DC’s Three Public Golf Courses to be Improved?

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

From a press release:

“Councilmember Muriel Bowser thanked Eleanor Holmes Norton today for the Congresswoman’s proposal to study the feasibility of improving three federally-owned golf courses in the District of Columbia.

“Congresswoman Holmes Norton is to be applauded for her effort to improve these public facilities,” said Councilmember Bowser. “It’s unfortunate that the courses have been allowed to fall into disrepair. But with the proper federal attention, these courses—Langston, East Potomac, and Rock Creek Park—could become the center of the region’s golf economy.”

The Congresswoman’s proposal comes on the heels of local efforts to improve the three courses. In February, Councilmember Bowser held a hearing on a DC Council bill that called for the transformation of Langston Golf Course into a championship-level golf facility. In March, Ms. Bowser expanded on that vision in a letter to Congresswoman Holmes Norton suggesting that the two leaders work together on the redevelopment of all three golf courses.

Congresswoman Holmes Norton introduced her bill yesterday.”

From Congresswoman Norton’s office:

“The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the feasibility for public-private partnerships to operate the three courses. The bill suggests that one of the courses be transformed into a world-class, tournament-quality course with playing fees commensurate with such courses around the country to help upgrade and sustain the other two courses to the same standards as the best public courses in the country owned by cities, towns, counties and states. Those two courses would retain the same fee structure that exists on the date of enactment of the bill. Norton has been working for years, beginning with a bill in 2007, to reverse the three courses’ long-term slide into deterioration, and to preserve, as she said, “these unique, valuable and historical D.C. attractions for the enjoyment of future generations.”

You can read the full bill here.

For the golfers out there, which of the three is currently your favorite?

26 Comment

  • This is wonderful news, but, Langston is, of the three, the one that should absolutely NOT get more expensive. It serves the southeastern part of the city and has a wonderful group of regulars that either may not be able, or may not be interested in paying the higher fees, even for a better course. In general I support this idea but I wish they would choose one of the other two to make the more expensive one :-/

    • I’m not sure why Bowser’s statement says Langston will be the expensive one, because the release on EHN’s website says:
      The bill suggests that one of the courses be transformed into a world-class, tournament-quality course with playing fees commensurate with such courses around the country to help upgrade and sustain the other two courses to the same standards as the best public courses in the country owned by cities, towns, counties and states.

    • The southeastern part of the city – like every part of this city – is getting more and more expensive. Who knows how much longer the regulars will be able to stay, or choose to stay, in the area. But having said that, many high quality courses offer discounts to residents of the county or state in which the course is located. So whichever course gets upgraded could (and should) give DC residents a discounted rate.

  • I’d say that East Potomac does a pretty good job on the upkeep, and would truly suffer if it were the one chosen. I saw an interview with the head pro a year or two ago on a golf show, where he said that course is the busiest in the country. If you have that many rounds played, with that low of a greens fee, it’s going to take a toll. They do a great job with what they’ve got. Rock Creek, on the other hand, is a truly worthless course without this improvement. Langston does ok, but there are better alternatives for me, as I don’t live near there. I can’t see putting a $3-400 per round course in an area where the staff has to warn you about car break-ins.

  • I only golf a couple times a year but love that we have these options within city limits and wish that they were nicer. I agree with Kelly that Langston should not be the expensive one and it might get the most resistance from regulars to such a change. My favorite is East Potomac Park and while I prefer my golfing cheap, given it’s position on the river with a view of the soon to be revitalized wharf, it makes the most sense to turn that one into a pricey, world-class course.

  • East Potomac (Haines Point) has some fantastic views of the monuments and the capitol. It would be a natural choice for transformation into a championship level course.
    This is a really interesting idea. I look forward to seeing what, if anything, comes of it. I would love to find a high quality golf experience in DC, as opposed to having to drive out to VA or MD.

  • now if only i could find some other female golfers to play with me…serious lack of female golfers in my circles…

    • justinbc

      One of my coworkers participates in a female golfers league, it’s out in VA though. If you like I can post the info here tomorrow.

    • That’s funny. I am a male and 90% of the people I golf with on a regular basis are women. Just happened to stumble into a network of women who golf.
      Go to meetup.com and look up the “NOVA Beginner and Intermediate Golfers” group. Diverse group of folks -at least half women – who get out to play regularly. Vast majority of the outings are in Northern, VA, a few in Maryland.
      Some of my women friends also participate in the local chapters of the Executive Women’s Golf Association.

    • Thanks guys! I’ve checked a few of these out but they all seem to be in MD/VA and also on very expensive courses. I’d love to have a group that would be interested in the DC public courses. Anyone out there?

    • East Potomac has a bunch of women’s stuff. See here: http://golfdc.com/-june-is-womens-golf-month

  • I don’t understand how a densely populated city dedicates so much green space to golf. There are 4 courses including the Old Soldiers Home. This sport sucks up a lot of water, deploys tons of pesticides and fertilizer, is only available to a few users. Improve the courses, I suppose, but a more visionary study would be to look at turning them into something that more people would utilize.

    • and no more dog parks, because not everyone has a dog. and no more playgrounds, because not everyone has kids. and don’t even get me started on city tennis and basketball courts – you know how few people actually play those sports? ugg, and sidewalks that people who drive have to subsidize. and do we really need a national mall – that space could be used so much more effectively.

    • Last time I was at East Potomac, there were two bald eagles, several foxes, and several raccoons on or around the course. The patio outside the clubhouse was filled with non-golfers who biked in and were hanging out drinking beer. There are some benefits to having golf courses beyond just golf.

      • Compared to pavement, they capture rain. But, they are over fertilized and graded to promote runoff, not to conserve water. The run off from all that fertilizer is one reason that the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers are overrun with algae and pollution. I’ve golfed Langston and the algae blooms are obvious.

    • As someone said earlier, East Potomac is one of if not the busiest course in the country. So lots of people are using it. Also, given its location, I am not sure what better use that particular green space could be put to. Will that many more people be using the land if you tear down the course and just turn it into park land? That’s pretty much the only other thing you would be able to do with that property. Same thing with the Rock Creek Park Golf Course. It’s not like the feds are going to allow anyone to throw up luxury condos and retail in the middle of the Rock Creek Park, or on Haines Point for that matter.
      As far as using resources like water, golf courses are on the leading edge of conservation. By necessity, they have become very efficient at capturing and recycling water.

      • We used to take our kids to East Potomac to hit a bucket of balls or play putt-putt (a great course), then eat burgers and go for a swim at the pool. It was a great and inexpensive afternoon of fun. I’ve never played on the actual course, however.

  • As someone who plays Langston regularly, I’m all for improvements. But they should definitely keep fees down for DC residents. NY does this- they have some of the highest ranked state public courses, and they are about half price for residents of the state.

    All that being said, I love Langston for what it is: a no fuss place where nobody takes themselves too seriously. Golf is a brutal sport for amateurs and people learning. Langston is a safe, fun place where one can explore the game.

  • This whole proposal is bizarre. There is no way any of these courses will ever “drive” the local economy. None will become championship courses. Langston and EP are fine how they are. RCP could use some upkeep, but come on… These people are delusional.

    • leftcoastsouthpaw

      You may have misread her quote. She said it could drive the local golf economy. Whatever that may be.

      I do think Haines Point would be the best option with it’s size(It does have one 18 hole and two par 3 courses) and location. It would suck to lose a local course for the couple of years that it will take to transform it into a legitimate course, but it would be worth it in the long run in my mind.

  • Having played them all, Langston is far and away the most interesting to play and the one most suited to being a championship caliber golf course. However, I think that’s a lousy idea and let it be. That place is a slice of life that is quickly going away in our city.

  • I don’t play golf, though I used to caddy for my dad long long ago on the Haines Point course. So can someone explain really what improvements are really needed? I mean, you hit the ball, walk to where it lands and hit it again right? I know the putting greens should be smooth, and I know that a world-class course has tricky bits and swanky clubhouses etc. but isn’t there a need for just a good, affordable nearby course that’s fun to play? I do know people who enjoy all three courses because they are affordable and close in.

    • “you hit the ball, walk to where it lands and hit it again right”
      Well, that’s the simplistic version. But there are some differences in courses. There’s a reason major.tournaments are played at Congressional and not at East Potomac, despite the fact that they both have 18 hole courses. Compared to really good courses, DC public courses are pretty crappy because they aren’t well maintained, not particularly well laid out, and the overall quality is low. Your analogy is like saying “why can’t the Nationals just play at a local DC high school baseball field – it’s 90 feet between bases, regardless of the quality.

      • Bingo. I come from hard-core golf country, and the courses here simply don’t compare. Fine for a recreational weekender, but DC will never be a golf destination or host notable tournaments. This would be done only to give DC residents something to do. I doubt even our friends in the suburbs would venture into the city to golf at these courses.

  • Langston is probably the place most likely to get the money to become “tournament-quality.” Rock Creek is too small. East Potomac is too small, way too dull a layout despite the decent upkeep and too busy anyway. They would have to gut all of their courses to truly transform it into anything approaching “tournament-quality.” And that leaves Langston, which has a genuinely interesting layout, the length likely need to be “tournament-quality” provided they extend some holes and treat it like a par 70, the parking space necessary to handle its improved status, and has major historical ties to racial desegregation and the African-American community in general. In other words, it’s likely practically easier to upgrade it, less expensive, and more “historical.”

  • I play all 3, and each has its own loveliness.

    Change none of them. This dream the council has of building a world class golf course is ridiculous. DC does not need a “world class golf course”.

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