The 5 Best Military Golf Courses You Can Play

That, boys, is the sound of freedom.”

That "sound" was the far-off booms of artillery practice, and the quote is one of the most memorable I’ve ever heard on a golf course.

It was spoken by a retired Marine I once played with at one of the two golf courses at Paradise Point, the facility on the site of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, one of the coolest places I’ve ever played golf.

Playing a military golf course is a unique experience, from the aforementioned unfamiliar sounds to the security at the front gate to the notoriously inexpensive (for a golf course) food and drink.

Indeed, the Department of Defense has made a big commitment to golf over the years. It is a great outlet for the men and women who serve and protect our country, as evidenced by the 150-plus golf facilities the U.S. Military oversees worldwide. Most are in the United States, but there are military courses as far-flung as Japan, Spain and even Turkey.

As you might expect, military golfers are fiercely loyal to their home bases and golf courses. With that in mind, here are our nominations for the top five in the U.S. where the public is welcome.

5. Paradise Point Golf Courses (Gold Course) - Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, N.C.
4. Eglin Golf Course (Eagle Course) - Eglin Air Force Base, Niceville, Fla.
3. Marine Memorial Golf Course - Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Calif.
2. The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island - Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Parris Island, S.C.
1. Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course - Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Kailua, Hawaii

The Air Force may have the largest stable of courses, but the Marine Corps takes it home in the quality department. Oo-rah!

As unlikely as it is that you’ll find yourself looking to play one of the U.S. Military courses abroad, chances are, if you live in the U.S., you live pretty close to one of these facilities. And if you haven’t experienced golf on a military base before, I highly recommend it.

Consider this your military golf briefing:

Where to report: Military golf courses are spread throughout the United States and the world; they can be found in 40 American States, Puerto Rico, Guam and seven countries: England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. Stateside, the biggest concentrations of military courses can be found in California (14 facilities), Florida (9), Virginia (9), Georgia (8) and Texas (8). And in case you're wondering, the various military branches do not share the world's military courses equally. Here's how they break down by associated of golf facilities:

  • Air Force: 60
  • Army: 46
  • Coast Guard: 1
  • Marines: 11
  • Navy: 28
  • Joint Bases: 7

Access denied? All military courses are not created equal in terms of their policies toward civilian play. For example, if you want to visit any of the three courses at Andrews Air Force Base, you will have to be sponsored by military or Dept. of Defense-approved personnel if you are nor a retired or active-duty member of the military or federal government employee (or family member thereof). At Camp Lejeune, though, the general public is welcome. Other facilities only allow the general public on certain days of the week or at certain times of day. Bottom line: if you’re looking to experience a round on a military base, proper recon beforehand is advised.

Charlie Hotel Echo Alpha Papa: No matter the time of year, military golf courses can be some of the best-value rounds you’ll play. At Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Hawaii, the maximum civilian green fee is $45 at any time of year. Not too shabby for a course regarded by some as the best military layout in the world, with three holes on the Pacific Ocean and many more with spectacular ocean views.

Eyes Everywhere: The ubiquity of the U.S. Military is underscored by the breadth of its golf courses, which can be found in some unexpected places. You’ve probably read about the par-3 hole set up in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, and the few makeshift holes set up in Afghanistan. Closer to home, consider the 36-hole Moose Run complex on the Elmendorf-Richardson Joint Base near Anchorage, Alaska. In fact, the Creek Course on site is regarded as the best course in the state. If you venture there for a round, just make sure to heed the course website’s recommendation to keep bear spray handy at all times.

Have you played any military courses? We would love to hear your recommendations and reminiscences in the comments below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Air Force Academy Silver course has some of the hardest greens to read of any course I've played. Everything is effected by the mountain. Beautiful setting

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My observation is that in general the Air Force and Army courses are pretty good, while the Navy courses tend to be flat and not too interesting. There may be exceptions of course. I have only played a few. Three of my favorites are no longer military but are open to the public. They are the Bayonet and Black Horse courses at Fort Ord in California and the Presidio in San Francisco. All three are still great courses and extremely challenging. Some of my remaining favorites include Vandenberg AFB (Marshalia Ranch) and Edwards AFB (Muroc Lake) in California. I also like Hickam AFB (Mamala Bay) in Hawaii. The Navy Marine course is also OK. Leilelia (sp?) at Schofield Barracks is OK if you don't mind an inland course in Hawaii. I was not that impressed with Kaneohe, but maybe I'll give it another try. Nellis AFB in Las Vegas is also one of my favorite stops. The Air Force Academy courses are great but very crowded and hard to get on. In general all military courses are pretty good values if you have access (and some are open to the public). They usually have some kind of snack bar or restaurant with decent food at reasonable prices, and they often have pretty good practice facilities.

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Thought it'll only be open for a couple more years, one of the very best courses in the military is Sungnam Golf Course, Seongnam South Korea which is apart of the Yongsan/Seoul Army base. In 2017 or 2018 a brand new world class facility will open in Pyeongtaek (Camp Humphreys) it is a Robert Trent Jones designed layout with water on nearky every hole. Beautiful design.

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The Navy has some great courses.
1-Pensacola 27 Holes and 18 Hole Par 3
2-Jacksonville 27 Holes
3-Se wells Point in Norfolk VA
4-Sea Air in San Diego
5-Mayport Fl

Bonus- 36 City course in Bremerton WA

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I am surprised at the absence of any courses in the San Antonio area - lots of bases, lots of military personnel and lots of golf courses, and a huge military retirement community.
The two courses at Ft. Sam Houston, for example.
The Salado Del Rio is said to be the only military course to have hosted a PGA event. Open to the public, and only $2 variation in fees weekday to weekend at $%39 - $41!

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In 20 years in the Marine Corps, I had 11 duty stations. Played golf at Quantico, Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, Albany, Ga. (9 holes), Parris Island, Camp Pendleton (Club Champion in 81), Hawaii - All courses were amazing, but like Al Kaneohe and Navy Marine could be debated for a long time, Okinawa, Awase Meadows (Club Champion in 88) and Al was there at the same time, Kadena AFB. I have been fortunate to play at many more Military courses and believe me we are blessed.

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Two tours on Hawaii, Kaneohe 1969-1972, Pearl Harbor 1977-1980. Kaneohe vs Navy-Marine would cause a debate that would last deep into a keg of beer. The photo (Memory not to sharp 35 years ago) I believe is No. 14. Was there when we change 13 from a par 5 to a par 4. One last thing, if you have played Silver Wings at Fort Rucker, Al. in the past, you should check it out now. It is in great shape.

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My home course is Camp Pendleton, but I also love to visit and take visitors to Sea 'N Air on Coronado Island. It has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Hotel Del Coronado. The staff is terrific, the layout is challenging but beatable, you get an air show while you play, and the club house is first rate.

Any visit to San Diego should include these two courses and Admiral Baker North if you've got an extra day.

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I can say I've played probably the worst golf courses the Navy had to offer. Subic Bay, Philippines after the volcano exploded, leaving everything covered in ash and Guantanamo Bay, where there was minimal water to keep the greens and tee boxes, green. Both courses you carried a piece of AstroTurf to play off of.

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Have played both courses at Camp Lejeune. Gold is best. Have always gone with son in law who is active duty so don't know how it is to get on as civilian. Flat courses with little change in elevation.

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