Playing Through: Laurel Hill Golf Club

The Laurel Hill Golf Club is built on the site of the old Lorton prison and chronicles the history of its land throughout the course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
A historical building resting along the side of the 11th hole. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Our wildlife encounter for the round: a very chill fox. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #1: Par 4, 445 from black tees, 435 from blue tees, 419 from white tees, 413 from gold tees, 351 from red tees The opener is a fairly straightforward par 4, but don’t let the great views distract you — it can play deceivingly tough if you don’t keep it in the short grass. There are traps along both sides of the fairways, as well as trees that can cut off your angle to the green if you stray too far off center. Make a mess of your drive (as we both did) and you can find yourself with an ugly opening score. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #2: Par 4, 365/351/344/335/269 A short, tighter, up-and-over-the-hill par 4 rewards a good tee shot with an attackable approach. Start a fade at the bunkers left and steer clear of the treeline right and you’ll leave yourself with a low iron to the deep but tight green. Pin placement can have a big impact on club selection, so think twice before you settle. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #3: Par 4, 452/439/423/403/274 This long par 4 is even more visually daunting, as a tee shot over a deep, forested ravine leads to a seemingly endless uphill slog to the green. You’ll need a decent drive to even bring the center fairway bunker into play, then a monster uphill second shot to even reach the putting surface in regulation. Once there, a slopey, two-tiered green awaits. Good luck! (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #4: Par 3, 188/170/148/130/109 A dramatic, 70-foot drop from tee to green on this shorter par 3 can throw you off, as the sneaky wind can make true distance hard to judge. That wind was back in our faces the day we played, causing the hole to play roughly true to its actual distance. We each clubbed down and came up short. Adjust accordingly. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 5, 524/508/486/474/404 Don’t be fooled by the card — this is not a short par 5. Only the longest hitters have a shot of bridging the second of two creeks in two shots. The fairway is wide throughout, but you’re better off trying to place three controlled shots. A nasty trap on the left guards a two-tiered green atop a hill. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #6: Par 4, 500/478/447/418/366 Another monster par 4, your tee shot moves uphill to a plateau, leading to a downhill approach. There are bunkers short and long of the green, along with a small creek along the right-hand side. Game plan before you let it rip. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #7: Par 4, 321/306/289/278/258 A scoreable, short par 4 guarded by a host of nasty bunkers moving up the hill to an elevated, well-protected green. Play a drive safely out to the left to give yourself a nice wedge approach and a shot at birdie. Just stay off the beach. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #8: Par 3, 240/223/209/194/145 A straightforward and downhill par 3, it still plays very long, over 200 yards from the whites. It can play even longer if the wind is coming back at the tee box. The green is large, offering the chance to let it rip, but the putting surface is trickier than it looks from up top. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #9: Par 5, 538/532/502/491/372 The sprawling, front-nine finisher double doglegs its way up and over a creek, down, then back up again to the green. Massive pot bunkers linger around the green, making the three-shot approach a wise one. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #10: Par 4, 350/345/334/311/279 The beginning of the back nine offers the best stretch to score, as well as more great views of the landscape. A short, downhill par 4 has plenty of room out to the right, which you should use to avoid the bunkers and rough on the left. It will also help set up a better angled approach to a “birdieable” green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #11: Par 3, 168/149/141/134/119 This easy, short par 3 offers a view of the old prison building and plenty of history. Stay out of the deep bunker on the right side of the green and you’ll have your best look at a clean birdie putt all day. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 4, 413/401/374/338/237 A wide, uphill, slight left-to-right par 4 plays longer on the approach than meets the eye. A forgiving green will allow for a putt that can be made, if you can get there in regulation. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #13: Par 4, 418/405/386/355/332 This downhill par 4 levels out in the fairway to set up another downhill approach. There’s room to feed the ball into a green safely tilted back at the fairway, so a well-placed approach gives you the chance for an uphill putt. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #14: Par 3, 218/212/187/176/98 A half-blind, long, uphill par 3, there are bunkers guarding the green from any miss on the short end. The putting surface runs dramatically up and away to the right, making a fade the ideal play to feed into the contour. Try to recognize where the flag is; if it’s in front, you could drive the green and still have an 80-foot, downhill putt from the upper tier. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #15: Par 5, 612/587/576/547/493 An incredibly long par 5, the 15th moves uphill the entire way and stretches nearly 600 yards. The fairway is wide and not too much treachery awaits, but you’ll need three full, clean shots to have any chance of reaching the green in three. Any mistake can easily stretch it into a four-shot hole. Par is a great score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Laurel Hill Golf Club provides a scenic, high-end public course on historic land. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Signature Hole Hole #16: Par 3, 203/185/174/158/125 With a lake to the left, this long par 3 plays over a ravine to a wide, but shallow green. There’s safety out to the right, though even the landing area includes a pot bunker. If you’ve got a draw in your bag, play the ball well out to the right and see if you can feed it into the right edge of the putting surface. Miss long and left, and you’ll be in serious trouble. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #17: Par 4, 493/466/437/383/342 There are no breaks toward the finish line, as this dogleg right par 4 plays uphill off the tee, only adding to its already daunting length. Good luck finding a flat spot in the fairway — assuming you get there — and make sure you clear the creek on your approach. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #18: Par 5, 562/538/510/483/441 You’ll need one final, good drive to get off on the right foot on the par 5 finisher. The winding, back-and-forth, “S” shaped fairway leads to a green protected by water short and on the right as you approach the clubhouse. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
The damage. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Laurel Hill Golf Club provides a scenic, high-end public course on historic land. (WTOP/Noah Frank)

Laurel Hill Golf Club provides a scenic, high-end public course on historic land. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
LORTON, Va. — Golf courses in and around urban areas often come steeped in history. But few have the kind of legacy of Laurel Hill Golf Club, laid out atop the land that once housed the D.C. Department of Corrections facility at Lorton. Yes, it’s built on an old prison, but about the most scenic prison land this side of Alcatraz.

The course embraces its history right down to its logo, with its art deco font and distinct design.

“If you look at our logo, it’s actually the guard tower,” said Ryan Carmen, who came on board as general manager last summer.

As for the course itself, many holes play fairly wide open and there isn’t a ton of water. But the primary challenge is undisputedly its length.

Consider swallowing your pride and moving up a tee from your usual distance. Seriously, just do it. Where Raspberry Falls is a hair under 6,300 yards from the blue tees, Laurel Hill is pushing 6,400 from the whites.

It might have just been a bad day on my end, but considering I very uncharacteristically three-putted four greens on the front nine alone, I really could have used the break in distance.

You could make a case for a number of different holes to throw on the postcard, but Carmen has his favorite.

“To me, the signature hole is 16, the par 3 over the water,” he said. “The tee boxes are spread out; you get different views from each tee box.”

Both the fairways and greens are in great condition, as you’d expect from a high-end public course. So it’s no surprise Laurel Hill will be hosting the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Men’s Amateur Championship, which was held at Congressional Country Club last year. Perhaps more surprising is how well it holds up under 30,000 rounds per year.

Jake’s Take

This was a tough one — I shot a 118. That being said, I liked this course. Most of the fairways are wide open, so you can miss left and right, and I did miss left and right most of the day. My signature blow-up hole took place on #3 — a really nice hole, uphill all the way for a really nice 10. I did manage to par #11; I’ll take the small victory. The downhill, par 3 #4 was probably my favorite hole, even though I took a 6.

My short game, as well as my long game (and putting — I went for the trifecta) was lacking that day, but I would come out again to play this course. It’s fair for the casual golfer and a lot of fun.

Dates and Rates

Open year round

Prime season (Apr. 1 —  Oct. 31)

  • Weekdays: $69, $59 after noon, $49 after 3 p.m., $34 after 5 p.m.
  • Weekends: $99, $89/$79/$44

Fall/winter (Nov. 1 — Mar. 31)

  • Weekdays: $64, $34 after noon
  • Weekends: $79, $44 after noon


Military Monday: $49 all day


Max individual members want 70, a little over half that

Full membership: $5,000 (add on for spouse/immediate family: $2,500)

Weekday membership: $3,000 (add on: $1,500)

Jailbreak membership (one hour before super twilight): $1,916

Corporate memberships: designed to fit


Banquet hall, conference room

Full restaurant menu, can host parties/weddings/executive meetings

Beverage cart seven days a week

Pace of Play

Generally around 4:30, up to 5:00. Despite our scores, our round was just 4:10.

Dress Code

No denim, collared shirt, soft spikes


From D.C., take Interstate 395 South to I-95 South, exit 163 and turn right on Lorton Road. Make right on Silverbrook Road, left on Laurel Crest Drive and destination is on the left.

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