JBER says one of three golf courses could close

Mike Nesper
Marc Lester

Military officials said Thursday they may close one of the three golf courses on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, saying the courses are under-used and losing money.

If a closure happens, it would slash the golf choices in Anchorage by 25 percent. There are four 18-hole courses in the city -- Anchorage Golf Course and the three military courses, Eagleglen Golf Course, Moose Run Creek Course and Moose Run Hill Course.

Civilian golfers made up 65 percent of the business at the military courses in the last three summers, JBER officials said in a press release.

The three military courses had a net loss of $1.9 million the last three years and more than $2.2 million the last five years, JBER said in the press release.

The courses are unused about half the time during the summer, it said. JBER said 115,000 rounds can be played each season at the three courses, but in the last three years, more than half went unsold. Anchorage courses typically see less business during the work week but get crowded in the evenings and weekends.

"With figures as drastic as these, it's imperative we take swift action," Air Force Col. Brian Duffy, the JBER commander, said in the press release.

JBER did not say when a decision will be made or which course may be closed. The Alaska Golf Association believes Eagleglen -- considered by many the best course in the state -- is targeted for closure.

Sen. Mark Begich's office said it is urging JBER officials to find a way to keep Eagleglen open and to involve the public as it explores options, including the possibility of leasing or selling Eagleglen to a non-profit entity.

JBER officials said it will hold public meetings to discuss the issue Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Moose Run clubhouse.

A decline in participation began a decade ago, JBER said -- a few years after the construction of a second course at Moose Run. Last year, 47,092 rounds were played at the three military courses, down from 72,150 in 2002, JBER said.

Other Anchorage courses and across the country are experiencing similar decreases, AGC general manager Rich Sayers said.

"Rounds in general have gone down, both nationally and here as well," he said.

The lower turnout is perplexing to Jeff Barnhart, the AGA executive director.

"The golfers we have right now are playing less," he said. "Why is that? That's what the big question is."

Barnhart worked at Moose Run from 1984-1995, before the Creek Course was built. The course made an average of $375,000 a year, he said. That's when greens fees were less than $30. Last year, it cost civilians $45 to play Moose Run on weekends.

The golf courses are among JBER's Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Such programs must be self-sustaining, JBER said in the press release.

Barnhart said that in his days at Moose Run, golf helped pay the way for other MWR programs.

Golf closures have happened recently at other military bases, including 19 last year, JBER said.

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335. Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.