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!