The thermometer hanging outside the barn at Poolesville Golf Course may not have been an accurate measure of the temperature as much as a warning of our scores to come. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
The turf portion of the driving range. There is also a grass area of the range, as well as a 2-acre practice area. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #1: Par 4,389 yards from blue tees, 377 from white tees, 328 from red tees
Those looking for a nice, welcoming opening shot may be in for a rude awakening. This dogleg par 4 is tough to judge distances and angles on the first play. If you’ve got a healthy fade (like I do, sporadically), the natural shape can play into your hands.
Hole #2: Par 5, 605/565/467
A long, downhill sloping par 5, this is a true three-shot hole, measuring over 600 yards from the back tees. The tree line to the right is unforgiving, forcing you to play two shots in the fairway to give yourself a shot to reach the green in regulation.
Hole #3: Par 3, 227/176/150
This straightaway Par 3 has bunkers guarding both sides of the front of the green and moves slightly uphill, playing a shade longer than the listed yardage.
Hole #4: Par 4, 395/376/324
Narrower than its predecessors, this par 4 offers you a chance at a good score … if you can keep the ball in the fairway. The obstacles don’t look imposing, but strategically placed trees on both sides can turn opportunity into frustration quickly.
Hole #5: Par 4, 395/375/302
A jut of trees sneak out along the left side of the fairway, forcing you to either stay right to be safe or play a draw out around them up a slight rise. Do that, and you’ve got a good look at the green.
Hole #6: Par 4, 448/392/326
Avoid the fairway bunker on the right, but don’t veer too far left, as trees are scattered up that side once you reach the first cut. The narrowness of the fairway is exacerbated by the length of this hole, which takes two solid shots to find the putting surface.
Hole #7: Par 5, 525/515/420
This par 5 isn’t terribly long, but it’s more narrow than you might be used to. Trees run nearly the length of the hole along the right side, nudging you left toward the fairway bunker and the open field area to the right of the cart path beyond. If you trust your woods, you can get there in two shots, but it’s a high-risk proposition, especially with traps guarding the green.
Hole #8: Par 3, 206/191/162
The first water shot of the round, this par 3 clears a pond and eases uphill into the green. While it rates as one of the easier holes on the card, it’s still no picnic to hit the green at its length, especially as the green is wide, but not particularly deep.
Hole #9: Par 4, 385/379/305
A straightforward finisher for the front nine, the slow, uphill par 4 gives you enough room to play a deep shot into the green, but punishes you for coming up short.
Hole #10: Par 4, 415/397/361
Teeing off from the same tee box as #1, the tenth plays like something of an inverse, as a slight dogleg left. A shot to the right side of the fairway opens up a better angle to the green but brings the fairway bunker into play, and vice versa.
Hole #11: Par 5, 489/451/420
The only par 5 on the back nine and the final one on the course is also the shortest, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A technical tee shot over water to an angled fairway leads to a second shot that requires the decision of whether to try to clear the creek at the bottom of the hill 85 yards from the green, or lay up. The green itself sits atop a hill surrounded by traps.
Hole #12: Par 4, 460/434/315
Your reward for surviving #11 is the longest par 4 on the course by better than 30 yards from the white tees. This is even more problematic as a heavy, sloping green awaits, making 4 feel like a get-out-of-jail-free score.
Hole #13: Par 3, 176/146/108
The shortest and easiest par 3 on the course has an accommodating green with readable breaks. A good tee shot gives you a reasonable birdie putt.
Hole #14: Par 4, 372/358/305
A very narrow fairway makes this short par 4 a precision hole, but a well-placed draw can cut the yardage down to a low iron or wedge approach — just don’t miss right. The tricky, U-shaped green has more break than meets the eye.
Hole #15: Par 4, 363/346/290
A wide open, shorter par 4, it stands in contrast to the narrower tee shots at Poolesville. One of the better chances to score, if you can avoid the large bunkers that flank the green on either side, like I didn’t.
Hole #16: Par 4, 374/363/339
The woods and lake on the right are only a problem if you tend to go that direction, in which case it’s a big problem. Avoid trouble and you’ve got a pretty good look at a stable, if small, green.
Hole #17: Par 3, 182/164/154
This uphill par 3 played into the wind, stretching it at least two clubs past its normal distance, which ended up spelling trouble for both of us. Pick the right club and you can make things much easier for yourself.
Hole #18: Par 4, 425/400/330
An elevated tee shot drops to a slow, uphill, crawling par 4. It plays fairly long, but stays wide all the way to the green, guarded by a single bunker on the right.
Playing Through is a monthly series where WTOP Digital Sports Editor Noah Frank and WTOP Morning Drive Editor Mike Jakaitis play and review local golf courses. See the full series list and more information here.
POOLESVILLE, Md. — The first thing you notice on the drive to Poolesville Golf Course is just how remote it feels. If you’re the type of golfer who enjoys really getting away from the bustle of the city, it’s hard to find a course that feels as detached from fast-paced D.C. life.
The next thing you notice is that this is a tough course. Playing it for the first time, nearly everything that could go wrong did, as I posted one of my worst scores since college (94). Meanwhile Jake, who knows the course well, went on to shoot a 119. It was not our finest effort.
Many courses boast some measure of trees, but find them at Poolesville and you may cost yourself multiple strokes. Rather than the scoring opportunities they are on some courses, the par 5s are nothing but trouble. And the greens took nearly the entire round to get a feel for.
If you’re looking for a surprising challenge at public course prices, Poolesville can be a humbling trip around the links.
I consider Poolesville my home course, but you wouldn’t know it if you took a look at my score card (I shot a 119). I love playing this course — maybe that’s why I took so many shots.
If you’re the casual golfer/hacker like me, I think you’ll like it. There aren’t too many hazards and the fairways are wide open except for a few holes. Just remember to take your medicine if you hit it in the trees.
I had my signature “blow up hole” on #4. It’s a par 4 and only 376 yards from the white tees, with woods on the left, trees on the right. I took an 11 because I didn’t take my medicine and tried to hit a hero shot through the trees. And to make up for that ‘Tin Cup’ moment, I putted poorly.
If you have trouble hitting it over water, the par three on #8 will be a challenge but it’s a nice hole — even though I took a 7. Overall, Poolesville is a good course for the casual player. Give it a shot — or, if you play like me, MANY shots.
Dates and Rates
Open March through December, seven days a week
Rates: Monday-Thursday, 18 holes + cart $36.99 (Friday $41.99) | Saturday-Sunday: 18 holes $39.99-$47.99 + $15 cart
Member for a Day: Monday-Thursday from open-12 p.m., $36.99 for unlimited play including breakfast, lunch and a small bucket of range balls. $5 more on Friday.
Player’s club: $29/month, includes unlimited range + 50 percent off greens fees after 1 p.m.
No full restaurant or grill, but hot dogs and sandwiches are available
Beverage cart on course on weekends and for tournaments
Pace of Play
As quick as three hours, down to as slow as 4:30 on weekends.
Collared shirts only; no denim; shorts OK
16601 West Willard Road, Poolesville, MD
Take River Road from Northwest D.C. all the way to Willard Road
From Interstate 270, take Darnestown Road to Seneca Road to River Road
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