The busiest travel hubs in the United States are surrounded by plenty of great golf. Here are 5 great courses, 4 signature holes, 3 tourism highlights, 2 great lodging bases and 1 dining hotspot in (or within 60 miles of an International Airport in) Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital. Fly in. Stay and play. Fly out.
Washington D.C. (combined with Baltimore) is the 19th-busiest travel hub in the United States, a surprising fact to me considering it is our nation’s capital and I’d imagine a billion people visit there during the summer. It always seems like the National Mall is that busy. You really shouldn’t come here to golf without also taking the time to pay your respects to our history.
AIRPORTS: Ronald Reagan Washington “The National” (DCA), Dulles International (IAD) and Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)
5 Great Golf Courses
- Whiskey Creek Golf Club (45.3 miles from DCA) Opened in 2000, this Ernie Els and Mike Poellot design is worth venturing a bit out of the city for.
- Potomac Shores Golf Club (38.1 miles from IAD) This Troon-operated Jack Nicklaus Signature course is an award-winner that took way too many years to build, but only one round to appreciate. I’ve played it several times and would play it on every visit. Makes a great 36-hole day with Laurel Hill.
- Bulle Rock (48.2 miles from BWI in Havre de Grace) – Lets say you end up in Baltimore instead of Washington D.C. by mistake (or for business) and really want to play something great. Bulle Rock has gone through some tough ownership times (WAY overpriced) but NOW it’s a steal—a Top 100 round available at incredibly low rates. Thankfully someone pulled their head out of…well…thank you to whoever saved this great (difficult) Pete Dye golf course. And if you’ve never met Damon Klepczynski, he’s a high-quality dude—and Bulle Rock is well positioned for the future in his excellent management hands.
- Laurel Hill Golf Club (26.5 miles from IAD in Lorton, VA) The current property is a whole lot prettier than when it hosted the DC Department of Corrections facility. Bill Love and Matt Lohmann really made a terrible place awesome—a “Prison turned Sanctuary” as one writer said.
- Renditions Golf Club (28.0 miles from DCA in Davidsonville, MD): Arguably the most fun round of golf in the entire DC metro, David D. Edsall’s (2002) course IS admittedly a “replica” course, with featured holes from US Open and PGA Championship courses, as well as The Masters and whatever that other Major is called (just kidding).
4 Signature Golf Holes
- No. 1 at The Golf Club at Lansdowne – Norman Course: Stunning “floating” par 4.
- No. 9 at Potomac Shores: It’s possible there is no prettier hole on the entire East Coast in the colors of the fall than this plummeting par 4.
- No. 13 at The Golf Club at Lansdowne – RTJ Course: Serene downhill par 3 that could be one of the best 18 holes on the East Coast. Five holes before one of America’s worst closing holes (with tons of great golf in between).
- No. 7 at Renditions: You may never get to play Augusta National, but you can mimic a shot at it’s famed 12th hole here on this par 3. Just don’t Jordan Spieth the hole and you’ll be alright.
3 Family Tourism Highlights
You’re probably in D.C. on business or with the family. If you’re one of the 18 million annual visitors and you’ve brought the family these are your three must-sees.
- National Mall: The least popular mall in America on Black Friday is in Washington D.C. — one without stores (for the most part). It’s the National Mall, a historical outlet of fountains, monuments, museums, memorials and the Capitol Building. The Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument highlight a collection of stone tributes to presidents, war veterans and other American heroes, including Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The National Mall also hosts the world’s best Junior Park Ranger program (ideal ages 8-18). Outside every monument there are Ranger Stations with free guides for adults and activity sheets for children. Kids can get their folder stamped at every station and receive Ranger Pins for completing 3-5 activity sheets. (Fun Fact: There are 36 columns around the Lincoln Memorial.) For many, the highlight of the National Mall is also the Mall’s highest point: the top of the Washington Monument. (Note: Free Passes are available for those willing to line up at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street at 7:30 a.m.) Well worth it!
- Arlington National Cemetery: This historical burial ground is also a monumental D.C. stage for living experiences. You can take in the epic elevated panorama of the Capital at John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, where the Eternal Flame has burned for nearly 50 years. You can also witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a World War I memorial established 85 years ago. The magnitude of human loss may be no greater anywhere else in America than it is in Arlington Cemetery.
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: The Smithsonian Institute claims and operates 19 museums in Washington D.C., including the National Zoo. It’s impossible to say which museum is most significant, with Air & Space, American History and the African American History & Culture Museum among the many options, but there’s no question the Museum of Natural History is most popular among families and among kids. The “Night at the Museum” movies helped make these building historically relevant to a new generation. Visiting them makes them unforgettable.
2 Great Lodging Bases
- Lansdowne Resort: Staying at this incredible resort (with an amazing pool complex) in VA grants you access to two superb Troon Prive rounds at The Golf Club at Lansdowne —a Robert Trent Jones course and a Greg Norman course, as well as a short Shark Bite course that is WAY too much fun to pass up! Great driving range too! If you’re looking for a place you can see deer in the D.C. Metro, come here.
- Salamander Resort & Spa: I love everything about Salamander Resorts operations in Florida (Hammock Beach, Innisbrook and Reunion Resort), and while this place in Middleburg, Va. has been booked full both times I’ve tried to stay there, I’ll still recommend it to any golfer coming to the area as a phenomenal stay-and-play destination in that you get access to Jack Nicklaus’s stellar Golf Club at Creighton Farms.
1 Must-Eat Restaurant
- The Skydome Lounge atop the Doubletree by Hilton in Crystal City gives you the best distant D.C. views without the crowds, although the restaurant does get crowded itself for that reason. The food is overpriced but the views are priceless.