Before we begin, let me clarify that I am not trained in the architectural arts, nor am I a golf historian. If you’ve stumbled upon this website in search of either of those noble pursuits let me direct you to two of my favorites: www.thefriedegg.com for all your golf architectural needs and www.sugarloafsocialclub.com for those with a desire to uncover a deeper beauty and enjoyment of the game (their beautiful words).
I am merely a golfer sharing my experience.
I stumbled upon East Potomac last summer. I was visiting Washington DC with my family and wanted to check off the ever elusive District from my golf bucket list. I also wanted to play a course that would enable me to get out early and still be back in time to see the sights with my family. East Potomac fit the bill.
East Potomac, a property that dates back to the roaring 20s, is a true municipal golf course. It is a 36-hole facility with one full 18 and two 9-hole courses aptly named: Red, White, and Blue. I played the Blue, the 18-hole course. But before we get to the experience, let's back up a bit.
As I said, I was visiting DC and like most tourists I posted a few pictures. That prompted my college roommate to comment on one, "You know I live in Virginia right?" Embarrassingly, I had failed to reach out to him. How could I make this up? The answer: Golf! It was meant to be. We were scheduled to meet the next day at Potomac.
I had hoped to meet up with an esteemed Sugarloafer as well but due to some clerical errors on my part I managed to bungle the tee time and accidentally booked a twosome. Rain check Mr. Lewis!
I was a stone’s throw from Union Station so strolled over to get a morning cup of bean and hail a taxi (I’m from Alaska, we don’t Über). I felt like one of those big city golfers strolling through the morning madness with a golf bag slung over my shoulder.
“Heading to work? Me? No, no, I’m golfing, hence the golfing bag for golf.”
A short cab ride and I was removed, only slightly, from the hustle and the bustle of our nation’s capital.
Upon arrival, I checked out the unassuming pro shop, paid my fee, got my tokens, and headed to the range. Like many municipal courses the East Potomac range was robust, built to serve a lot of golfers (100 bays) day in day out. I got my bucket, my hitting bay and warmed up. The well worn flags made it difficult to discern the color-yardage combinations but I wasn’t there to dial anything in, just get the juices flowing.
After a few putts I met up with college roommate, 20 years removed from the summer we first met at Notre Dame (Carroll Hall to be exact). I recall it was a similarly humid day. As Mike and I queued up at the first tee we reminisced and made vague disparaging remarks about the state of our golf games so as to set a low bar for what was about to take place. The starter warned us of slow play but that was to be expected.
We met the twosome we were paired with, a young local couple looking to get in a nice morning walk and hit at least 100 golf shots each while they were at it.
After a brief delay due to some breakfast balls for the group ahead of us we were on our way.
I explored the space by firing a drive into the 18th fairway. You got to take a sneak peak at that finishing hole, right? As if on cue a fox, similar to the one gracing the scorecard, sprinted across the fairway. We were in a National Park after all.
The course itself proved pleasantly walkable despite the humid conditions. (Disclaimer: I am an Alaskan, we don’t do humidity...or heat...or any combination thereof) The green to tee box proximity and the flat terrain made it a simple stroll.
One of my favorite areas of the course was the confluence of the 3rd green, 4th and 16th tee boxes, and the 15th green. Two of these four holes are par 3s creating a rather busy corridor filled with camaraderie, not combativeness, a sense that we were all there for the same reason, to enjoy golf.
Holes 8, 9, 16, 17, and 18 all have great views of the Washington monument. Correct line or not, start your ball at the monument and let it draw, fade, hook, or slice toward the fairway/flag. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.
If I got one mulligan, I’d take it at the short par 4 5th. Measuring 291 from the tips it doesn’t seem like much, but an errant tee shot made this hole much harder than it needed to be. Just give me another chance!
The back nine has a short par 4 as well. With a ghost tree protecting the green front left, the 10th requires a well directed drive leaving you a wedge into the green.
The back nine meanders through thicker tree-lined fairways and once you reach the 14th green it’s time to head home, Monument bound. That day the last four holes were into a breeze that stiffened as the day progressed. Mike and I limped home with smiles on our faces. In the end it proved be a perfect backdrop for catching up with a good friend and enjoying golf.
A destination course it is not, but the experience was well worth the price of admission. I don’t have the architectural acumen to delve too deep but this course spoke more to what it once was and what it could be again. As I reached the clubhouse I looked around and saw beginners, juniors, fathers and their children, friends young and old. I saw a community enjoy their course, everything a municipal course should be.