Dear PoP

Old Soldier’s Home Driving Range, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Hey Prince…long time reader, first time with a question!

I was curious about the Old Soldier’s Home Golf Course. Is it completely cut off from the public? I have lived right next to it since I moved to DC and hardly ever see anyone on it (compared to a real golf course, certainly). I just got back into golf and would love to have a course so close!


Dear Geoff,

You have discovered one of the greatest secrets of Petworth – we have our own golf course! You are in luck. You have to be a member but luckily memberships are open to the public. I was a member a few years ago but then I started blogging and I wasn’t golfing enough so I let my membership lapse. Back then dues were $300 a year but now I think dues are $400 or so, which is pretty damn cheap when it comes to golf memberships. You can find more info here. It is a nine hole course that is mix of par 3s and 4s. I never once had to wait for a tee time when I was a member. Veterans of the Old Soldiers Home are frequently golfing as well. That is a huge perk. They are unbelievably nice and hella good golfers. Funny story: I was golfing with a buddy of mine and this 80 year old woman veteran was in the group ahead of us. So I said to my buddy, Oh lord, this is going to be a long day. Meanwhile she hit every single shot dead straight 100 yards. While I spent half my time in the trees looking for my horrible shots. Just goes to show you. If you do become a member, you can take guests along with you and the cost is only about $15 or $20 for the guest. And there is a driving range too! So all in all this a great benefit. Just become a member. You can call (202) 730-3050 to find out how.


35 Comment

  • Wow, this is cool! $400 is a lot for how little I golf, but it makes me feel better to know that this huge expanse of land in our neighborhood actually can be somewhat used by the public* instead of just being a void to the community.

    * public as defined as members of a private golf course…. yeah

  • OMG I can’t believe it. I live right next to it too and never knew. I could be golfing there all the time. what da ya know.

  • That is great! I always assumed it was closed to the public (the US Property- Keep out signs on the fence did it). Now if I could just also get a plot in their little community garden…

  • you and me both, tara. i always look at those plots longingly on my bike rides…

  • We tried to join but they keep loosing our application. I think the fact that we’ve been working to re-open the gardens to the public has something to do with it.

    In case no-one knows, last Thursday the NCPC approved 4.5 million square feet of development at the Old Sodliers Home (over near Michigan and North Capital). NCPC was leaning toward requiring AFRH work with – just work with – the community on opening the land in the picture above to the public as mitigation for the traffic, decreased greenspace, etc but Tim Cox decided that he did not want to work with the community on anything and took the proposal for that part of the plan off the table. What a d*k thing to do. The only good thing about that is if they ever want to develope that land it will have to go thru the entire process again.


  • On a serious note. wouldnt this much greenspace be better put to use as a park for all the thousands of surrounding residents then as a 9 hole golf course for the handfull of people that golf. especially with the golf course right up 16th in rock creek? There can never be too much greenspace in a city and what greenspace there is should be open to all.

  • I love that there’s a golf course so close with fairly cheap membership – but I do agree that an open park would be enticing for more people. It would be great to keep the driving range though.

  • are you forgetting about the people who reside there? maybe that golf course is something they really enjoy.

  • continued..10:45 sometimes the attitude of the posts here is highly annoying i.want the green space I’ll have it and leave the old folks who haved put themself at risk serving their country a driving range! very very nice

  • Who is going to maintain the greenspace? No one maintains any of the greenspace that exsists? Who is going to police it? Often times green space we have is used to deal drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I love parks and open space, but they have to come with maintenance plans, policing plans and dedicated funding. I draw attention to the Raymond Recreation Center. My wife and I played tennis there recently. We found the place strewn with garbage broken glass, the fences had holes in them. People use the courts as short cuts. A couple ofpeople actually walked through our game. There were people dealing drugs at the bathrooms. This is what green space becomes in this city. Careful what you wish for. I would rather the AFRC be either kept as it or devolped as planned. Sorry. It would suffer the tragedy of the commons if it were turned to open space with out serious planning and funding.

  • What we need is a FROLF

  • ….frolf course

  • Amen, Anon 10:49….I mean we’re all selfish to some extent, but c’mon. I guarantee that plenty of vets use that course and really enjoy it. DC actually has a good deal of green space…let the vets have their golf course.

    Next thing you know, commenters will be calling for more veggie options at the golf course clubhouse.

  • Steve, who do you think is paying for the upkeep and policing of the golf course now? same people that would be paying if it were a park. Anyone who lives near here knows that this course gets very little use. It makes no sense for a city the size of DC to have as many golf courses as it does in the first place. Rock Creek Golf Course, Haines Point, Benning Road, Armed Forces, might even be another but i can’t recall. It is just not an adequate use of space. Acres of land for the enjoyment of few in a city of 600,000. It is also a shame that all the residents in these fairly dense neighborhoods right in central dc have such enticing greenspaces that are all fenced off whether it be the resevoir and catacombs or the AFRH grounds.

  • Uh – the people paying of upkeep of the golf course are enlisted soldiers, NCOs and members who pay the fee. Not you and not me. The AFRA police patrols the the place. Again paid for by the above. There is a reason there is a 10 foot security fence around the place. Now, I do think that the AFRC should consider selling memberships to folks who want to walk their dogs, jog, walk, play frisbee, etc. It could be a minimal fee, but one that contributes to the upkeep. Until the city can demonstrate that the public will use the existing parks and an ability to maintain and police the public greenspace it has, I see no reason to add to the misery. Take a walk over to the Rayomon Rec Center this weekend. Check out the park at Military and Georgia. As far as I can tell only the homeless and drug gangs use those parks, They are strewn with litter and have not seen maintenance in years.

  • If its developed the vets loose their driving range, if its maintained as public greenspace both the vets and community get what they need, and the golf coarse stays. None of this matters now because its not going to be developed now (thank God). Additionally, urban planners recommend 4.5 acres of greenspace per 10,000 residents for cities. Most cities average 8 acres, but this area avergages 2.2 acres making it an infrastructure issue and necessity.

    All arguments about “who will maintain”, or “green space goes to hell” in the district really are not valid. There are a lot of very nice parks in the district. Again, none of this matters because the development of that area has been pulled off the table.

  • Cliff – greenspace goes to hell arguments are vaild. If we want parks for public use, we should expect them to be maintained and poicled, which is not done now – even for as you point out – for a small area for the population. I should not have to fead a needle stick when playing tennis, nor should I see drug deals going down. I have never, once heard the proponents of greenspace on this blog argue for maintaining the parks we have. They are in a shameful state.

  • I think there are some misconceptions going on. Is this a government facility or a private facility? It has a .gov web address. But it appears to operate as a private entity. When they sell and develop the land where is that money going? I think people look at it as government owned and thus get angry the land isn’t open to the public. If they aren’t getting a dime of tax payer money than I don’t see much recourse. Although my guess is they don’t pay taxes on all that property.

  • Thanks for the info, PoP and those leaving comments. A couple of you said you either had a membership or tried to get one. I’m curious if they would let you try out the course if you went over there and said you wanted to become a member. A little shady, sure, but I do want to see the course before deciding if I want to spend the cash to join. Just a thought…

  • It’s a goverment facility financed by donations from military personnel. When land is sold, or in this cased leased, it goes to upkeep of the facilities for the vets who live there. There is little to no taxpayer dollars. It is Federal poperty and as such is subject to the National Enviornmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. So you have plenty of recourse within the framework of the public particiption aspects of those laws. Also since the facility is within the city the National Capitol Planning Commission has some jurisdiction over approving the master plan, and they take public input very seriously.

    The goal behind the enhanced use lease of unused property is to ensure a cash follow to maintain this facility as well as the facility in Gulfport that was nearly destroyed by Katrina.

  • I think a very easy compromise that would make many people happy would be to “lease” the land bordering petworth as a public park space. with the ponds and walking trails it would be a huge assest to the neighborhood. Develope the land on north capital and keep the golf course. everyone wins. Maybe put in a ferris wheel and some put-put and call it a day

  • Steve – I don’t know where you live, but I’ve not seen these conditions you speak of. A good example is Fort Totten – it is very clean, well maintained, safe, etc. With your point of view we should just close all parks – and I’d support that is the conditions you speak of were the norm.

    AFRH DOES get public money. Just last youer they got 500 million of our tax dollars. Additionally, they do not get a regular appropriation but they do get them yearly. Its a myth that only vets pay for the facility.

    Plus, we are talking about a park if the AFRH sells the land. When it sells, its no longer federally owned land – but private – and we citizens have a right to say how that land should be used, especially because it was open to the public until the 1960’s and every planning doc in the District refers to this land as Park View and Petworths open space.

    You sound like somebody who works for Tim Cox, I’m curious if you live in the neighborhood?

  • There is a federal appropriation of $63 million requested for FY09, but this is for both the DC AFRH, as well as the other located in Mississippi. Much of this is for operations, though about $8 million is for construction. in 2006, there was a large federal appropriation for the reconstruction of the MS home, which was hit hard by Katrina. The remainder of the budget comes, as Steve noted, from voluntary contributions from solider, sailor and airmen’s paychecks. Those contributions have been falling, and the costs of operations have increased, leading to the AFRH redevelopment scheme, intended to bring in new money for the retirement home.

    I for one am happy that, oh, say, $0.20 of my tax dollars goes to the AFRH.

    And, no, I do not know Tim Cox or support his ivory tower, anti-community input, anti-community-integration efforts for the AFRH development. Just someone who chooses to google the answers before flaming others on the blog.

  • I do live in the neighborhood, in fact I live right across the street from Ft Totten. Its a great park, well maintained by the US Park service. They mow at least once a week and pick up garbage at least 3 times aweek, though enough crap gets strewn daily to do it daily. Metro, US Park Police, and MDP patrol it a great deal is it has had crime problems. I hope the Park Service can continue its work, but with half a billion in defered mainenance on the mall, we can only hope. I wish DC would take care of its property the sameway. As I said it would be great to have open space, but it has a cost and the city is not committed to that cost – e.i. maintaining and patroling its parkland. I suggest you visit the Raymond Rec Center to see how the city maintains it’s property. I would rather the city not receive more responsibility, until the we can get it to care for what we have. As I said, my honest preference would be to AFRHA remaing behind the fence and be able to use it through user fees.

    Not sure where you get your $500 Million number. AFRH relies on a trust fund that comes from contributions from enlisted and service members for operational costs. The operationing budget from that trust fund IS an appropriation (for FY 2008, it was $55 million), but they are NOT tax dollars it come from the Trust Fund. They may get tax dollar apporpriations for consturction and improvements in the DOD buget (they receive $5million last year – and may have received some for demolition of the Gulfport facility), but not to the tune of $500 million – with that they could completly modernize the campus and hang on thier land.

  • Just as a minor clarification:
    > It’s a goverment [sic] facility financed by donations from military personnel.

    Enlisted members and Warrant Officers of all services (i.e., those who are eligible to someday eventually use the facility) pay a required fee out of every pay check to support the AFRH. I think it’s only a buck or so, but it’s not a donation.

  • Sherman – I was not flamming anyone, just asking questions…and Steve my numbers are correct as I have the letters from Trent Lot to prove it (googling can be full of errors). Additionally, I am very glad my tax dollars go to the home just object to being told at the public hearing last week that they did not, and that I had no right to ask for zone C to be a public park. I love you private membership idea, but I do not think they would be open to it.

    What do you think of the Adams Mill Rd park (don’t know the name) or what about the park off of Uprsure and 14th…they are city maintained and I think pretty awsome.

  • Cliff, you should read the appropriation for FY 2008. (Its on page 53 line 12 - It is $55 milllion and it comes from the trust fund, which is an appropriation from the Trust Fund. I work with Federal budgets and Appropriations. No I don’t work of Cox, I would for a Federal Agnecy I would rather not mention. $500 million is a lot of money and could complety rebuild both the DC and Gulfport sites and obviate any need for the enhanced use lease.

    The Adams Mill Rd Park is nice, but it is in a much nicer neighborhood. The Upshur and 14th Park could use some work…like grass on the playing fields.

  • True, google isn’t perfect, but I used the AFRH budget submission to Congress, which has its budget history back to 1992. I am pretty sure that there numbers are correct, regardless of what fmr. Sen. Lott may have put in a letter. See here:

    Based on the general opinion of Tim Cox and the manner in which he has gone about dealing with the AFRH development, blindly associating someone with him could be seen as flaming.

  • “I’m curious if they would let you try out the course if you went over there and said you wanted to become a member. ”

    Of course they will. Nobody in his/her right mind would sign up without checking out the course.

  • The guards and course staff are generally welcoming of visitors once you let them know you’re interested in looking at the course. At least they were when I did it a year or two ago.

  • I really wish they would let you jog around the campus. There is almost no vehicle traffic and there are lots of roads to run on. I would seriously pay a small fee for that privilege!

    How do they admit golf members? Do you get an id card or something?

  • I called over there this weekend. The guys at the course were really friendly and invited me to come down anytime during daylight for a tour of the facilities and details of membership.

    The course is open to the public but you have to pay to be a member or play as the guest of a member. The current cost is $450. You also are required to do community service at the site and defining what you are going to do is part of the application process.

    Considering that that includes unlimited free golf for the year, it’s a pretty good deal. Compare that to joining any other course in the Beltway and you’re saving $20k-100k in initiation fee and $200-400/month and it really looks nice. It’s a small, short course though. I would guess the community service requirement would get a lot of the posters but it’s working with retired vets so that should be reasonably rewarding.

  • I just called today, 7/9/2009, and the fee is now $550. Not sure about a community service requirement; I didn’t hear anything about it on the phone. Once you’re a member, you can invite guests to play with you for $25/18 holes on weekends.

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