Playing Through: Langston Golf Course

Langston Golf Course was named after John Mercer Langston, the first dean of the Howard Law School and the first African-American congressman from Virginia. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #1: Par 5, 472 yards from blue tees, 465 from white tees, 329 from red tees The opening hole is a short, scoreable par 5 that moves right to left. A good drive gives you the chance to reach the green in two. It’s a chance to start your round on a good note before two tougher holes to come. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 4, 395/376/336 A right-to-left par 4, this requires a well-placed drive middle-left on the fairway to ensure a clear approach around the tree line on the right. That can make it play longer, and the raised green is largely blind from the fairway. Four is a very good score. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #3: Par 5, 508/492/432 Perhaps the toughest hole in the District, this three-shot par 5 requires precision. You must take your drive up the left side, or you’ll have no chance to cross the creek on your second shot. You must clear the creek to the base of the hill to have any chance of getting up to the green in three. And steer clear of Joe Louis’ tree, just across the reeds to the left. The famous boxer ruined a round by finding it. In one pro tournament, a player shot 73 — with eight birdies, and a 13 on number 3. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #4: Par 3, 157/157/139 An all-or-nothing par 3 over a valley, the tee shot plays shorter than it looks (mind the sign). A heavily sloped green makes for tough putting, but it’s side and tilted back toward the tee box, so if you can hit it on the fly, your shot should hold. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 4, 350/350/309 The first of three straight scoreable par 4s, you must (again) stay left off the tee to avoid being stuck behind/under the large oak along the right side. A well-placed tee shot leads to a wedge or low iron approach into a small but fairly flat green. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #6: Par 4, 398/358/349 This par 4 angles slightly right to left, with plenty of forgiveness out to the right. A large green accommodates imperfect shots, but can lead to some long putts. Or, you can just play the hole the way our guide Ernie did, driving to about 130 yards out in the left-hand rough, then sticking a nine-iron straight in the bottom of the cup for an eagle. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #7: Par 4, 341/328/246 A straightaway par 4, it is a little tighter than its predecessor. A shot up the left side give you a better angle on the approach and takes the greenside bunker out of play, but risks flirting with the overhanging trees. Perhaps more than any other on the course, the hole you always feel like you should be able to score better than the actual number that ends up on the card. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #8: Par 3, 205/194/186 A long but forgiving par 3, shorter hitters can afford to pull a fairway wood and still hold the green or run a ball up into it. The big putting surface has a decent amount of slope, so good short games are rewarded, whether chipping or putting on the second shot. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 4, 400/388/354 The longest par 4 on the front, don’t try to cut the dogleg right too much, as trees lie beyond the turn, blocking the approach. A tight green is guarded by bunkers on both sides, requiring a well-struck approach to get on in regulation. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Signature Hole Hole #10: Par 5, 538/438/371 The back nine opens with a treacherous shot over nearly 200 yards of water to an angular fairway. A blind approach shot and a heavily guarded green makes this three-shot par 5 a much tougher test than its front-nine counterpart. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
 Hole #11: Par 4, 406/383/347 A scenic view from atop the elevated tee box gives way to a long-ish par 4 that’s tough to fly in two shots with an iron if you miss the fairway. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 4, 444/412/369 A long par 4, it completes the trio of difficult holes that open the back nine. Even with a solid drive, most players will need a fairway wood to reach the putting surface in two shots, where a sloped green awaits. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #13: Par 3, 175/152/120 The second water tee shot, this par 3 changes in nature depending on whether the flag is at the top or the bottom of the heavily-tiered green. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #14: Par 4, 341/305/248 A short par 4, you can be aggressive and try to cut the corner over the traps to the left, as there’s room to miss. If you take a more traditional approach off the tee, you can hit a fairway wood into wedge or low iron range and give yourself a good chance to score. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #15: Par 3, 203/170/130 The last par 3 on the course, you can get yourself in trouble by being too aggressive, as the green falls slowly away from the tee box toward the woods. Better to be short, where you can often bounce a tee shot onto the front and avoid the bunkers on either side. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #16: 540/508/448 A three-shot par 5 coming back toward the clubhouse, with RFK Stadium looming in the backdrop. This hole can play fairly long when the wind picks up, but a wide green sloped back toward the fairway offers a good amount of landing space. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #17: Par 4, 396/340/290 A dogleg left par 4, it can play short with a draw, but can turn much longer if you miss right. A large green is accommodating for approach shots, but can leave some tricky putts. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #18: Par 4, 383/345/312 Slightly narrow par 4 closer with trees on both sides. Huge greenside bunker forces a true approach shot, and several different undulations in the green can leave very different looking putts, depending on pin position. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
The guide: Our guide for the front nine, Ernie Andrews, pulls his ball from the 6th hole after sinking a 130-yard eagle on the fly. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
A warning: The tee shot at #4 can appear much longer than it actually is. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (wTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The damage: Jake notched his best ever score, a 105, despite blowing up the third hole. I found myself stuck in my high-80s summer rut, tossing a perfectly decent front nine with a 46 on the back. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
(1/22)

WASHINGTON — Living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Langston has become something of a home course for me. It’s more challenging than East Potomac’s Blue Course, as a somewhat pedestrian front nine gives way to a dynamic and difficult back nine that includes two shots over Anacostia River tributaries and away from the bustle of the city.

Perhaps the aspect of Langston that stands out the most as a public course is its extensive practice facility, which includes four very different chipping greens in addition to the putting green, allowing players to work on any number of different short game shots. There’s also a full range across the bridge along Benning Road over by the beginning of the back nine with more than 30 uncovered bays. It’s not heated or lighted like East Potomac, but prices are better.

The greens tend to be a little slower, like most munis, but they putt true. When the weather is best in the spring and fall, the course conditions are usually solid, though the burnout in the summer can leave some rough patches on a couple of the front nine fairways. National parkland restrictions limit what the superintendents can do to the grounds. The cart paths could use repaving, but it’s a great course to walk anyway.

Our guide, club pro Ernie Andrews, played with us for the front nine. Andrews has been at Langston most of his life, leading GM Melva Ellis to call him “the Governor of Langston.” Not only does Andrews own a share of the course record (63 on the par 72), he also takes the next generation of golfers under his wing, serving as a mentor as they learn the game. He shared some of the history of the course, like the Joe Louis tree on the difficult par 5 third hole, so named because the champion boxer hit his way into it on the way to posting a high number.

Langston opened in 1939 as one of just 20 in the United States to allow people of color to play, and expanded to its full 18-hole format in 1955, the back nine stretching onto Kingman Island. Over the years it’s been threatened by closures and even looked like the potential site to build a replacement stadium for RFK. But it has survived, and now provides an affordable, quality challenge and a true departure from the bustle of the city, teeming with wildlife ranging from geese, to red foxes, to turtles.

“This golf course is about the best layout in the D.C. area,” says Ellis.

It’s hard to disagree.

Jake’s Take

Langston is a wonderful golf course. It’s a hidden gem that you must play, and I’m not telling you this because I shot my best score to date (105). It’s really great playing a round in the middle of the city and having RFK, the D.C. streetcar and Metro in the backdrop.

However, everything wasn’t great during the round — I had my signature blow up hole, which is as common as my beloved Philadelphia Eagles disappointing me every football season. I scored a legitimate 10 on hole 3, a par 5. It’s rated the toughest hole on the course. I felt like using my ‘hand-wedge’ just to get on the elevated green. That being said, it was a fun challenge, even though my scorecard would beg to differ.

For the casual golfer like myself it’s a great course to play, because there’s a lot of open fairway for the majority of the holes. Putting was difficult, but that had a lot to do with the person holding the putter. I’ll definitely be back.

Dates and Rates

Dates: Open year-round

Rates: Mon-Thu, 9 holes $18, 18 holes $25

Fri-Sun & Holidays, 9 holes $22, 18 holes $32

Seniors: $13/$18

Juniors: $5/$10

Specials

Twilight rates

Quickgolf: Option to play just a few holes at a discounted rate late in the day. Rates/times vary based on sunset time.

Food/Drink

Full grill in clubhouse with extensive menu, great value

Cart on course on weekend only, along with basic grill at 8th tee box.

Pace of play

Our round: 3:50

3:15-3:30 if wide open

4-4:30 on weekends

Dress Code

Shirts need sleeves; shorts OK

Directions

Address: 2600 Benning Road NE, Washington

Langston is easily accessible off the Benning Road exit from I-295. If you are traveling through the city, you can take H Street and continue onto Benning Road, following the Streetcar to the end of the line, which is right at the course entrance.

Flip through the slides above to make your way through the course, and we’ll see you back here next month as we head out to Poolesville Golf Course.

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