Editor's Note: In an effort to bring a diverse array of opinions and perspectives to Newsmax's A Golfer's Life, we are actively seeking contributions from industry leaders and newsmakers from the world of golf. The following column has been submitted by Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. Mona has been ranked as one of Golf Inc.'s "Most Powerful People in Golf" for the past 15 years.
As we approach Veteran’s Day, we are provided an opportunity to reflect on those who have bravely served our country and we thank active military members for protecting our freedom.
Golf has a longstanding history of giving back to the Armed Forces and their families. With more than 3 million disabled veterans in the U.S., the game provides a safe haven for servicemen and women from the daily demands of military service.
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The size and scope of the military's golf supply is truly remarkable. The Department of Defense is one of the largest golf course operators in the world. They oversee 155 golf courses globally, including 132 in the U.S. There are 23 facilities in Japan, Germany, Korea, and even Cuba. Courses are designed by the likes of Donald Ross, Jack Nicklaus, and Pete Dye.
Let's take a look at how the game gives back to America’s heroes:
Golf in the Military
The Air Force is the most involved branch with 51 U.S. golf facilities, or 40 percent of total stateside supply.
The Army operates 45 courses in unique destinations such as Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, and Korea.
The Navy operates 26 facilities, including the 9-hole Yatera Seca Golf Course behind the gates of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The U.S. Marine Corps also maintains 11 golf courses that are open to the public, generating an impressive 300,000 rounds in 2014.
Whichever branch of the military you serve, there are plenty of opportunities to play.
Golf offers various rehabilitative programs designed to help post-war military personnel retain their health.
The PGA of America’s military pillar, PGA REACH
, provides golf as a therapeutic rehabilitation tool for all military veterans. The lifetime sport of golf has proven to be an excellent outlet for activity and competition, but also allows military members to assimilate back into their communities through the social interaction the game provides.
Through this platform, the PGA of America has created a program called “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere,” or PGA HOPE
, which provides free lessons to veterans by PGA professionals. Currently, there are 46 programs in 20 states with nearly 1,000 participants.
Based at Olney Golf Park in Maryland, the Salute Military Golf Association
provides rehabilitative golf experiences and family-inclusive opportunities for post-9/11 wounded war veterans in an effort to improve the quality of life for these American heroes.
The organization has a strong relationship with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It has equipped more than 500 wounded warriors with properly fitted clubs and offered free lessons to 1,000 combat-wounded veterans.
Folds of Honor Foundation
contributes to families who have lost loved ones. The non-profit organization provides postsecondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military men and women disabled or killed while serving our great nation.
Each year, the PGA of America and United States Golf Association join together with Folds of Honor to host “Patriot Golf Day” over Labor Day weekend. Golfers are asked to add an extra dollar to their green fees to support the cause. It total, Folds of Honor has raised more than $17.1 million for 5,000 recipients in all 50 states and 41 PGA sections.
Formed in 2001, the National Alliance for Accessible Golf
ensures the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game. There are approximately 57 million Americans with some form of disability (or 19 percent of the total U.S. population). The organization has granted more than $581,000 to 7,000 participants in 19 states.
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The Armed Forces also encourage non-golfers who are in the military to pick up the game. This is accomplished primarily through Get Golf Ready
, an adult player development program offering beginners and lapsed golfers five group lessons starting at $99.
Nationally, there are about 4,500 Get Golf Ready certified facilities that have reached more than 260,000 participants in the last three years. In 2014, the program attracted 99,000 new golfers, a 15-percent increase over the previous year.
Get Golf Ready is ideal for military personnel because it provides an affordable option to pick up golf. Moreover, some local courses have donated equipment to military courses for this program.
Health and Fitness Benefits
Many servicemen and women battle stress and anxiety once returning from war. Golf is an excellent form of exercise and serves as a competitive outlet for many.
Playing the game of golf can improve your quality of life. Walking nine or 18 holes (with or without a cart) can help oxygenate the body, improve posture, and renew your spirit.
During a typical walking round of golf on any of the 15,350 courses across the U.S., golfers take approximately 10,000 steps and burn up to 2,000 calories — equivalent to a 3.5-mile run or five-mile walk.
Golf provides an annual charitable impact of about $4 billion per year through 143,000 events and 12 million participants. To put this in perspective, the game raises more money for charity than the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL combined.
Some of the most well-known philanthropic initiatives through golf serve to support the military.
PGA TOUR’s "Birdies for the Brave," founded by Phil and Amy Mickelson, has raised more than $13 million for non-profit homefront groups. Active and retired military personnel are even welcome to attend PGA TOUR tournaments for free.
Billy Casper Golf also plays a significant role in supporting the military by annually hosting "The World's Largest Golf Outing,” a simultaneous tournament benefitting Wounded Warrior Project. The fifth-annual one-day event in August 2015 featured 12,350 golfers and 567 injured service members at 132 courses in 28 states, raising a record $1,024,287.
Since its inception, the World’s Largest Golf Outing has contributed more than $3 million to Wounded Warrior Project.
The golf industry has had and continues to have a very close relationship with virtually all elements of the military. The game will always serve to inspire, relax and motivate military personnel, and the 2 million people working in golf in America enjoy providing those experiences to our Armed Forces.
The game's countless benefits are manifested by veterans who have used golf as a vehicle on their road to recovery. Golf will continue to give back to military organizations, honoring those who sacrifice their lives each day for the freedom of our country.
About Steve Mona
Steve Mona became the World Golf Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in March 2008. Mona served as tournament director of the Northern California Golf Association from September 1980 to January 1982. He served as assistant manager of press relations for the United States Golf Association from January 1982 to June 1983, at which time he became Executive Director of the Georgia State Golf Association. In November 1993, he became CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
Steve has named to Golf Inc.'s "Most Powerful People in Golf" for the 15 consecutive years.
World Golf Foundation develops and supports initiatives that positively impact lives through the game of golf and its traditional values. Founded in 1993, The Foundation is supported by major international golf organizations and professional Tours, and provides oversight to World Golf Hall of Fame, The First Tee, GOLF 20/20, and other industry initiatives in support of its mission.
More information: www.worldgolffoundation.org.
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