The course, which opened in 1957, has helped countless vets find sanctuary while inspiring hundreds of volunteers. Among those giving their time? Jack Nicklaus, the best to ever play the game.

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TACOMA — The coolest golf course in the Pacific Northwest isn’t Chambers Bay or the Home Course.

It won’t host a major or become a “must play” for bucket-listers, either.

It does, however, offer one of the most incredible sights in golf, and we’re not talking about an ocean view.

No, we’re talking about the people.

Welcome to American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma — the only golf course in the nation designed specifically for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans. Nowhere else in the U.S. will you find 18 holes set up for those who lost arms, legs, or whatever else fighting for their country.

The course, which opened in 1957, has helped countless vets find sanctuary while inspiring hundreds of volunteers. Among those giving their time? Jack Nicklaus, the best to ever play the game.

You see, 15 years ago, Nicklaus’ friend Ken Still — a three-time PGA Tour winner from Tacoma — joined the board at American Lake. He said that the instant he saw the golfers playing he knew he wanted to be a part of it. And one night during a meeting, the board concluded that it should add nine holes to the nine-hole course, which would require a designer.

“Does anybody have a way to get in touch with Nicklaus?” a board member asked.

Well, whaddyaknow — Still had his number.

“Jack never answers his private number, but he did this time,” Still said. “I said ‘Jack, I need you involved.’ And within about 10 seconds he said, ‘Count me in.’ ”

What Still pitched in those 10 seconds was for Nicklaus to design nine holes pro bono. And without hesitation, the Golden Bear signed on, offering about $500,000 worth of services for free.

Since then, Nicklaus has visited American Lake several times to check on its progress. And Saturday, it became the 400th Nicklaus-designed course to open worldwide.

Jack couldn’t be there for the ribbon-cutting because he is hosting the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. Had he been, though, he would have seen the commencement of what may be his most noble work to date.

Still, who hit the opening tee shot in his place, admits he never thought he’d live to see the day American Lake became an 18-hole course. Now, he wants as many wounded veterans as possible to enjoy it.

“They dedicated their lives to save us, so why can’t we give something back to them?” Still said. “When I brought Jack aboard, something like this was in my dreams, and now here it is.”

JoAnn Tatum Hattner had 18 holes in her dreams, too. Her father, Joe Tatum, was the principal player in setting up the nine-hole course 60 years ago, and Hattner is assured he would have been proud of what’s transpired since. Holding back tears, Hattner spoke to the cathartic value American Lake can have for the golfers who use it — a value that may have doubled with these extra nine holes.

“It’s therapy that is indescribable until you’re actually involved in it,” Hattner said. “Like my dad said, sometimes that (golf) is what you use to break through and start to begin therapy.”

Part of the American Lake magic is that it is entirely-volunteer run. Whether it’s the starter or the 18-time major title winner, none of the 160 people involved is on the payroll.

There isn’t a golf operation quite like this — but hopefully there will be soon.

Since Still already saw one dream come to fruition, maybe there’s time for him to see another one. If he had it his way, American Lake will inspire courses like it to pop up all over the country.

In two separate interviews, Still mentioned the high suicide rate among veterans, then emphasized how warmly they are received out there on the course.

“I’m telling you, anyone who comes out here will think they’re in heaven,” Still said.

Yeah, what makes American Lake the coolest golf course around is because there nothing else quite like it. Would be a whole lot cooler if there were.