There's an old golf joke that playing "military golf" means you're hitting shots left, right, left, right and so on.
But that's not what we mean when we recommend you play more military golf. There are dozens of military golf facilities around the country that offer access to public players. They're generally more affordable than their public course competition. The drawback is that entering a U.S. military base does have some hurdles. You sometimes have to fill out an online form in advance or stop somewhere to get a visitor's pass or bring extra I.D. to make sure you can get past the entry checkpoint.
I played the Golf Club at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., in the Bay Area for the first time earlier this year. Like many of the golfers who have left reviews about their military golf experiences, I discovered that the golf course was tough to find through the maze of military buildings and fencing on the NASA-leased Moffett Federal Airfield. Luckily, my playing partner knew the way, and we only made one wrong turn. It was worth the effort because the course was in good shape and very enjoyable. I played one of my best rounds of the year - I holed out a bunker shot for birdie on no. 18 - because I was inspired by the course. Maybe one of these military facilities can provide the same thrills for you.
With Veteran's Day coming up Nov. 11, let's explore five military courses worth considering for your next tee time.
West Point Golf Course, West Point, N.Y.
Although shortish at 6,000 yards, the West Point Golf Course is a difficult challenge of narrow tree-lined holes with some good elevation change. It's another traditional design by RTJ Sr. dating to the late 1940s. The first six holes of the back nine play across the road from the other 12 holes. With a 4.4 rating on GolfPass, it is the highest rated of the courses in this story. Golfer 'egetto109' called it a 'great course' in his October review. "This was a challenging course that was fun to play," he wrote. "The course has some very interesting holes with some uphill and some downhill. I had heard it was very difficult, but found it to be a great play."
3 Joint Base Lewis-McChord courses, Washington state
In the Pacific Northwest, golfers have three military courses to choose from within 11 miles of one another south of Tacoma, Wash. on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord: the 27-hole Eagle's Pride Golf Course in DuPont, Whispering Firs Golf Course at McChord Field and American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Lakewood. Eagle's Pride (18th in 2022) and Whispering Firs (11th in 2017 and 14th in 2022) are the rare military courses that have also earned Golfers' Choice rankings among the state's best courses. Golfer 'dpap' called Eagle's Pride an 'exceptional value' in a recent review: "Great condition. The price is amazing for what you get. Hard to find a better course at this price point. Fun layout and really good greens." American Lake Veterans was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2016 to make it more accommodating for disabled veterans.
Fort Belvoir Golf Club, Fort Belvoir, Va.
Located 20 miles south of Washington D.C., Fort Belvoir is home to 36 holes. The Woodlawn Course is a rare par 73 that plays 6,838 yards. Tom Clark designed it in 1995 as a complement to the much older Gunston Course, an RTJ Sr. design dating to 1949 that's been updated several times. It's best to access the club's website for an online form to get inside the gates.
Hunter Golf Course, Savannah, Ga.
We should warn you right away to build in some extra transit time to find Hunter Golf Course. Multiple GolfPass reviews note how tricky the course can be to find on the base. Once there, though, golfers tend to enjoy the 6,518-yard layout. Golfer 'baldy1302' noted in his review that the round was "better than expected." "I was happily surprised with this course. ... As a mid-single-digit handicapper, I played the Blues, which was long and challenging. Lots of strategic play to try and set up approach shots, and several holes that forced decision-making to go for it or lay up. The greens were good. The fairways were mostly green and manicured. Cold water was available every 3rd hole. Overall a good course that can give experienced golfers a good challenge!"
Eisenhower Lakes, Fort Gordon, Va.
This 27-holer was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1976. Six holes wrap around a 20-acre lake, including an island green on a challenging par 3. More than 80 bunkers line the fairways and greens cut from the Georgia pines and other native trees. It's recommended that golfers enter through gate 6 to obtain a visitor's pass (instructions here). One GolfPass review from April noted the course's "potential" even with sub-par conditions at the time. "Great location and layout but ... not sure how much TLC they put into the place," wrote 'mperna2001.