In the past few decades, golfers in the Alaska State Amateur routinely played their four rounds on at least two different courses and as many as four, usually teeing it up at various places in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley.
Multiple courses were necessary back in the days when the State Am drew hundreds of golfers, and many players enjoyed trying to solve different layouts that required different tactics and strategies.
Yet professional golf tournaments routinely play all four rounds on the same course, and the Alaska Golf Association is embracing that set-up with the State Am, which has scaled back to a limit of 120 golfers.
The way AGA executive director Jeff Barnhart figures it, players in this year's State Am, which opens Thursday and will feature all four rounds at Settlers Bay Golf Course near Wasilla, playing the same course for four straight days includes several benefits.
Golfers can get a feel for the greens on their opening round and trust the speed of the greens will remain somewhat consistent over four rounds. Altering pin placements and tee boxes will make holes play differently, so golfers still enjoy variety. Administrative tasks are also easier on organizers if they only have to staff one course.
And, Barnhart said, a golfer can enjoy several swings at redemption.
"They get a chance to get back at, say, hole No. 12, which bit them in the butt on day one,'' Barnhart said.
This is the second year all four rounds of the State Am will be played at a single course. Last year's State Am was played at Chena Bend in Fairbanks. The AGA first introduced a multiple-day state event when it played the State Senior Am at Chena Bend in 2012.
Granted, with Eagleglen Golf Course on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shuttered this summer, presumably for good, Anchorage was reduced to three 18-hole golf courses – the two layouts at Moose Run and Anchorage Golf Course. Still, Barnhart said the AGA hopes to play the State Am on a single course in the future too, likely on a rotating basis.
"All you have to do is change the set-up every day,'' he said. "When we had the Senior Am in Fairbanks in 2012, we got a lot of good comments about playing one course.''
This year's field will feature 84 men playing in three flights (championship flight, first flight, second flight) and 11 women playing in two flights (championship flight and first flight). With the first tee time set for 8 a.m. daily, and foursomes starting at both holes No. 1 and No. 10, all players should be on the course by shortly after 10 a.m.
The signature foursome in the men's field includes 2013 champion Adam Baxter of Fairbanks, four-time winner Greg Sanders of Anchorage, who last won in 2012, and 2011 winner David Hamilton. Foursomes are determined by handicap, Barnhart said, which is how three champions ended up in the same foursome. All flights will be re-paired after 36 holes, Barnhart said.
The women are guaranteed to have a first-time champion – three-time defending champion Terry McAngus moved out of state, Barnhart said, and no one in the field owns a State Am title.