American Lake Veterans Golf Course wants veterans to forget. Forget the burdens they carry. Forget their pains or disabilities. Forget they have to do anything but play golf.
To make this happen, the course works hard to blend the aesthetics of a great course with accommodations that make it accessible to veterans of all abilities.
Combining Aesthetics with Accessibility
The 18-hole course offers two different experiences. The front nine holes are enclosed by groves of trees. The back nine were designed by professional golfer Jack Nicklaus and feel more like a links-style course, with long, open fairways of bentgrass, skirted by trees and wild grasses. According to The News Tribune, “Nicklaus made sure to give the golfers bigger landing areas off the tee. The holes also vary in direction, but many of the par-4 holes are short, making it a smooth, peaceful ride.”
“There’s not another Jack Nicklaus-designed course in the neighborhood,” says superintendent Randy Moen.
But while the design is second to none, it’s the special accommodations that make veterans feel at home.
“We want to duplicate the nicest golf course, but then we’ve got to give it accessibility,” superintendent Randy explains.
Special carts called solo riders and paragolfers help amputees and the disabled golf in a standing or sitting position. Sand traps are shallower and can be driven into and out of easily. Power tees on the driving range automatically tee golf balls so players don’t have to bend over to tee a ball.
Recently, the course installed an ADA-compliant bathroom right on the course so guests no longer need to trek to the clubhouse. Guests can even drive solo riders and paragolfers directly into the bathroom so they don’t have to get into and out of equipment.
How Sand Assists with Accessibility
Making the course accessible to all requires maintaining the greens and fairways year round. A team of 230 volunteers works long hours from dawn to dusk to make this happen. Maintenance includes aerating the turf and top dressing it with sand in the spring and fall. This process keeps the turf healthy, smooth, and well drained.
Washington Rock’s sand has been the product of choice for the past several years and has even earned the honor of being recognized on the iconic Hole 13.
Recently, American Lake began using Washington Rock’s kiln-dried sand for top dressing the greens.
“When you use kiln-dried sand, you don’t have to wait for it to dry. It’s already dry. So once you aerate, you put it down, and you can sweep it as soon as you drop it,” Randy explains. The kiln-dried sand helps reduce downtime so the course can get veterans back to playing as soon as possible.
The video below shows the process of top dressing the greens at a service project this past spring. Washington Rock provided kiln-dried sand for the event.
In addition to kiln-dried sand, American Lake uses Washington Rock’s 80-20 sand-peat moss mix on the tee boxes and crushed gravel on the cart paths.
Continuing the Quest to Improve American Lake
American Lake Veterans Golf Course constantly strives to improve players’ experiences. Along with a plan for the back nine, Jack Nicklaus designed a course for the front nine. With enough funding, the front nine will receive its own makeover. If you’re interested in donating to this worthy cause, visit the American Lake donation webpage.
If you’re interested in volunteering at American Lake, you can fill out an application at the Volunteer Services office in Building 9 at the American Lake VA Hospital in Lakewood. You can also visit the VA Puget Sound website for more information.
The Friends of American Lake Veterans Golf Course also accepts donations.
To learn more about Washington Rock’s golf course products, visit our Golf Course Products page.