Golf Course Review: Birch Ridge Golf Course in Soldotna, Alaska
By Jeff Hetrick
Birch Ridge is located on the Kenai Peninsula
near the Kenai River, famous for its king
salmon fishing and the small town of Soldotna -
-- a three hour drive south of Anchorage. The
course is a public, nine-hole par 35 stretching
to 3,000 yards over a series of hills.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Separate tee boxes for a second nine require
different shot-making skills. The course is
short by most standards but the uniqueness of
the terrain offsets the distance to make a very
challenging golf course.
The course was “home made” by clearing trees,
and moving soil and has been continually
redesigned over 30 years. The challenge of the
course comes from the hard panned narrow
fairways that often kick the ball through the
rough into the trees which border every hole.
These trees are heavily rooted and it is rare
that you advance the ball directly toward the
hole. Because of this, it is rare to complete a
round without navigating the “jail” which
quickly adds to your score.
The second challenging aspect of the course
are the sloped greens which can be cut for
tournaments to make a three putt a relief.
Another unique feature is the fringe of the
greens is one mower width before it translates
to 2” or higher rough. A well struck shot that
rolls off the green can find the player faced
with a severe angled lie in deep rough two feet
off of the severe sloping putting surface.
All of these attributes coupled with the difficulty
of tending to a golf course in Alaska’s climate
make for a challenging task.
One of the most unique aspects of my home
course is the generous youth golf program.
Because of this an unusually high number of
young golfers are playing in college, mini tours
or are young professionals. The nurturing staff
and unforgiving course has trained some fine
There is another nearby course in the town of
Kenai which is another 18 holes of difficult
terrain and a slope of 144. The annual “Walker
Cup” competition between the two courses and
towns highlights the golf season.