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The Members Club at Four Streams

Members are first drawn to the idyllic course, but they stay for the fraternal atmosphere at this club outside the Washington beltway

By: Hunki Yun

Appeared in 2010 LINKS Premier Clubs

The genesis of the Members Club at Four Streams goes back decades, to when a pair of teenage golfers would tee it up against each other in junior tournaments in the Washington, D.C., area. Back then, Deane Beman would always get the better of John Stock.

Of course, Stock had no way of knowing that Beman would go on to win two U.S. Amateurs and a British Amateur, not to mention four PGA Tour events, before becoming one of the most powerful men in golf as the commissioner of the PGA Tour.

One of Beman’s main achievements was the development of the network of TPC courses, and one of the first was TPC at Avenel in his hometown. Although it was the host of a tour event since opening in 1986, Avenel received mixed reviews.

Several years later, Stock was evaluating a 300-acre parcel that his family owned northwest of Washington. The former farmland had plenty of interesting topography, was both wooded and open, and had four streams running through it. 

At the time, courses like Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Whiskey Creek Golf Club and Bulle Rock were starting to emerge in the area, filling a need for more golf. Stock not only wanted to join that group, but he also believed that he could build a course that would outshine the creation of his former nemesis.

“I always had it in the back of my mind that this site would make a great course,” says Stock. “And I think that what we built is as good as any in the area.”

Stock is no longer involved on a day-to-day basis with the club that he helped build. But he still comes out regularly to play the Nick Price/Steve Smyers-designed course, even on a cold, gray, windy day in late October. 

Despite being bundled up in a heavy sweater, Stock’s swing is remarkably fluid as he plays the 531-yard 4th hole, a dogleg right that showcases the course’s unique multiple-cloverleaf bunker style. From the tee, it looks as though the dogleg is guarded by dozens of small bunkers. But closer inspection shows that there are only four bunkers, each with numerous nodes that resemble button mushrooms.

The visual effect is intimidating, but Stock expertly manages to avoid all of the hole’s 10 bunkers—although it looks as though there are more than 50—as he makes an easy par. 

“I’m very proud of the club and the course,” he says as he walks to the tee of the 204-yard 5th. “It makes me happy to see so many people enjoying themselves out here.”That Stock is out on such a blustery day could be chalked up to his mania for the game, but that type of zeal is the norm for Four Streams’ members, who took over the club in 2003 from the developer. (Prior to the transaction, the club had been known as Four Streams Golf Club.) Indeed, on a day that would keep most golfers indoors, the course is teeming with members and guests. 

A large part of the allure of Four Streams is the 7,102-yard layout, which is comprised of a series of challenging, fun and diverse holes spread over an everchanging landscape in a semi-rural area far from the suburban sprawl of housing developments, corporate centers and strip malls. 

Despite the relative isolation, the strength of the course has attracted numerous events, including the Middle Atlantic Amateur, Washington Metropolitan Amateur, Maryland State Open and qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open and Amateur.

The course starts with four long holes—a pair of strong par 4s bookended by par 5s—along open land that allows players to use the ground game.

That type of shot is useful on the 477-yard 3rd, where long approaches can take advantage of a right-to-left slope in front of the green to avoid a large bunker guarding the left side of the putting surface.

The back nine begins with a 191-yarder to an elevated green before the longest par 4, the 496-yard 11th, crosses one of the property’s quartet of streams and transitions into a plateau on which the next six holes sit. 

While most of the holes have few trees in play, the 14th through 16th holes sit in a heavily wooded area, giving this threesome a completely different visual element. This stretch also offers two of the most memorable holes: the 236-yard 15th, whose green occupies a majestic site surrounded by tall trees in a natural amphitheater, and the bunkerless 376-yard 16th, which turns sharply to the left, giving longer hitters a chance to cut the dogleg and reach the green.

Located in the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, Four Streams offers members an away-from-it-all golf-sanctuary experience that other clubs in the area can’t match.

“I love that it’s a little farther away,” says Sid Colen, who has been a member since Four Streams’ opening. “It’s a relaxing drive out there as I leave the city, and by the time I turn onto the driveway, I’ve left my stresses behind and I’m ready to tee it up.”

Colen is at the hub of what is perhaps Four Streams’ biggest appeal: the camaraderie. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning, there is a standing match at the club that is akin to the famous Shootout at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida.Three times a week, up to 20 members will show up for “Sid’s Game,” put some money in the pot, throw balls in the air to make teams, play for both the competition and the fraternity, then have lunch in the intimate clubhouse.

“We welcome everybody,” says Colen. “It is a great way to get to know new members in a relaxed atmosphere. There is no snobbery, no airs. Everybody is a regular guy.”

While members of most clubs tend to divide into groups based on common bonds like age, profession or handicap, there are no such boundaries at Four Streams. In fact, Club President Karl Yannes likens the atmosphere to that of the sitcom Cheers—where everybody knows your name.

“We have a bunch of characters, with a diversity of backgrounds and ages,” says Yannes. “But we all get along because we are all of like mind, with the common bond of golf. I have found that people who love golf are open with their ability to bring you in, to want to play with you, to want you to experience what they experience. You just don’t get that kind of camaraderie anywhere else.

“In fact, the membership is so close that they regularly get together away from the course, and they help each other in networking for business, since most are very successful. You’re not looking for that in a golf club, but it has just happened at Four Streams.”

As would be expected of such a tight-knit club, Four Streams doesn’t see the need for oversize physical facilities. The small clubhouse with an open floor plan is plenty enough for fraternal events like “Majors Night,” in which members get together during the week of a major, playing during the afternoon before drafting players for the upcoming event.

The only drawback is that the locker room is a bit small, especially on busy days. According to General Manager Kevin Taylor, PGA, an expansion of the locker room is on the master plan, as is the construction of a permanent teaching center to be used by Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Steve Bosdosh, and the conversion of the Manor House, the original home of the farm that used to occupy the site, into a cottage for use by national members.

One thing that won’t change will be Four Streams’ status as an intimate place that is a second home for members—a quality that even occasional visitors can identify.

At the President’s Gala, at which Yannes was inaugurated as the incoming Club President, the fiancée of a longtime member came over to congratulate him before saying:

“I always lose sight of why Mark likes the club so much. Then I come here and I understand.”

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