Family was visiting the Yukon Outpost recently. Like all others who visit from down south in less wild grounds, they hoped to see some native wildlife.

Alas, as their ten-day visit was coming to an end, we had not had many wildlife viewings. No bears. No caribou. No moose. And no mountain goats but we are fairly certain we spotted a Dall sheep bedded on a high mountain slope. But a better sighting than seeing a grizzly bear was the unveiling of two different lynx, including one that walked across our scrappy yard.

There had been a few red squirrel stops-and-starts to watch, but they can be easily witnessed in the Lower 48. We needed to see a critter native to these parts.

It called for the sure thing, the “gimme putt,” so to speak. So we headed to the Annie Lake Golf Course, one of the local amenities in our Yukon neighborhood. After a ten-minute drive down three gravel roads, we arrived at the course. The land was cleared of spruce and lodgepole pine by a homesteader who raised cattle and pigs here. The U.S. military still had a base in Whitehorse from WWII days when the Alcan Highway (Alaska Highway) was built. Some say that golf enthusiasts in the Army first created the course here. It is the oldest of the six golf courses in the entire Yukon Territory.

Mount Lorne rises up a couple of miles behind the first tee, and a dozen or so miles beyond the first green are the familiar peaks of Red Ridge, Mount Perkins, Goat and Twin Mountains.

Ours was the first vehicle at the golf course on this morning. We parked next to the first tee off platform, a raised wooden box surfaced with tough mats made of bound rubber strips. Sort of like rugged entry mats into a building.

To play golf at Annie Lake requires no tee time. The course is not mowed. There is no staff. There is no clubhouse. However there are two outhouses. Adjacent to the first tee off is a large hand-painted plywood sign: “$5 can buy 2 bars of soap or a beer, or a head of lettuce or 18 holes of golf!” You are on your honor stuff a $5 bill into the slot of the box near the first tee off. It is obvious that very little revenue is required. I guess they do print up a new batch of scorecards every so often.


Once you have managed to hack your way to the first sand green you need to putt the ball into the hole. After you finish putting on the small sand green you are expected to drag the green smooth with a swath of carpet, approximately three feet wide, that is attached to an easy pulling handle.

We were not here to play the links; we were here to find critters for toddler granddaughter Eleanor to witness.

There is a hand painted sign near the first tee off that says, “Use this site at your own risk.” Nearby is another, government issued sign that gives tips on “keeping humans and bears safe.” A couple of years ago two neighbor boys were riding their dirt bikes when they found themselves being chased by a pair of grizzly bears. The boys had just come off a trail, often used for dog mushing in the winter, that spills out onto the 17th fairway. As the boys accelerated away the bears stopped and watched.

It gives new meaning to golf hazards.

Some golfers have watched moose or even woodland caribou cross the course.

The shaggy, unmowed fairways resemble the roughs the pros encounter while playing the British Open. But this is what makes for great arctic ground squirrel habitat: open ground and plenty of forage for them to eat.

The ground squirrels are abundant here and there is even a special rule for this golf course. If your golf ball rolls into a ground squirrel hole, simply drop a new ball and play it without taking a penalty stroke. For that matter the scorecard indicates there is no penalty if you lose your ball on the fairway!

This environmentally friendly golf course is a bit like an episode of “Wild Kingdom” or some other nature show. The most numerous mammal out here is the arctic ground squirrel. It is the largest of all North American ground squirrels. Local folks call them “gophers.” They resemble a big prairie dog and live in colonies. No mammal on this continent hibernates longer than an arctic ground squirrel, sometimes 7-8 months.

With Eleanor waddling across the course with us, we could hear the distant squeaks or barks of alert ground squirrels warning the world of our approach. We saw several scurrying and one stood stretched like a tent peg, perched on the second hole tee off box, tail flicking and being very vocal.

In the meantime, little Eleanor seemed to care less and was more at home in examining, tasting and throwing the rocks found at the burrow entrances.


Eventually we strolled back to the truck. The high-pitched alarm calls of the gophers became less frequent and who knows what was peering out of the forest flanking the course. Time for us to move on, there was more wildlife to tally elsewhere.

And maybe, just maybe, some golfers might show up by noon.