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Military golf course at Alaska base to close

The military said Monday it will close Eagleglen Golf Course this season, leaving Anchorage with three 18-hole golf courses.

In a news release announcing the closure one of Alaska's premier courses, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson said it couldn't justify keeping all three of its courses open.

JBER would not answer specific questions Monday, including future plans for the course or whether it could reopen. JBER spokesperson Erin Eaton said the media would be given the opportunity to ask questions during a news conference Tuesday.

Eagleglen and the two 18-hole courses at Moose Run were losing money and drawing fewer golfers, the press release said. 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 aren't used more than half the time in the summer, JBER commander Col. Brian Duffy said during one of two March public meetings. The three courses have an annual capacity of 115,000 rounds of golf each season, and more than half of those have gone unsold in the last three years, he said.

A little 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, they're just 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. JBER ignored his cost-cutting suggestions, Nelson said.

"It's short-sighted," he said of the closure. "I don't believe they did the right thing."

Barnhart 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 designer of golf courses. 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.

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