American Lake Veteran’s Golf Course
By: Capt (ret) David Van Pay
As an avid golfer, I’ve played nearly all the public golf courses in western Washington. One of the neat courses I’ve played is the American Lake Veteran’s Golf course, Lakewood, WA. The front nine holes is old school. Wide open fairways with tiny greens. The back nine was designed and built by Jack Nicklaus a couple years ago. The back nine plays like a resort course that holds your attention on every shot. The most amazing part of this story is the mission and the all-volunteer staff who manage and operate the course for its Veteran patrons.
The mission of the American Lake Veterans Golf Course is to provide affordable services to veterans, active members of the armed forces and their legal dependents. Green fees for 18 holes of golf are $15. The annual fee is $200. Fees are waived for disabled and elderly veterans. Other services with no fees include golf lessons, mobility impaired golf carts and golf equipment donated by the public. Donated used clubs are refurbished and given to interested veterans. Last year, they issued over 1600 sets of clubs to local veterans.
Programs and events include Blind Rehab training, golf equipment and golf tournaments for the blind. They also organize “Down Range” reunion for disabled golfers, wounded warrior tournaments VA hospital in-patient picnics and programs for homeless veterans. They also gather Christmas presents for VA Hospital in-patients.
All these programs and the care and maintenance of the golf course are managed by 230 dedicated volunteers. There are no paid employees. A volunteer kitchen staff purchases and prepares food enjoyed by golfers playing in various tournaments throughout the year. Other food service programs include food for VA Hospital in-patients and homeless veterans and their dependents.
Since 2004, Friends of ALVGC have provided over $7 million worth of improvements to the golf course, including buildings, a $1.4 million Rehab Learning Center which includes a golf simulator. They also installed a $600K irrigation system and purchased 12 mobility impaired golf carts. They also obtained 72 new golf carts through donations from local golf courses, service clubs and private people.
The course is the only ADA compatible golf course in the country and has equipment and facilities to assist disabled veterans learn and enjoy the game of golf. The “Friends” are currently raising funds to extensively modify the old front nine holes to better accommodate mobility impaired golf carts and improve grounds maintenance.
In May 2017, the VA signed over the golf course to the Friends of ALVGC. The group continues to maintain the golf course and equipment and programs in an exceptional fashion. Truly a labor of love for this amazing group of veteran volunteers.
The Evergreen-Ron Blatman Chapter recently donated a set of golf club to the “Friends.” In turn, they will pass the clubs onto a needy veteran who has an interest in playing golf.
If you or your chapter has an interest or want more information, check out their “Friends” on their website at www.veterangolf.org.