Former Navy chaplain builds golf course to honor military veterans

By Steve Short

Wayne Holmes says he’s a “do it yourself” kind of guy.

But building your own golf course?

It’s taken Holmes seven years to carve grass fairways, putting greens and a driving range out of rough woodland and farm fields on his 70-acre farm north of Milan near the Gann Community. The homemade course at 110 Flippin Field Road opened this summer.

For the retired Army soldier, Navy chaplain and Methodist preacher, building the course began as a fanciful challenge but evolved into a way of honoring military veterans.

“Parvet, the name is an acronym for ‘Par-seeking veterans,’ is a nonprofit organization to honor military veterans,” said Holmes. “We also honor educators, since we have many in our family, including my wife, Judy, who had a career as a teacher.”

Wayne grew up in Nashville; Judy is from Dyersburg. They met at Austin Peay in Clarksville and lived in Milan in the early ‘70s, while Judy taught at Polk Clark school. After Wayne served 30 years in the military and worked for Sears, he retired in 1998. He and Judy found their farm.

Wayne also had a business handcrafting and repairing bass violins for accomplished musicians. He played orchestral music in double bass orchestra sections for 20 years.

“I am a ‘DIY’ (Do It Yourselfer),” said Wayne. “I built my own house, almost 3,000 square feet in size, which took 17 years with a helper.”

Taming the land

The idea of building a golf course came to Holmes while he watched weeds grow.

“About eight years ago, a farmer friend, who grew hay on my land, retired,” Holmes said. “After bush-hogging a year, I decided there had to be something more fun to do with the land. I thought about livestock or crops but remembered my past failures with those. I got the idea that it would be a great place to build a nine-hole golf course for family and friends to enjoy.”

He set out to tame the land.

“Building a golf course is much like remodeling a house. It is different, in that you are remodeling land and trees,” Holmes said. “Many trees were cut to make the open land wide enough for fairways.”

The cost of bulldozers, trackhoes and tractors to sculpt the course mounted rapidly. Maintaining a golf course would mean more expenses for a ball retriever machine, mowers, carts and helpers.

“It became very expensive,” he says. “Around the third year of the project I became discouraged. Like remodeling a house, one eventually realizes it costs more than you thought, took longer than you imagined, and made a bigger mess than you expected. But you must continue on. I needed something to inspire me.”

Inspired by veterans

Inspiration came from Wayne’s three-decade, military career, which included Army tours in Vietnam and other places, and Navy chaplain assignments on three ships and with the Marines.

“I had built up a tremendous passion for the military people, who give so much, often away from family and friends in war zones and hostile environments,” Holmes said. “I still have that passion and want to give back to all of them. I decided to dedicate my golf course to military veterans. What military veterans do for us is priceless!”

“Honoring veterans gave me the motivation to complete the course,” he said. “I wanted to share my land and honor those who provide me the freedom to own land and do with it as I choose. I’m thankful that veterans are playing the course and that others playing are honoring our veterans and educators. Anyone is welcome to play. When they tee off, they are saying, ‘Thank you, veterans,’ and showing appreciation and respect for what military veterans do for our country.”

Vets like the course

Clifford Bradford, an Air Force vet and longtime golfer, played Parvet recently.

“What he’s done to honor veterans is excellent; I think it’s the greatest thing,” said Bradford, who lives in Milan. “The best way to describe the course is, it’s a work in progress. I’ll play it off and on, now that I know it’s there. I’m sitting right on top of it. It only takes 15 minutes to get there.”

Buddy Glassman, an Army vet, likes the course’s seven par-3 holes.

“It was a nice gesture and badge of honor for (Holmes) to build it himself and dedicate it to veterans,” said Glassman. “It will take a while for it to season, but for just opening up, he did a good job.”

Warren Bannan of Milan, a Desert Storm Army vet, has taken up golf to be more active.

“I like the fact that (Holmes) took his back yard and made a golf course out of it,” Bannan said. “I like the way it’s set up and everything. Wayne is a really nice guy. He drove us through the course, so we’d know where we were going, and he gave us tips on how to swing.”

Holmes thanks many for helping with the course: Dale Nelson, Southern Concrete employees, Gene Phifer, J.R. Woodard, Wayne Hodge, Bill McCartney, Steve and Holly Hardin, greens keeper Mike Vendeberg and Holmes’ wife, Judy, son, Steven (a Marine vet), and grandson, Pete.   

Parvet Golf Course and Range is open, with greens fees starting at $9. Electric and pull carts, and clubs are available. Call in advance at 731-742-4107, 731-697-1960, email Holmes at parvetgolfcourse@gmail.com, and visit www.parvetgolfcoursemilantn.com.

“Come enjoy the low fees, the feeling that you have the course to yourself, and the free bottled water, sodas, and snacks,” said Holmes.

MILITARY VETERANS Buddy Glassman (left) and Clifford and Judy Bradford are pictured riding golf carts at the new Parvet golf course north of Milan. Wayne Holmes has directed the construction of the course on his farmland to provide recreation for military veterans and to honor veterans and educators. The course and a driving range are open to the public.  Call in advance 731-742-4107 or 731-697-1960.

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