When I was very young, I spent large chunks of my summer days playing golf at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. That’s one of the nice things about being a military brat during the Cold War, back when this country went to any and all lengths to provide for servicemen and their families — you could play a LOT of golf for practically no money at all. As I recall, at some base courses all I had to do was sign my name, provided my Dad had paid a nominal monthly fee, which he always did. Some people grew up on farms, or in suburbs. I grew up playing golf on military courses from Florida to Hawaii, or playing basketball with sailors at the base gym, or bowling in a high school league at the base lanes, etc.
Now, with bases closing, and bases that aren’t closing cutting back on amenities or opening them to the public to help pay for them, things are different.
In some ways, this is good, from my perspective. I figured out several years back that I can play at the course at the former Naval Air Station in Millington, Tenn. — where I spent even more hours back when I was still a dependent — even though I no longer have a military ID. That course is almost exactly as it was in the early 70s. It’s still run by the Navy, but it now bears the civvy sobriquet "Glen Eagle."
But last week, I had occasion to play the MB course (civilian name: "Whispering Pines") for the first time since the base closed, and the experience was for me sadly different. Part of that was that I played it back in the days when there were only nine holes — the "back 9" consisted of playing the same holes from different tee boxes. There were days in my youth when I played — walking, and carrying my clubs on my back — 27 or 36 holes, and was none the worse for wear. Can’t do that any more.
There are 18 holes now (and I think there were before the base closed). So this time, I went to play the front nine and found only two holes to be as I remembered. I still had a nice time, but … I hate to see anything that was once military turn civilian (correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think this course is now run by local government). You may think that’s weird, but it’s what I grew up with. For
instance, there were the concrete pads in little hidden cul de sacs in the woods on the drive into the course, which were once there to hide warplanes from the Russkies in case we ever went toe-to-toe with them in nuclear combat. Those are now overgrown (right). To folks who grew up in the civilian world, particularly those of a pacifist stripe, this change might be seen as a positive development. To me, it’s a piece of ground that is somehow less purposeful, even less noble, than it was.
I did find the old Tactical Air Command shield etched into the glass of the door to the pro shop. But it’s companion shield, emblazoned with "Valor in Combat" had a paper sign taped over it urging visitors to "ASK US ABOUT 10% OFF MDSE…" This seemed just a bit tawdry to me.
But that’s just me.