Play the golf course that pays veterans back


In Tinley Park, Illinois, there is a golf course where - every time you play – you do something wonderful for United States veterans.

The Odyssey Golf Foundation is the nation’s only 501(c )(3) non-profit golf course dedicated to serving U.S. veterans and active duty service members. The course, formerly the Odyssey Country Club, was gifted by the Halikias family in 2013 to serve veterans, military personnel and individuals with special needs.
 
Open to the public, the organization uses revenue generated from greens fees, sponsorships, partnerships and the generous donations of individuals, groups and corporations to bring veterans and active duty service members the therapeutic and recreational benefits of golf.
 
Korean War veteran, Fred Hammar, of Orland Park, Illinois, looks forward to the Veterans Golf Outings which Odyssey hosts up to 24 times per year.
 
“Our country honors us once a year with a national holiday,” said Hammar. “The Odyssey Golf Foundation honors us 20 – 24 times a year.”
 
Vietnam War veteran, Bill Becker, of Oak Forest, Illinois, finds that playing golf is healing in many ways. Becker suffers from crushed discs in his back due to repeatedly jumping out of helicopters in Vietnam. 
 
“Through the exercise of golf, I’m able to keep my back in shape and have less pain,” said Becker.
 
For Becker, who also suffers from PTSD, even the tree lines and hill tops of a golf course can trigger hypervigilance about imagined hidden dangers.
 
“When I play golf with my fellow vets, I’m able to relax,” said Becker. “Out there with my squad, I know someone’s got my back. The camaraderie between veterans is pretty powerful,”
 
Chicago veteran Jim Malacina, who served in the U.S. Army for decades, applauds the golf outings for bringing so many veterans together.
 
“It’s great for veterans from different conflicts to be able to meet and share their stories,” said Malacina.
 
All three men praised the Opening Ceremonies which Odyssey holds before every Veterans Golf Outing. During the ceremonies, veterans recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the Star Spangled Banner, and watch a military honor guard present colors.
 
“It’s very moving,” said Becker.
 
“Every veteran who attends is touched,” said Hammar. “They place 200 American flags – I counted them once – at the entrance of the Clubhouse, on the balcony, on the golf carts, and on the 18th hole.”
 
At Odyssey, veterans also enjoy free golf instruction and specially discounted rates on greens fees and driving range visits.
 
“Nothing even comes close to the value Odyssey offers vets,” said Becker.  “For just $15, you get breakfast, 18 holes of golf, golf carts and a hot dog lunch. I don’t know where I can even play 9 holes for that.”
 
Hammer enjoys year-round play at the Odyssey driving range, where a bucket of balls is only $1 for veterans.
 
“Odyssey being able to do all this depends on so many people who contribute and donate,” said Hammar.
 
“For veterans and active duty service members, the journey back to civilian life can be difficult,” said Lisa Halikias, Executive Director of the Odyssey Golf Foundation. “Many veterans face challenges ranging from physical disabilities to PTSD. Playing golf in a serene, natural setting can be beneficial for both the body and mind. And golf helps people form meaningful social connections.”
 
“Odyssey makes sure our day is one we’ll enjoy and remember,” said Hammar.
 
For your next golf game or group outing, consider the Odyssey Golf Foundation. It’s golf for the greater good.