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Fair-weather fairways

Escape the winter blues: Hit the greens at affordable hot spots worldwide

Jan. 27, 2011 - 03:58PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 27, 2011 - 03:58PM  |  
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Military Golf Course Guide
Searchable by state and service, this online guide provides links to the military’s links.
Military Golf Network
Whether at home or on the road, the Military Golf Network’s extensive database has courses, leagues and shops that offer military discounts.

Golf with Mickey

You may be disappointed to learn there are no military-run golf courses near the Magic Kingdom. The closest are about 1½ hours away in opposite directions: the 18-hole course at Patrick Air Force Base on Florida’s Atlantic coast and the two 18-hole courses at MacDill Air Force Base on the Gulf coast.
The good news is that Shades of Green, the Armed Forces Recreation Center at Disney World, is surrounded by two PGA Championship courses. They’re not military-affiliated, but both usually offer military discounts:
Magnolia Golf Course:
Palm Golf Course:

It's more than just the long, dark night of winter that has you feeling pale and faded, right? The only cure for your colorless melancholy is the smell of fresh-cut grass, the snap of a crimson pin flag and the smooth swish of that first silver-headed driver drawn from the bag.

Oh, for just a few days in one of those warm-weather Shangri-Las where the front nine flows like milk and honey and eagles spar with bogeys all year long.

For the low price of, oh, a typical re-enlistment bonus, you could spend a long weekend at a place like Pebble Beach, where just setting foot on the front nine will set you back $500.

But good luck convincing the family to burn some of that precious leave time — not to mention blowing the vacation budget — just so you can get a golf fix.

Of course, if you're a military golfer, you already know about the many top-notch courses attached to just about every installation.

But maybe you didn't know that a 10-minute drive from Pebble Beach, the Naval Postgraduate School, is home to Monterey Pines, known simply as "the Navy Course" to locals.

The full-service nine-hole course offers similar breathtaking views to those at Pebble Beach. And with a $5 million redesign by course architect Marc Messier in 2009, it's earning the respect of amateurs and pros alike.

"They have the best bentgrass greens in the whole area," says retired Army 1st Sgt. Ruben Ramirez. "It's a shorter course, but anyone who knows anything about golf knows that's never the point."

Slinging clubs for the likes of Annika Sörenstam and Ryan Palmer, Ramirez knows more than a few things about golf. A former Russian linguist and instructor at the nearby Defense Language Institute, Ramirez traded his combat boots for golf spikes when he left the Army 11 years ago and has been working as a professional caddie at Pebble Beach ever since.

Sure, the legendary course gets all gussied up for the big events, but most days it can play a little slow, he says — unlike Monterey Pines, which is consistently "blazing fast every time."

And the prices are certainly better. Greens fees for service members top out at $20. Meanwhile, there's plenty to do for any nongolfers in the family. Steinbeck's Cannery Row is more than just a fancy fish-shopping district. Whale-watching trips from the wharf make the most of the gray whales' winter migration, and Parents magazine rates the Monterey Bay Aquarium as the best kid-friendly display of sea life in the country.

And while Monterey hotels are pricey, the Navy Lodge — right in the downtown area — keeps things affordable with kitchenette-equipped suites for $76 a night. Or rent an entire three-bedroom house at the Army's Presidio of Monterey for $100 a night; single rooms start at $62.

Keep driving south and the golfing — and the weather — get better. Between Monterey and San Diego sit no fewer than a dozen military golf courses, with most on or near the ocean. And if Southern California doesn't suit, check out more of the following warm-weather, family-friendly golf getaways.

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