a few trips, before returning to Clark’s home course at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Arizona. 

“So it has had many celebrations and a lot of people have got to enjoy it, which has honestly been so much fun seeing the joy that other people get from it,” he says. “That brings me so much joy.”

Clark, like other past champions, will soon receive a replica of the U.S. Open trophy to show off. 

“Looking at your name on the trophy is something that doesn’t sink in, I don’t think, until maybe later down the road,” he says. “It was a really cool moment when the lady was sketching my name on the trophy and one of my friends grabbed me and said ‘that’s for life, that’s forever.’” 

Clark didn’t have to travel far from U.S. Open media day at Pinehurst to nearby Charlotte to defend his Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, where his 2023 dream season began. 

“It was a crazy year,” Clark says. “I went from 150th in the world and no wins to now three wins and a major championship, and I played on a Ryder Cup team. I’ve achieved a lot of the goals I had for myself in just a short time. But the most pivotal point in my career was winning the U.S. Open championship. Honestly it’s very humbling.”


The PGA of America has partnered with the American Gaming Association (AGA) on its Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly public service campaign to promote responsible sports wagering. Announced ahead of this week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, the partnership will feature co-branded responsible gaming content, educational materials and strategic activations across PGA of America’s digital and social platforms. “It is core to our values to ensure golf fans have the right tools in their bag to bet responsibly,” said Jeff Price, the PGA of America’s chief commercial officer. “Together, we’re driving the message home: set a budget, stick to it and wager responsibly,” added Joe Maloney, AGA senior vice president of strategic communications. … National Golf Foundation research shows that off-course golf appears to be strengthening the on-course game. Not only is off-course engagement providing an approachable, fun and less-intimidating couch-to-course bridge to traditional golf, almost everyone who has engaged with both forms of golf indicate that the two sides feed each other. NGF research has not shown that playing off course has negatively affected the frequency with which people play traditional golf. It’s more typical that it inspires them to play even more. The NGF says dual participation creates a deeper connection with the game overall, from passion to spending. … The launch of “Terroir of Golf,” a book for golf and wine lovers, takes place in St. Andrews this week. From the pure links courses of Scotland to the vineyards of the old and new worlds, Taba Dale’s latest coffee table book reveals the fascinating synergy between golf and wine.