The Nation’s Capital and its surrounding suburbs are not usually thought of as a golf destination, a major mistake for anyone also coming to town to visit the museums, monuments, and major power points of the federal government.
The Washington area has a rich golf history. Congressional Country Club in Potomac, Md., has staged three U.S. Opens, the 1976 PGA Championship, and a number of PGA Tour events. Nearby Bethesda Country Club has been the site of four LPGA Championships. Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., hosted the first two Presidents Cup matches. And all-male Burning Tree has been a popular ultra-private playground for many past presidents and power brokers.
If you can manage to wangle an invitation to any of those exclusive clubs, have at it. But there are other challenging public venues all around the famous Washington beltway, and a few miles beyond.
MORNING: There are three courses, all public, within D.C.-proper boundaries. The best is historic Langston, opened in 1939 to accommodate African-American golfers barred from segregated courses. Lunch at the snack bar on a half-smoked sausage. Or two.
AFTERNOON: Still in D.C. is East Potomac Park, along a stretch known as Hains Point, wide open and flat, offering an easy, scenic walk.
OFF-COURSE OPTION: Numerous great museums line the National Mall. Newest is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the shadow of the Washington Monument; be sure to call ahead to reserve tickets.
EVENING: Georgetown has fabulous dining and boutique shopping options. Clyde’s on M Street offers generous pours and heaping helpings. You can’t go wrong with the crab cakes.
MORNING: Tree-lined Northwest Park in Silver Spring, Md., stretches to 7,100 yards, with expansive greens and unusually lush fairways. It’s so good, the USGA will use it as a qualifying venue for the 2017 U.S. Open.
AFTERNOON: Back in D.C., lunch at Chads on upper Wisconsin Avenue, where you might catch a glimpse of the new owners, ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and TV host Maury Povich.
OFF-COURSE OPTION: The National Zoo, less than a mile from the restaurant, has a world-class menagerie, including the ever-popular pandas.
EVENING: One of the best steaks in town is served at The Palm. Lots of politicians, media types, and lobbyists are regulars. Check out the caricatures of prominent
patrons on the walls.
MORNING: In the Virginia suburbs is Potomac Shores, in Dumfries, a tough but eminently playable Nicklaus design. The Potomac River is visible from several holes, but you’ll be too busy trying to avoid the tall trees. Stick around for a fine lunch in the clubhouse.
AFTERNOON: The nearby Laurel Hill Golf Club is on land that formerly housed the local jail. The prison is long gone, and the property is visually stunning.
OFF-COURSE OPTION: Tours of the White House can be arranged through the office of your Congressman. Don’t expect to see the president, however; he also likes to play golf.
EVENING: Cactus Cantina on Wisconsin Avenue is the most popular Mexican restaurant in town. Order the margaritas by the pitcher; the fajitas come with sizzle and plenty of salsa.
MORNING: In magical Middleburg, in Virginia horse country an hour from D.C., is Salamander Resort & Spa, which has a reciprocal agreement with nearby Creighton Farms Golf Club. It’s a sweeping Nicklaus design, with a world-class practice area.
AFTERNOON: Five miles down Route 15, Bull Run Golf Club is almost in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains. If time is tight, play the front side and try to drive the 356-yard, downhill 8th hole.
OFF-COURSE OPTION: Salamander’s full-service spa can give you a “golf ball massage” and the outdoor heated pool is open 365 days a year.
EVENING: Middleburg dates back to the 18th Century and is filled with shops, including a vast antique center. Dine at the Red Fox Inn, established in 1728, and try the peanut soup.