Marching to the Same Beat: The Enduring Relationship Between Golf and the U.S. Military
By the National Golf Foundation
Like brigades marching in lock step, the United States Military and the game of golf have enjoyed a deep connection that has endured through times of war and peace. The Department of Defense (DOD) is among the largest golf course operators in the United States, and many of its most revered leaders (including many Commanders in Chief) have championed the game over the years. In return, golf has served as an escape from the day-to-day demands of military service, providing much needed recreation, inspiration, therapy and philanthropy.
Through its Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department, the DOD operates more than 155 golf facilities around the world, including 132 in the United States, according to NGF figures. Internationally, there are 23 military facilities in countries such as Japan, Germany, Korea and Cuba. These courses provide convenient, affordable and quality golf options to active and retired servicemen and women as well as their families.
Military courses run the entire gamut of challenge and prominence. There are highly regarded layouts crafted by the likes of Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Donald Ross, and tracts that are more modest in scope but still provide a quality experience. Many of these facilities have hosted presidents as far back as Franklin Roosevelt, but their true purpose is to serve the core military personnel, especially those stationed far from home and family.
“Golf, on a military installation, is much more than a game,” said Nancy Pasternack, commercial and tourism specialist for the NAF Business and Support Services of the United States Marine Corps. “Programs such as golf directly promote esprit de corps and provide for cultural and social needs as well as stress relief and overall well-being.”
Military Golf Supply
Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course on Marine Corp Base in Hawaii
The Air Force, with numerous bases located in states with golf-friendly climates such as California, Florida, the Carolinas and Texas (click here to see the top five states with the most military facilities), is the largest operator among the military branches. The Air Force currently operates 51 facilities domestically, or 40% of total stateside supply. Included among these is the acclaimed Eglin Golf Course (Eagle Course), which is located on the Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville, FL and was built on land that the government confiscated from Al Capone for tax evasion.
The Army operates roughly 45 facilities around the globe, in locales such as Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and Korea. According to the Army’s MWR, nearly two million rounds are played annually on these golf courses, or an average of more than 40,000 rounds per course.
The Navy operates 26 facilities, including a 9-hole tract with one of the most interesting locations anywhere—the 9-hole Yatera Seca Golf Course, located behind the gates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Marine Corps maintains 11 golf courses at 10 installations, all of which are open to public play and combined generated nearly 300,000 rounds in 2014. Among those courses is the Kaneohe Klipper Course on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, a favorite of President Obama during his vacations in his native state.
The military doesn’t just provide a place for its service personnel to play, but also endeavors to grow the game among its ranks. Many Air Force and Army installations participate in Get Golf Ready and promote competition through men’s and women’s leagues. Several Marine Corps facilities participate in The First Tee program, encouraging children to play the game at an early age, and some receive support from the surrounding community. “Local golf groups have donated golf clubs to Marine Corps Golf Courses so that they can be provided to Marines who are learning the game,” Pasternack said. “In an effort to grow the game, Marines are provided with a series of lessons and their own set of clubs.”
Full article: NGF.org.