Visitors to the town of Funny River may soon start trading in their fly rods and hip waders for nine irons and golf spikes.
The town, located 12 miles down Funny River road to the east of Soldotna, is well-known for its prime salmon fishing and laid-back atmosphere. But starting this summer, golfers have begun trickling into town as word has spread of the town's newest attraction, the nine-hole Bird Homestead Golf Course.
The course is the pet project of Elmer and Patsy Bird, the Funny River couple who originally homesteaded on the land where the golf course now sits. Patsy Bird said last week that one day she got tired of trying to get tee times at the other two courses in the area. Since the couple was sitting on plenty of vacant land, they decided to go ahead and start work on their own course.
"I tried to get a tee time at Kenai and Birch Ridge and I couldn't get one," she said. "We needed to do something with the homestead, so ..."
That was five years ago. This June, the dream of bringing golf to Funny River was realized when the nine-hole, par-37 layout opened for business.
Pat Bird watches golfers from the clubhouse deck.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The course is still a little rough in places, as it's not easy to get grass to grow consistently across 3,250 yards of fairway and greens. But things are moving along nicely, and Bird said she's pleased with the progress the course has made.
"It's been coming in pretty good," she said.
The layout was designed by the Birds as well as just about anyone who wanted to give some input. It's distinguishing feature is its back and forth fairways, with six of the holes including doglegs that take golfers through a variety of turns that range from gentle to severe.
The process of designing the course was right in line with how the construction was done, Bird said, with pretty much anyone who wanted to help out chipping in.
"It's been a real group effort," she said. "We've been really fortunate with the help we've got."
In addition to the challenging layout, the Bird Homestead also is notable for its driving range, which is actually a small pond that utilizes floating golf balls. Bird said the range is both unique and useful.
"Our golf pro (Brian Cupit) says he loves it because anyone who can hit the pond can hit any fairway," she said.
The course also has a fully stocked clubhouse and cart rental facilities, meaning anyone from the seasoned pro to the weekend hacker can feel comfortable. In fact, Bird said that the laid-back atmosphere at the course may be its defining characteristic.
"There's no pressure, so new golfers might feel more comfortable here," she said.
So far, the response from local golfers to the new course has been positive, she said, and a lot of tourists to the area have stopped in to try the course out, as well.
"We have some regular golfers we can plan on showing up, a lot of newer golfers and a lot of people from Outside," she said.
Bird said the early success of the new course already has her looking toward the future. By next year, she said, all 18 holes should be ready for play, meaning the Bird Homestead course will be only the second 18-hole course on the peninsula.
That means a lot to her, especially since just a few years ago the land where the course sits was covered in spruce trees.
"It was so exciting when we first opened," she said. "We feel like we've really accomplished something, even though we've still got a lot of work left to do."
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