Golfers Gary Cox and Devery Prince became an unexpected trio recently when a black bear joined their morning game at hole No. 8 on Moose Run's Creek Course in an encounter Cox caught on video.
"You can see we're jumping around reaching, grabbing clubs to make sure we had something to defend ourselves," Cox said. "You know, he wasn't really aggressive, but he wasn't afraid of us at all."
The bear stood up and used the pin for support as it swatted at the flag atop the pin. The bear soon gave up, then found the pair's carry bags more appealing.
Cox and Prince yelled and growled at the bear. Cox threw a golf ball at a bag to startle the bear, which strolled into the woods with Prince's coffee container in its mouth.
"If he decided he was going to have some adolescent adrenaline rush or something, you know he could," Cox said. "… (I)t was a little unnerving. Not that I think he was acting aggressive in that way, but you just don't know what they're going to do."
Cox and Prince's encounter isn't the only wildlife sighting on a course this summer. Both Moose Run's Hill Course and Anchorage Golf Course have been home to bigger challenges than sand traps and water hazards.
"Animal sightings are pretty much a daily occurrence out there at Moose Run," said Moose Run general manager Don Kramer. "… Most of the time the golfers are the ones that call them in and we have somebody on each course riding around … and if there's a bear around we try and shoo them off with the carts."
Moose frequent Anchorage Golf Course at least once a week, mostly in the mornings and evenings.
"We have ones that like to romp and play in the bunkers," said Jeri Cunningham, the course's golf operations manager. "Especially the babies.
"… (Moose) like to swim in the pond on 18, like to swim in the pond on No. 6. They like to cool off."
Cunningham said bears are spotted on the course once or twice a season.
A black bear sow and her cub were spotted in the woods left of the driving range in early June. Professional instructor Peggy Gustafson was teaching a clinic for at least 50 women when one of the students saw movement.
"So the joke was we had a special guest," Gustafson said. "So what's neat about it out here is we have a mama moose and a baby moose, and we've got the sow and the cub, and we've got foxes and we've got eagles."
Jung Han, recreation assistant at Moose Run, and four friends came across a sow and three cubs June 8. The family strolled out of the woods and onto the cart path near hole No. 10 on the Creek Course.
"With the cubs you got to be really careful," Han said. "We walked away but they were still following us."
The family crawled out of sight once the golfers began teeing off at No. 11. Han said there's another sow with two cubs in the area.
Last July, he had a more personal encounter with a bear on No. 9.
"I was just chipping nearby the green and I left my putter on the side and then from nowhere a bear came and grabbed my putter and took it inside to the wood(s)," he said. "That time we're screaming because it's a very expensive putter."
Course officials encourage golfers to report animal sightings to them so they can warn other golfers and take appropriate measures.
"If the bear is really far away and doesn't notice you, you don't need to make any noise or say or do anything," said Elizabeth Manning, Department of Fish and Game education and outreach specialist. "Once it starts to look at you or notice you, first of all don't run; stand your ground and make some noise, speak in a calm voice, let the bear know that you're a person.
"If you got people with you, you want to group up with other people in your group. If you happen to have bear spray or a deterrent, you might be thinking about getting that out. …They mostly leave things alone, but I would advise golfers not to wander far away from their cart or leave food in their cart."
Fish and Game officials advise caution in a bear encounter.
"Basically if you have a bear come into your golf cart, you shouldn't be pulling out your 7-iron or going after it," said Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh.
Because bear encounters aren't unusual, staff at Anchorage Golf Course carry air horns and staff at Moose Run carry bear spray. Pins at those courses are removed at night because moose and bears like to play with them.
Most Alaska golfers know that wildlife is par for the course.
"The golfers out there are fairly local and they understand that," Kramer said. "It's Alaska, it happens all over."