By Jordan Fuller
We passed time in coronavirus-mandated quarantine researching the best golf holes in and around the Washington, DC area. Though course options inside the city limits are few, Maryland and Virginia are full of great value public and private courses. As courses in the region reopen and enthusiasts begin hitting the links again, we laid out our top picks for unforgettable holes surrounding the nation’s capital.
East Potomac Red Course #1 – Par 3, 208 yards
East Potomac includes an 18-hole course and two nine-hole executive courses. Upon seeing that the quick nine-hole Red Course yardage is only 1,142 yards and a par 27, you might think “I’ll just grab a few wedges and a putter and be done in an hour.” While it’s not impossible for individuals to accomplish this, the reality is that most first-timers to the course are surprised when they realize they should have brought along a 4 iron too.
The Red Course hits hard right out of the gate with the first being the toughest hole on the course, greeting golfers with a long iron and a tough, small green. Many rounds on this par 3 course have started out with a 5 or 6 on this challenging hole. But don’t worry, the rest of the course shouldn’t require more than a 6 or a 7-iron on any hole, and there are a few in the 65-yard range where you can make up strokes. It is not uncommon for players to bring one wedge and a putter and play the “longer” holes as par 4s, which is a good way to improve their short game. At the end of the day, par’s only a number on a scorecard, right?
Nine holes w/o cart – $13 weekday, $14 weekend (junior & senior rates available), golfdc.com
Columbia Country Club – #16 – Par 3, 163 yards
Located just north of Washington in Chevy Chase, Columbia Country Club features rolling hills that house several wonderful holes, but the most notable is the par-3 16th. The short iron tee shot is reminiscent of the famous 12th at Augusta, with multiple tee boxes, some need to be reached by steps. Be aware that your tee shot will need to negotiate around a glistening pond and a bunker protecting the front right of the long, narrow green, surrounded by pine trees, azaleas and rhododendrons.
Members only, columbiacc.org
East Potomac White Course #4 – Par 4, 285 yards
The White Course at East Potomac is a par 34 executive course where good players will find numerous birdie opportunities. While much of the design is limited to up-and-back straightaway holes, the 4th hole manages to be a charming short par 4, perhaps the best type of golf hole. It will yield eagle opportunities to a good tee shot, but miss a little bit and you’ll walk off wondering how you managed to bogey. And if you decide to lay up, but your tee shot veers a little left, there are small, nasty bunkers eager to wreak havoc on your ball. The course is perfect for visitors looking to squeeze in a quick 9 holes. Play time clocks in at about 90 minutes.
18 holes – $16 weekday/$19 weekends (junior & senior rates available), golfdc.com
Robert Trent Jones Golf Club #17 – Par 4, 380 yards
Many golf experts consider the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on Lake Manassas one of the area’s finest courses. Jones, who died in 2000 regarded it highly, alongside Mauna Kea in Hawaii as his masterpieces.
The 17th is a prime example of a hole that doesn’t need to be long to be great, and is considered one of the nation’s classic par-4’s. The hole is dominated by a towering walnut tree 70 yards in front of the green, leaving players in a quandary over choosing which club will keep the ball from getting too close, or opting to enlist a driver to try and carry it. Additionally, the green features several “bays” to keep one-putts to a minimum.
Member-owned, play open to guests of members, rtjgc.com
East Potomac Blue Course #5 – Par 4, 291 yards
The full 18-hole course at East Potomac is an impressive feat of Tetris, as a 6,500-yard course that fits on a postage-stamp-sized piece of property while still offering a fun, challenging experience. The course’s hashtag is #HitTowardTheMonuments, and rightfully so: the views are fantastic, with the Washington Monument offering a great distance target on numerous holes. The 5th hole is a top-notch par 4 where a good tee shot means an easy birdie. But find yourself in the bunker or short-sided and you’ll be glad to escape with par. The Blue Course dates back to 1920 and boasts one of the best 19th holes you’ll find anywhere – the Potomac Grill.
Nine holes – $21 weekday/$24 weekends; 18 holes – $31 weekday/$35 weekends (junior & senior rates available), golfdc.com
Congressional (Blue) #18 – Par 4, 523 yards
Congressional Country Club is one of the most storied golf courses in Washington, and as such also has what is considered the best hole in the area. The 18th hole at Congressional is one of the most challenging holes around and meets all the criteria for greatness. The tee shot requires a drive placed through a narrow opening to a sloping fairway, leading to a green located on a peninsula in the middle of a lake. An approach that strays too far to the right and a tree blocks the way, while a shot off to the left will require flying to the green and risking a water shot.
Members only, ccclub.org
Langston Golf Course #10 – Par 5, 538 yards
The historic Langston Golf Course is a tale of two nines. The front nine meanders by with some nice elevation challenges but overall little intrigue. But the back nine introduces the only water on any golf course inside the city limits – and there’s a lot of it! Winding along and around the Anacostia River, the back nine offers great views and challenging golf, especially if the wind picks up.
Hole 10 is a great par 5, stretching to 538 yards. Long hitters looking to go for the green in two will need to hug the right side of the fairway, but too far right and trees will force a layup. Water and trees punish tee shots that veer too far left, turning a birdie hole into a frustrating double bogey. This hole serves as a fitting introduction to a lovely and challenging back nine.
Nine holes – $18 weekday/$22 weekends; 18 holes – $25 weekday/$32 weekends (junior & senior rates available), golfdc.com
Bull Run Golf Club #13 – Par 4, 414 yards; #14 – Par 5, 546 yards
The 13th hole is one of the toughest at Bull Run, featuring a large pond on the left hand side. While the fairway may seem long and wide, a mis-hit will make the water a factor. The par-5, 14th plays 546 yards from the back tees and requires a tricky approach to find the green, with a slope to the back from the center. Holding the approach is a rare and difficult feat.
Rates vary, golfbullrun.com
Lake Presidential Golf Club #8 – Par 5, 550 yards
The signature hole at Lake Presidential, the 8th, plays alongside the lake up to the point of reaching the green which sits on a small peninsula that juts out into the lake. A narrow, tree-lined fairway slopes along toward the water, with a green guarded by a deep bunker on the right side.
Contact Pro Shop for rates, lakepresidentialgolf.com
Whiskey Creek Golf Club #18 – Par 5, 547 yards
Whiskey Creek’s final hole is a downhill par five that doglegs around an old farmhouse relic before playing over a pond to a well protected green. From the tee, golfers need to make a choice about whether to attack the green in two, or take the safer path down the right side with three shots before finding the green. Down the middle, and one of the chimneys from the relic house will block the next shot. The kidney shaped green has bunkers both in front and behind, so accuracy is a must when shooting for the flag.
Contact Pro Shop for rates, whiskeycreekgolf.com