The logo says “1894” so you can imagine this place has a real air of tradition about it. The grill room is full of memorabilia of past presidents and dignitaries that have been members and played here-clearly there are deep roots as a Washington golfing institution. Very much in the Columbia Country Club mold, ensconced in an urban, neighborhood setting the golf course is fit tight as a glove into what would now be considered the minimal requirement of acreage for a full length course. A very hilly piece of ground, the holes meander, folded tightly among each other in a serpentine routing that follows no conventional pattern. One is constantly surprised by what comes next until the last hole climbs up the hill to the foot of the resplendent clubhouse perched on the hill-this look is something out of U.S. Open lore.
The yardage of 6100 from the tips is a bit of a fooler-par 70 with two par fives that are in no way full measure 3-shot holes-but five par fours over 400 yards with serious undulation that make them play even longer give the player a stiff challenge. The driving areas are very tight-lots of massive old trees tower over the doglegs making the player very conscious of picking the right angle of approach from the landing area of their drives. The greens are very small-yet segmented and full of slopes built in a time when the green speeds would have allowed it-with today’s mowing they can be disarmingly fast from above the hole so playing shots below the pin on approach is a premium strategy. The small greens mean that pitching and chipping is a big part of the day’s calling-but Ross and Flynn provided plenty of run up space in front of these greens so it is easy to be creative on green side shots.
The three pars play within a two-club range on the distance but I found that the elevation changes, the chance decision of the grounds crew on placement of the tee markers, and any wind at all actually provide a much wider variety of club/shot selection when it comes times playing them. In some ways these short holes and the short par fours are the key to a good scoring round-this is where you cannot stumble, you must make pars and get some good birdie looks to make up for the inevitable double or two you will experience on the longer holes. My strategy is to ignore the tightness of the driving areas and green settings and play full throttle aggressive all day-hit it long off the tee paying good notice to the approach angle to the green and make club choices into the green that will reach the segment of the green that holds the flag. The nickel defense will not protect your scorecard on this course.
An interesting bit of trivia, looking at scorecard they have from 1934 the basic routing and yardage of the course have not changed at all. Despite innumerable renovations, the course maintains it’s original format and that, more than anything else, holds testimony to the genius in this design-it still challenges the golfer at all levels in spite of the current advantage of playing with the latest technological marvels. Small sloped greens are the secret to the competitive longevity of this course-tactical driving and precise iron play is the only way to gain an advantage on this Ross design.
Architect: Donald Ross/William Flynn
Tees Par Rating Slope Yardage
Blue 70 71 130 6128
White 70 69.4 126 5779
(Click to see complete Washington Golf Club hole-by-hole descriptions)