Quiet Pines at Moody Air Force Base a casualty of tight, military budgets

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

VALDOSTA, Ga. - The U.S. military has more firepower than any armed force in the world, and that includes some of its golf courses.

The military has hundreds of courses, in order to give some relaxation and sport to our fighting men. Many are top-notch and some of them stand out as some of the best and most challenging courses in the country, like the Air Force Academy's Blue course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, the Fort Golf Course in Indianapolis designed by Pete Dye and Ford Ord's Bayonet course in Seaside, California.

Unfortunately, Quiet Pines at Moody AFB isn't one of them. It seems a bit unpatriotic to gripe about the military budget in this time of war, but there's no getting around it - Quiet Pines is a casualty.

Quiet Pines superintendent Bill Breecher does wonders with the money he's provided, but the course still suffers from under-maintenance.

The fairways are brown and patchy and the greens have quite a few rough spots. They're quick, though, measuring about an eight on the stimpmeter.

"These are the original greens from 1967," Breecher said. "We should re-do the greens - you should re-do greens about every 10 years - and these are about 40 years old. But, every time we ask for money, it just doesn't come through."

They've over-seeded the greens annually, but they over-seeded the tees, collars and approaches for the first time this year. This is a course that gets quite a bit of play, and it looks like it.

Also, it's only a nine-hole course.

"That's what hurts us with the public, having only nine holes," Breecher said. "People want to play 18."

Speaking of the public, they are now allowed on the course, starting in spring of 2004.

"Which is kind of ironic," Breecher said. "Before 9-11, it was closed to the public. After 9-11, it's, 'Oh, let's let everybody in.'"

Still, the public represents only a small fraction of the rounds played.

In addition, be prepared for slow play. Sometimes, excruciating slow play, like for example when five colonels get together for a leisurely round. Who's going to approach a group of high-ranking officers and tell them to split up or speed it up?

Also, it isn't an easy course to find for the newcomer, made more difficult by the civilians working in the pro shop who don't seem to know the directions to the course.

What's to like? Well, the course does have very attractive tee markers, made of beautiful granite and each showing a rough outline of the hole.

The course has two sets of tee boxes for each hole, each with a forward and back tee for the men as well as the ladies, so that golfers can at least come close to experiencing 18 different holes.

The name is accurate, too: it has well-spaced pines and oaks scattered throughout and it has an open, airy feel. It's relatively quiet, and there isn't much rough to speak of; it's a ball saver.

And some of the holes are challenging, like No. 4, a 404-yard par-4 that has a lake the length of the left side and which snakes around to the front left of the green.

Or No. 5, a 496-yard par-5 whose dogleg right can be easily cut, leaving an opportunity for eagle.

And at least the course has stayed open - the military has closed many of its courses because of budget cutbacks and base closings. The Presidio, for example, one of the more well-known military courses, in San Francisco, is now under Arnold Palmer management.

The verdict

This isn't a course you would go out of your way to play, but at 6,732 yards and a slope rating of 123, there are easier courses around, though not many.

"Yeah, it's not what you would call a great course, but it's close," said a military man who didn't want to be identified. "That's why I play it."

If the military ever got around to funding it properly, it could be a nice little day on the links.

Even at $27 green fees for non-military, it's a little steep for what you get. Rates are from $18-$23 for military, depending on rank.

Fast Fact

Moody AFB is home to the 347th Rescue Wing, flying jets, transports and helicopters, and responsible for worldwide peacetime and combat search and rescue operations in support of humanitarian and U.S. national security interests, including the global war on terrorism.

Stay and Play

Valdosta isn't exactly the epicenter of luxurious lodging, and there is the usual selection of chain motels - that is, if you're a civilian and don't want to stay on the base.

For something not quite so generic, try the Fairview Inn Bed and Breakfast on River Street in the city's oldest residential neighborhood.

Dining Out

Again, there is a plethora of fast food joints. Or try Old Times Country Buffet for a heaping mess of old-time vittles, Vito's Rock and Roll Pizzeria or the Fish Net for fried, boiled and steamed seafood.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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