Value, a unique environment, and off-the-beaten-path gems are three hallmarks of a great golf trip. Each of these are highlights of many military golf courses coast-to-coast.
Among the nearly 160 military courses operated by the Department of Defense, courses designed by top architects like Robert Trent Jones Sr. and A.W. Tillinghast, built on beautiful and varied pieces of land, provide for great golf courses in a unique environment.
Booking a tee time at a military facility can at times require a little more legwork than a normal public course, but they can be found all over the country, including some of the best golf destinations, from Oahu to San Diego and North Carolina. For civilians, playing on a military base can feature rare moments you won't find on a traditional public course.
There are a few items to keep in mind when playing a military course. Not all of them allow unaccompanied public play. But each have golf staff and pro shop phone numbers where you can call and inquire about the current policy. For more details on what you need to know, visit this guide for some basic training on how to play military courses.
Many military courses have closed in recent years and civilian play is critical to the sustainability of their remaining golf courses. By federal law, golf courses operated by the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force cannot use appropriated funds from taxpayers intended for primary military defense and missions. Instead, military courses worldwide are operated using non-appropriated funds generated from revenue-generating Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities like golf, bowling and more.
An increasing amount of courses can even be booked online. Visit MilitaryTeeTimes.com to browse courses. Military members and their families can register and receive additional discounts on their rounds.
The following ten facilities (many of them more than 18 holes) are among the best in the armed forces. Not all of them allow unaccompanied guest play, so be sure to inquire as to their current policies if you're interested in playing. If you click on our course guide page and can book a tee time, it's a safe bet they welcome public access. Just be sure to confirm current gate procedures. Some require up to three weeks advance notice to grant gate clearance.
Eisenhower Blue Course, Colorado
In the 1950s, 100 private citizens created the Air Force Academy Foundation, which led to the creation of the Eisenhower Blue Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in the foothills of the Rampart range north of Colorado Springs. Later, the Silver Course was added, and it remains one of the top military facilities around to this day. (Read more about the Blue Course and Eisenhower Golf Club from military veteran and golf writer David Holland.)
Kaneohe Clipper Golf Course, Hawaii
Golf groups to Oahu will definitely want to seek out Kaneohe Clipper Golf Course for both the value and the ocean views. Civilians can play here for as low as $45 walking. You do need a sponsor for base access, which the course staff can arrange, but request at least three working days to process the request. (More: A guide to military golf and sites on Oahu)
Gordon Lakes Golf Course, Georgia
Near Augusta, the Army's course at Fort Gordon features 18 original holes from Robert Trent Jones Sr. design built in 1975 that is highly-regarded and a particularly good choice during Masters week when many area courses inflate their green fees. A third nine holes were added in 2003.
"This has got to be the best golf course in Army, if not DOD," wrote William8321612. "I think there is no semi-private course in the Augusta area that can equal Fort Gordon."
Gallery Golf Club, Washington
North of Seattle on Whidbey Island, Navy-operated Gallery Golf Course overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island.
"The course has a nice layout overall," wrote MacDKnife. The greens make small but fair targets, fairways and grounds nicely maintained and view of the Straits gorgeous. Local knowledge VERY helpful!"
Fort Jackson, South Carolina
East of Columbia, the 36 holes at the Army's Fort Jackson is one of the most impressive operations in the military portfolio with an impressive clubhouse and practice facilities. The original Wildcat course opened shortly after World War II and was designed by George Cobb. Arthur Davis updated the course in 1991 and added a second 18, Old Hickory.
Arsenal Island Golf Course, Illinois
This historic course on the banks of the Mississippi River was the first course in the Quad Cities, opened in 1897. It didn't become an Army-operated course until later in its history.
"Everything that's good about old course design! It has great views and very true greens...Only local course that plays Mississppi River side. Super value!" - DruDad32
Legends at Parris Island, South Carolina
In Beaufort, Architect Clyde Johnston updated the Marines' Parris Island course in 2000. Today it is our top-rated military golf course according to reviews at Golf Advisor. Lowcountry locals love it for the value, friendly staff and secluded layout.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
36-hole Eglin in Florida is highly-regarded as among the top three Air Force golf facilities. The Eagle course was built in 1923 and the Army assumed operations in 1942. It was fully renovated in 2008. The Falcon's 18 holes were completed in the 1989 and is considered the more difficult of the two layouts.
Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland
Near our nation's capital, 54-hole Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C. is in many regards the granddaddy of military golf facilities. It's a frequent hang for U.S. Presidents and other top government officials. Good news for area golfers, the base recently began offering online tee times.