In Egypt, the armed forces operate cement factories, fish farms and resorts. In Turkey, a military-run holding company owns vast interests in the entire economy, including co-ownership of a company making Renault cars. In Mexico, the navy has been commissioned by the president to build a new 1,500 kilometer rail line across the south of the country.
In many parts of the world, armies have enormous economic power and influence beyond their military might. In Canada, not so much. But the Canadian Armed Forces have their network of golf courses from coast to coast, 14 to be exact.
This interesting information emerged last week as scandal erupted over the meeting in early June between Jonathan Vance, the former Chief of the Defense Staff, and two other senior officers of the the Army of the Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa. His two ignorant colleagues didn’t realize how inappropriate it would be to entertain Vance while he is under investigation for sexual misconduct.
According to media reports, the men were playing “military golf”. Not being much of an expert in athletics, I wondered if this was a special version of the sport. Are participants wearing camouflage and boots instead of checkered Bermuda shorts and white moccasins? Do they zoom in on the course in a jeep rather than a golf cart?
I turned to the Hylands Golf Club website for more. “More than a golf club, it’s a way of life,” says the cover page. The course even has a “mission statement,” which states its goal is to become “the destination of choice for Canadian Forces members and their families to play golf, purchase golf products and services, and seek directions. and advice ”.
The course was established on federally owned land near the Ottawa airport for the purpose of providing “affordable golf for military personnel”. Originally an 18-hole course, an additional 18 holes were added in 1972. What other government department considers one of its roles to provide “affordable golf” to its employees?
Serving military personnel and veterans get first dibs and cheaper membership rates, but the public is also allowed to join if there is room. But it looks like the best military mucky-mucks are getting special attention. According to The Globe and Mail, when Vance went out for his game of golf with his two buddies, the course was cleared of all other players so no one noticed the disgraced general was pitching.
Hylands is part of a network called Canadian Armed Forces Golf, which lists golf courses across the country. Some highlight their military ties. Others, like Glacier Greens in Comox, BC, give no indication that it has anything to do with the military as the Petawawa Golf Club advertises it is available for weddings and banquets. And there isn’t a word of French anywhere other than the Hylands and Cours de Valcartier, Quebec websites.
Golf clubs, along with curling rinks, marinas and other facilities, are the responsibility of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS). Judging by his name, you might think he might be responsible for military chaplains and a few psychologists, but it’s a vast bureaucracy with thousands of employees running CANEX’s retail operations, messes military and provide financial services to the military.
CFMWS say one of their goals is to provide fitness and sport facilities “to help alleviate some of the dire consequences of military life.” I don’t know if that includes defending yourself against allegations of sexual misconduct.
I am told that golf clubs are self-financing and are not subsidized by the taxpayer. But they pay no rent on the Crown land they use, and Ottawa pays municipal taxes “in lieu” on their behalf and pays 25 percent of utilities. And if a club wants to build a new clubhouse or has some other large capital expense, they can borrow the money and pay it back from membership fees.
The clubs apparently look more like municipal golf courses than luxury resorts and are often used by locals around their bases. But it still seems to be a reflection of another era.
“Military golf” is not a uniquely Canadian business. In the United States, there are more than 140 golf courses run by the United States Army, with California owning the most, with 14 including the Navy Golf Course at Cypress where Tiger Woods learned to play with his father.
The Pentagon holds courses in Hawaii, at the foot of Mount Rainier in Washington State and on Hilton Head Island and in seven countries abroad. There is even a nine-hole course at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In Britain, when Sir Michael Fallon, the Secretary of Defense, discovered in 2015 that the military was operating 19 courses, including three at Cypress, he wondered why the military was using so much valuable land for golf. while they could be used to build housing. . And why was there still a British military golf course in Germany where there were hardly any troops there?
It is estimated that thousands of acres of land in the UK used for golf could be sold and used to fund other military activities. But four years later, no course had been sold. And Fallon was gone after being accused of making inappropriate sexual advances to a female reporter.
There is even a NATO Golf Club, for soldiers assigned to the headquarters of the military alliance in Brussels. Unfortunately, he does not have his own ties, so he organizes his competitions on golf courses all over Belgium.
So the next time you hear about Canadian, American and British generals attending a NATO military summit and wonder what secrets they are discussing, you will know ahead of time. Forget Afghanistan or the emerging military threat posed by China. They talk about disabilities.
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