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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ask 10 local players the most scenic golf courses in the Washington, D.C. area, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.
In a diverse city, the public golf options are appropriately varied. There are majestic mountain courses and others set on the banks of rivers or the Chesapeake Bay. There are traditional, tree-lined classics and windswept courses on cleared farmland. Want to play a course that is uniquely D.C., with landmarks and monuments at which to fire? These are all available within an hour of the Beltway.
Here are 10 to consider, with an emphasis on selecting courses from a variety of locales, natural settings and price ranges …
Little Bennett Golf Course
Overshadowed by nearby P.B. Dye Golf Club, Little Bennett Golf Course in Clarksburg, Md., delivers comparable views at nearly half the price.
The 18-year-old muni has flaws but remains an under-the-radar gem because of its idyllic mountain setting. The par-4 finishing holes to both nines play over the same ravine, toward the ideally situated clubhouse. The downhill third plays straight at Sugarloaf Mountain.
Another reason to visit Little Bennett: its lengthy, all-grass driving range.
East Potomac Golf Course
No Washington-area course has a clientele as diverse as this relaxed, inexpensive, minimally maintained National Park Service municipal course.
Set on a man-made island in the Potomac River, East Potomac Golf Course’s allure is its unique location.
Cool views of the river, Washington Monument, D.C. Waterfront, Fort McNair and Reagan National are the redeeming features and why private developers have long attempted to acquire East Potomac and bring it to its enormous potential.
Renditions Golf Club
Though built on an unremarkable piece of land, Renditions Golf Club delivers great scenery by brilliantly replicating classic holes in golf’s past — Amen Corner at Augusta National, the church-pew bunkers at Oakmont, the island green at TPC Sawgrass and three fascinating holes from courses in the British Open rota.
Few public courses can match the stellar conditions at Renditions or the memorable clubhouse.
Virginia National Golf Club
Virginia National Golf Club is so far off the beaten path in Bluemont, Va., you’ll swear you took a wrong turn.
Once there, it’s easy to see why this course, along the Shenandoah River, makes the list. Conditions are often disappointing, but the views are unparalleled. At the signature 14th, take in the river below, the Shenandoah Valley beyond and the Allegheny Mountains in the distance.
This is panoramic perfection; a singular view unmatched by no other course in Northern Virginia.
Bull Run Country Club
Too many nearby homes is not a problem at Bull Run Country Club, which sits isolated from development on the foothills of the Bull Run Mountains.
The Rick Jacobson-designed course suffered in recent years but has been restored to its past glory by Raspberry Golf Management. Both nines have great risk-reward finishers.
Musket Ridge Golf Club
Any of the stellar daily fee courses in Frederick County could have made this list. But Musket Ridge Golf Club stands out because it sits atop a mountain ridge, with more long-distance views of the Catoctin Mountains.
Designer Joe Lee called Musket the best piece of property he ever worked on.
Lake Presidential Golf Club
Prince George’s County, to the east of the District, is full of worn-out, pedestrian public courses. The exception is dramatic, immaculate, upscale Lake Presidential Golf Club.
The sparse, bunker-less green at No. 11 feels like you’re at Augusta. The rest of the back nine is full of elevation change and thrilling, tree-lined beauty. Both nines finish with intimidating tee shots over water — a nice pair of signature holes by which to remember Lake Presidential.
The best 36-hole public facility in the area sits at the confluence of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay, seamlessly incorporating ponds, wetlands, hardwood stands and jaw-dropping water views.
The greens fee is hefty for Queenstown Harbor, a course located 15 minutes beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. But the scenery is unmatched.
Queenstown Harbor’s River Course is the star attraction. The shorter Lakes Course, with more of a parkland feel, remains a strong complement.
Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Upscale gem Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club transforms sleepy Front Royal into a legitimate golf destination.
Seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains stretch out on the horizon on the first hole lets you know immediately that you’re in for a spectacular ride on a big-boy course.
Swan Point Yacht & Country Club
Swan Point Yacht & Country Club, an out-of-the-way course in an area where there’s little competition, is worth the trip down Route 301 into Charles County.
An intriguing mix of marshland and woodland on the banks of the Potomac River makes for a great mix of uniquely beautiful holes. On the tee on the signature 12th hole — one of the most photographed in the state — cattails 8-12-feet high obscure the view of the green.