“if we can’t raise $250,000 by December, the golf course will close”

soldiers golf
courtesy AFRH Golf

Ed. Note: We had an interesting discussion about the golf course back in 2009.

“Dear PoPville,

The DOD pulled funding on the golf course on the Armed Forces Retirement Home and told its veteran residents and associate members that if we can’t raise $250,000 by December 2016, the golf course will close.

A group of veteran residents and associate members have banned together to try to raise the funds. Our hope is if we can reach this $250,000 goal in December we can open the course up to more members next season.”

The Washington Post reported:

“But the 128-acre oasis is losing money and senior Defense Department officials are debating whether to stop funding it, according to Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.”

The new AFRH Golf website says:

“Until last year (2015), Golf Course maintenance operations were funded by the AFRH Trust Fund. This is no longer possible. By law, the AFRH, as a government entity, cannot solicit donation… But WE can!

Therefore, we Residents and associated members, through our AFRH-W Golf Club, are seeking donations to continue golf operations throughout the 2017 season while a permanent solution is in the process of being formulated. Without sufficient funds to guarantee the maintenance contract for the 2017 season, our golf course will close permanently after September 30, 2016- terminating our working plans and new membership drives that can support the golf course for the future.

We must produce at least $250,000 by December 15, 2016 to ensure the 2017 golf season.

Your contributions will directly impact all the men and women veterans of our Home, and will be deeply appreciated.”

51 Comment

  • I just can’t get worked up over a golf course closing, especially when there are so many homeless who have nowhere to sleep.

    • So many homeless VETERANS.

    • Unless you’ve taken a vow of poverty, this comment is bound to be pretty hypocritical.

      • exactly. based on this logic we also need to shut down all tennis courts, public pools, playgrounds so we can free up money for homelessness. And then convert all the parks and open space to homeless shelters. I mean its just idle land right?

        • Most parks and open space are public, but this is a gated private community that literally places an enormous wall between Petworth and Brookland. As long as they keep out the neighborhood, i cant really feel bad if they close. I can think of a million better uses of valuable urban space, especially as we continue to experience a housing shortage that is driving prices through the roof.

          • This land will not be repurposed for public use. It will still be government owned land and probably be used for something much less useful (that doesn’t cost as much as a golf course to run). The DoD should fund this course with the intent of charging the proper amount for membership and update to include other profit generating mechanisms to fund the course, i.e. Pro Shop.

      • @Anon X

        Got it. So I’m not allowed to express an opinion about the city I live in, or the homeless situation that my taxes pay for. You must be a joy at parties.

        @say what

        No, that’s not what “this logic” means. Show me where I said we should shut down golf courses? I simply said that I can’t get too worked up over a golf course closing. Please, attribute your editorializations to yourself and leave me out of it.

  • Tried to contact these guys about 5 times this spring about how to join, got the old golf pro who forwarded me to the new pro, who never returned a single email that i sent. Had 4 guys all willing to shell out money to join and got zero in return.

    Pisses me off to hear that they are broke, and in the meantime don’t seem to care much about helping themselves. Especially when the course is more important to the soldiers home residents than it ever would be to me and my yuppie friends.

    • This comment is right on. It’s like these guys are trying to make it fail.

      • This happened to me as well a few years back. I kept asking to join, but no one would ever get back to me.

        • I joined this year and the process was indeed a challenge. They’ve opened up an online waiting list now and if you’re interested in joining in the future, I’d encourage you to sign up. This will also show that there is an untapped market out there as the folks at DoD make a final decision: http://www.afrhgolf.org/membership-waitlist

          In general, I understand that people don’t care as much about this because it’s a golf course and has the air of elitism. The reality is that the long term plan for AFRH is very much uncertain. Many of the buildings on the campus are closed and gated off. It seems, not to be overly blunt, that the Pentagon is waiting for most of the residents to eventually pass on before making a decision about the complex itself.

          If I had to bet, 20 years from now it will be at about the stage McMillan or Walter Reed are now, with housing/retail infill taking place. In the interim, this is a nice, if unspectacular, amenity for both the residents of the complex and the surrounding neighborhood. No reason why we can’t move towards a long-term solution while keeping the course open rather than fencing that off as well and letting it sit fallow.

    • Agreed. Went to inquire about volunteering to caddie for vets on the weekends and never received a call back after leaving my info. Too bad it’s come to this point.

  • My understanding of the AFRH is that it is not at full capacity. One way to open up additional revenue streams would be to allow commissioned officers to also be residents of the AFRH. In doing so, there could be an increase in residents, and as a result revenue, but also an increase in revenue based on the additional contributions of commissioned officers to the AFRH Trust Fund. Currently each enlisted service member, warrant officer, and limited duty officer on active duty contributes $.50 a month to the AFRH Trust Fund. If commissioned officers also contributed to that fund it would realize, based on 2014 numbers, an increase in revenue to the trust of $706,002. Just my $.02 backed up by many years of paying my $.50.

    • ok, picking nits here, but commissioned officers are eligible, but 50.1% of their credible service has to be enlisted. I do agree that AFRHs should totally be opened to those who have most or all of their service as an O.

      • True, good point, I didn’t want to throw out too many details there to confuse people. Maybe we should encourage more servicemembers to support our veterans in the AFRH by getting Article 15s and what not.

    • I was talking to one of the Vets who lives there who mentioned that a number of the buildings on the campus are not used because of the presence of asbestos. Sad because a lot of Vets could use the housing. As a Park View resident, it would be nice to get some more private/public interaction. You could easily charge the public more for the golf course, allow more of the public to garden on the land (for a charge); or open up parts of the park to the public with some kind of corporate underwriter. Even if some of the land abutting North Cap and Irving is one day developed (who knows if and when), there are still huge swaths of the park that sit mostly vacant and unused.

  • Does this affect DCCX going forward?

  • Why don’t they open the course to public membership? That will help their financial issues. Seems stupid to allow a perfectly functional course + infrastructure to rot away.

  • To what end? Clearly thing aren’t going well if a mortgage and property tax free golf course can’t be sustainable run. Sure, raise the 250k for 2017. Then what? At it again next fall? As said above, this sucks mostly for the residents of course, but I just can’t get worked up.

  • they should turn it into a park for everyone to use

  • The AFRH grounds seem like something that could be managed and utilized in ways that benefit the residents and the community. Without compromising the safety and comfort of the residents, perhaps the area could be opened up more to the greater community if we pay some kind of membership fee that gets us access to the gardens, to the roads for jogging or walking, etc., with additional fees for the golf course. I’m thinking of something like the dog walking membership people pay to use Congressional Cemetery. The funds generated could be used to maintain and improve the golf course and other facilities.

  • andy

    please turn this space into needed housing for DC and allow people to play golf elsewhere. thank you.

    • This is not DC property, thank god, if it was it would be have already been looted by our city officials.

      This is DOD property, funded through a trust, and while i understand the need for affordable housing, I don’t think housing the District’s homeless population with our retired veterans appropriately honors their service. Now if there are homeless veterans in need, I see a potential for a compromise there.

      • He said build housing, not homeless shelters. Is living next to non-veterans somehow offensive to veterans?

        • Ill be more clear, if it means DC government taking over a Federal facility, then I am opposed.

          Perhaps i connected the dots too soon, but my comment was against homeless shelters on federal property currently home to veterans, not non-veterans, but you knew that before you decided otherwise.

  • Question
    If they close the course does that mean the land is one step closer to being developed, which is what some at DOD and AFRH have wanted to do for awhile?

    • According to the 2009 thread, which can be found in the link above, there was never any plan to develop the part of the land where the golf course sits. That section of the property is used by the residents of the AFRH for recreational purposes. There is/was a plan to develop another section of the land that is not used by the residents. That plan has not yet been implemented.

  • Membership of the golf course is open to the community — I am a member and I have no military affiliation — but that fact is not well-advertised and, as some folks have noted, it can be hard to get anyone to answer the phone. Clearly, the course has not been well-managed, and that is the first thing that would need to be sorted out if it is going to continue. My understanding is that the current fund raising effort is to allow it to continue operations while a long-term plan is developed and implemented.

    If you are not into golf, this is probably not the cause for you. But, if you like golf and live in the neighborhood, this course is a treasure and you should consider making a donation or otherwise getting involved in the effort to save it. Properly run, this course could be an amazing golf spot in the neighborhood.

    On the issue of opening up the AFRH grounds generally, they already open up the grounds for many, many community events. I was just there this past weekend for a family fun festival, they have on-site community gardens, and there are often bike races and other events on the grounds. Again, publicity is their weak spot.

    • I echo everything in this post. I just became a member this year. I love the convenience of the course — close to where I live and no need for a tee time. I enjoy getting to play with the residents/veterans. I just wish the course was in better shape. It is such a dump right now. I have donated to the cause since I hope they can keep the course open and fix all of the issues. It is a great resource for the residents and the community. Too bad it has been neglected for so long!

    • Golf is perhaps the most land intensive sport on the planet. Land in DC is enormously expensive, and golf is limited to the rich few who can afford it. The middle of DC is an entirely inappropriate setting for such an exclusive sport that prevents so many other things from happening on the land. If left to private forces, this course would never have remained in this location. As such, I am entirely fine seeing it close.

      • Dude, no one who plays on that course – least of all the residents of the AFRH – is rich. In fact, the relatively cheap (but you do get what you pay for) membership fee of the AFRH allows golf to be played there by people other than the “rich few.”
        It’s fun to theorize about all the great things that could be done with that land. But the background rule is that it is held in trust for the exclusive benefit of military retirees and combat veterans. The part of the land where the golf course sits is the part that is used by the residents for recreational purposes. So that’s not being developed. It’s also probably not being opened up to the general public due to concern for the safety of the AFRH residents who use it.
        There have been plans to develop other parts of the property but for whatever reason, those plans have never been implemented. I suspect that developers are a bit circumspect about pouring money into property when all they can get is a long-term ground lease.

  • They could open up the whole park and make it a place for residents to enjoy. People would then be informed about the golf course and will want to join. It’s such a lost opportunity that this beautiful park is still closed! there could be so many creative revenue opportunities and support from the nearby communities if all could enjoy.

  • we are golf members and hardly use it. Its frustrating how mismanaged this entire property is. Its gorgeous and they should passes of sorts to people who just want access to the grounds. Aside from the golf course there is a pond and some nice trails for walking. The city needs to keep this space. The fact that they need 250k just shows that management has been asleep at the wheel for decades. They just opened it up to outside memberships maybe 3 year ago. They should have done that 20 years ago. They should have hosted more events and festivals a decade ago. I keep thinking they need to build an olypic pool on the grounds and charge private pool memberships. A lot of families would pay 1k for a nice, well managed (you know unlike DPR fuckups) for the summer.

    • OMG, can you imagine the outcry if the “gentrifiers” developed a private park that only paying members could access? My head hurts just thinking about the horrors.

    • New member this year. Agree about the mismangement. As was described in some earlier posts, it was a major pain to actually get a membership — multiple phone calls/emails. However, the membership fee is relatively cheap. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The course is in horrible shape. I think there is one maintenance person for the entire course. The course has been deteriorating throughout the summer and the greens have been taken over by weeds. It is almost unplayable. It could be a gem of a little course. It is a shame!

  • I also keep wondering why they don’t partner with schools around DC for a golf program for kids and teens. Get the parents in on the fundraising as well. Its a real treasure to have this property in the middle of the City but like many things run by the Feds, they have no clue what the value is or how to manage it at the local level.

  • On the one hand, $250,000 is a tiny drop in the bucket of DoD spending. On the other hand, the universe of tiny drops adds up to a bucket.
    I’ve been a member of the AFRH golf course for several years. When I joined, it was notoriously picky about membership. I had to fill out an application and it took almost a year to get approved. In fairness, I was warned by the golf pro that it would take that long so it was not a surprise. The course has never been in great shape; the driving range, in particular, has always been terrible. But the membership was relatively cheap (the membership fee was $350/yr and the only thing you paid for was range balls, a cart (if you chose to ride in one) and a small greens fee non-member guests), it’s two blocks from my house, and provides enough variety to make 9 holes of golf interesting. Two years ago the membership fee increased dramatically – like double. And last year a notice was sent that the fee was being increased again and that the course would be closed at the end of September and not reopen until April. And membership fees for the next year had to be paid in advance. So the net result was paying more money for less months of golf. But I went ahead and paid the increased fee in advance, hoping that the course would actually open the following year – which it did. There have been some changes aimed at capturing more revenue. They started strictly enforcing the requirement that you have a pass to get on the premises and the list of pass holders – people who had paid for memberships – was kept at the front gate. And they stopped taking cash payments for anything; every thing requires a credit card. But the condition of the course is still hit or miss, and the tee boxes and driving range are still terrible.
    I get the complaints of the people who tried to join but couldn’t get a returned call. But a missed membership opportunity here or there isn’t why the course is losing money. I suspect a number of folks dropped their membership after the increased fees and decreased golf season. The folks who tried to join but could not get through might have replaced the members lost, but I don’t think this place is making enough in annual operations to be maintained in a way that makes it an attractive option for golfers.
    I could see someone coming in to give this place a major makeover and turn it into a first-class golf facility. Keep free memberships for the AFRH residents but have non-residents pay an annual fee, greens fees, and for range balls. Set up a program to get kids in the community interested in golf. It could easily be done and I think the result would be a draw for people all around DC. But without some kind of angel investment (DoD is not going to pay for this), I don’t see this place continuing to be viable.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      +1. Being involved in the federal contracting process, some of the ludicrous things DoD is spending truckloads of money on makes my head spin. With a seemingly bottomless budget, it seems crazy that they can’t find $250,000 amidst their pocket lint to support this golf course.

    • I’m a member of the course and attended the meeting where they told the members about the $250,000 need for 2016. They said that the previous Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the AFRH wasn’t interested in operating a golf course so he didn’t devote any time or effort to it and let it get to the state it’s in now. But now there’s a new COO who would like to keep the course open. He said he needs the $250,000 to cover the maintenance contract which has to be paid by December 15 in order to buy him time to find a 3rd party golf course operator who could come in and properly operate the course and make the course self-sustainable.

      Anyone interested in joining the course or keeping it open for our retired veterans should donate and put their name on the waitlist: http://www.afrhgolf.org/membership-waitlist

  • tonyr

    If only there was someone out there with golf course experience, who also has worked locally with surplus federal properties. Perhaps this would be a propitious time for him to raise his profile.

  • I suppose this is par for the course, no pun intended, considering how our government takes care of its veterans.

  • I’m glad this Kickstarter appears to be doing quite poorly.