Airing it out: Why the best way to get around for golf in Alaska is by plane

July 26, 2019

Many of us have flown our clubs somewhere — to a buddies trip, a member-guest tournament, etc. We zip them up in a travel case, roll them into the departure terminal, bid them goodbye for a few hours and wait impatiently for them at Oversized Baggage.

Flying with clubs in Alaska — where the population ranks 48th among the states but the number of registered aircraft ranks sixth — generally means flying your own plane with your clubs in the backseat. That’s particularly true at Palmer GC, where the runway for Palmer Municipal Airport carves through the back nine.

Adam Baxter is among the many fly-guys who buzz in and out of Palmer to play. Anchorage resident Tim Ruf, 52, is another one. He’s been landing his Cessna 185 at Palmer Muni for 20-plus years. He tosses his sticks in the plane’s trunk the same way you load yours into an SUV. Anchorage is about 60 miles southwest of Palmer, so Ruf has two travel options to tee it up: an hour by car or 17 minutes in the air. Who could blame him for going wheels up?

Airplanes are the most common form of travel in Alaska.
Airplanes are the most common form of travel in Alaska.
Kohjiro Kinno

The flight path to Palmer gets you up-close-and-personal with the Chugach Mountain Range. A slight detour takes you out over Knik Glacier and frontier land only accessible by plane. Peer out to your right and you’ll see a black bear scaling the slope. Look down on the glacial lake and you’ll find yourself buzzing over some moose.

Ruf’s Cessna accommodates four golf bags and a foursome. Tough to beat that. Palmer is his most frequent stop, but there are four other courses within a 90-minute flight of Anchorage that he ventures to. As the crow flies, he’s saving himself hours of travel both ways.

“The coolest thing is you go golfing,” Ruf says, “then it turns into an extra ‘emergency nine.’ Then it turns into another round. You hang around at the course, and the last thing you want to do is drive home, right? I get to fly!”

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