Island in Alaska Has New Course

Located 11 air miles northwest of Kodiak, Alaska, Spruce Island is not a place where you’d expect to find a golf course. But thanks to Danny Clarion Sr., a resident of Ouzinkie, a mostly Aleut village of about 225 people on the island, golf has come to the area.

It all began when Clarion began practicing his golf swing in the village park. “It was just a big, wide open field with nobody using it,” Clarion told the Anchorage Daily News. “I just started hitting balls out there, and all of a sudden everybody started getting clubs.” Clarion soon devised a makeshift five-hole course, one that has become one of the community’s focal points.

The 38-year-old Clarion, a maintenance manager for the Ouzinkie Tribal Council, got interested in golf after purchasing a set of inexpensive clubs at an Anchorage pawn shop last summer. He needed a place to practice before tackling Kodiak’s Bear Valley Golf Course, so he ventured to one of the island’s largest open spaces. Clarion’s “driving range” is actually called Sourdough Flats Recreation Area, a park the village developed with funds from the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement. Beaches line two sides of the park, which also contains a gazebo and an outhouse.

Pioneering the Royal and Ancient game on Spruce Island was relatively easy for Clarion. “Next thing I know, everybody here in the village bought golf clubs, and now everyone’s playing golf,” he said. “Some of these guys are getting pretty good.”

As might be expected, Clarion’s self-designed course is pretty ragged around the edges, although he regularly mows the greens. The holes are pieces of PVC pipe and the flags are plastic grocery bags tied to sticks. The quintet of holes on are par-3 in length, but because of dense rough, each is played as a par-5. Stretch one’s imagination and the course has water and sand hazards. After heavy rains, small ponds pop up around a couple of holes. “If you hit it down the beach, I guess it’s a sand trap,” Clarion added.

The course has been such a hit with Ouzinkie’s citizens that Clarion is looking forward to building a more traditional track. In a few years, the village will be relocating its airfield. When the new airstrip is built, Clarion hopes to turn the old strip into a regulation-length nine-holer.