Retired Army veteran David Chapel tees off on Hole 1 on Fort Jackson’s Old Hickory for the first time in years. Old Hickory is one of two 18-hole courses at the base. (Photos by Chris Newman/Carolina News and Reporter)

Not everyone has access to Fort Jackson’s golf courses.

The courses can only be accessed by active duty military members, their family members and veterans.

But starting this weekend, civilians can gain access to the greens.

Fort Jackson, the country’s largest Army training base, has decided to open the courses to the public for daily play. It also is now offering civilians memberships at the club, so they can play anytime.

Retired Army vet Danny Chapel has been playing at Fort Jackson since he’s been in the military.

“Not many used these courses when I was in (the Army), and I retired years ago,” Chapel said as he teed up for his first drive.

Another golfer, John O’Brien, is a long time player at the fort. O’Brien said that throughout the 10 years he has come to play, he hasn’t seen a lot of civilians there. 

Memberships should be taken advantage of and daily play will bring in a lot of golfers, O’Brien said.

The Fort Jackson Golf Club started allowing civilian memberships in early September, said Pro Shop Manager Matt Cloyd.

Civilians who wanted to play needed someone with a Department of Defence ID card to play with, Cloyd said.

That is what’s changing.

Visitors wanting to play can access Fort Jackson by entering Gate 2, off Forest Drive. Entering the base requires an ID card and an on-the-spot background check. 

Civilians will be able to access the base for six months, Cloyd said.

A golf club membership will get someone on base as quickly as if they had a Department of Defense ID card.

The Army wants more civilians visiting the base to grow a connection between Midlands residents and the military, according to retired Maj. Gen. Jeff Jacobs, who lives in Columbia.

Any initiative that brings civilians in the community in closer contact with their Army is worth pursuing,”Jacobs said in an email.

The club hopes opening up the course will strengthen that relationship, said Ana Gonzalez, the fort’s managing director of family, morale, welfare and recreation.

“If people are visiting (Columbia), we’re giving them a different golf course to play on,” Gonzalez said.

Fort Jackson’s golf club has two 18hole courses, a short course, a driving range and putting and chipping areas. 

It easy to get a tee time at the courses. So they’re convenient for golfers like him, Chapel said.

Several other local clubs charge an initiation fee in addition to a monthly fee for memberships, he said. A civilian membership at Fort Jackson costs $130 a month.

“There’s nothing more comparable than what you get and what you pay for,” Cloyd said.

The golf club is holding an event Oct. 7 to kick off the start of daily play for civilians. Wilson and Taylormade, two major golf companies, will have representatives there to host demos and club fittings.

“We have fantastic greens here we want people to take advantage of,” Gonzalez said.

The pro shop is preparing for the event, stocking up on clothes and gear for new players.

Fort Jackson’s short course is a popular spot for practice.

A Fort Jackson visitor pass lasts six months and allows people to go through Gate 2.