The military said Monday it will close Eagleglen Golf Course this season, leaving Anchorage with three 18-hole golf courses.
In a press release announcing the closure of one of Alaska's premier courses, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson said it couldn't justify keeping all three of its courses open. JBER said it had considered a variety of options, such as raising greens fees as well as closing one or both of the 18-hole courses at Moose Run, before determining that closing Eagleglen was the best option.
Golf closures have happened recently at other military bases, JBER said, including 19 last year.
JBER would not answer specific questions Monday, including future plans for Eagleglen or if it could reopen. JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton said the media would be given the opportunity to ask questions during a press conference Tuesday.
Eagleglen, which will stay open for nordic skiing in the winter, and the Moose Run courses were losing money and drawing fewer golfers, the press release said. JBER said its courses are among its Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and must be self-sustaining.
In the past three years, the three courses lost $1.9 million, JBER said, and in the past 10 years, the courses saw 37 percent fewer golfers.
Jeff Barnhart, Alaska Golf Association executive director, said JBER did nothing to reverse that trend.
"What have they done to improve the situation?" he said. "The failure is on them."
The military courses have an annual capacity of 115,000 rounds each season, and more than half of those have gone unsold in the last three years, JBER commander Col. Brian Duffy said during one of two March public meetings.
A few more than 47,000 rounds were played last summer, Duffy said, a nearly 35 percent decrease from a decade ago. Golfers would have needed to play an additional 16,000 to 22,000 rounds this season to break even, he said.
The number of golfers has remained the same, Barnhart said, but they're playing fewer rounds. Cutting a quarter of Anchorage's 18-hole courses is not the answer, he said.
"This is going to be a detriment," Barnhart said. "It has a ripple effect like they can't predict."
With just three courses, securing ideal tee times will become more difficult, Barnhart said, which will further decrease the number of rounds being played.
"People that can't get a reasonable tee time play less," he said. "They go fishing."
Talk of closing Eagleglen started last year, said former assistant manager Rob Nelson, whose cost-cutting suggestions were ignored.
"It's short-sighted," he said of the closure. "I don't believe they did the right thing."
Barnhart, who worked at Moose Run from 1984 to 1995, before the Creek Course was built, also felt ignored by JBER. Following the public meetings, Barnhart created a group consisting of people from the golfing, business and military communities to help keep all three military courses open.
JBER seemed receptive during their three meetings, Barnhart said, which made Monday's decision all the more frustrating.
"It was almost like they didn't want the changes," he said.
Eagleglen is the only course in the state designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., a respected golf course designer. It has routinely been among those courses that host the annual state amateur tournament.
Besides the three military courses, there is one public 18-hole course in town -- Anchorage Golf Course.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By MIKE NESPER