Playing Through: East Potomac Golf Course

With a 200-stall driving range, several putting greens and even rentable practice greens, East Potomac Golf Course has a comprehensive set of facilities to work on improving your game before you ever play any of the 36 holes of golf. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #1: Par 4, 360 yards from blue tees, 343 from white tees, 277 from red tees Note: There are also gold (senior) and green (family) tees on the Blue Course, but for the sake of our piece, we’re just listing the traditional three. A pretty straightforward opening hole can play easy, but only if you stay straight off the tee. The short distance almost encourages a three wood to stay out of the rough on the left or the tree line on the right, either of which will make the approach to a small green that much tighter. Get on in two, and there are plenty of makeable birdie putts. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 4, 418/377/321 A hole that plays longer than it looks, the second deceives you to play the ball down the left side, where the rough can swallow you alive. A better shot is out to the right, which will offer a cleaner approach and take the traps largely out of play. A front-left bunker is actually deceptively far from one of the largest and funkiest greens on the course, one which allows you to hit a more aggressive approach shot, should you need to. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #3: Par 5, 596/564/429 If you’ve got a fade off the tee, a well-placed drive up the right-to-left fairway here can help shave some precious yardage off the longest hole on the course. Beware the jut of rough that narrows the fairway around where many would land their second shot to try to give yourself the easiest possible approach to the green. A forgiving putting surface can save you here. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #4: Par 3, 169/154/130 The first par 3 on the course isn’t a long one, but often plays a bit into the wind and punishes you for being short with greenside bunkers protecting both sides of the front of the green. A putting surface tilted back toward the tee box allows you to be a little more aggressive here, maybe clubbing up and hitting a slightly higher shot, if you’re able. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 4, 291/286/275 Unless you have the power to take a run at the green off the tee, you’re better off playing a safe iron or 5 wood to stay in the fairway and give yourself a wedge to this small, pitched green. Even a good second shot is tough to keep close to the pin, but if you can play smart and stay below the hole, there are birdies to be had here. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #6: Par 5, 547/507/431 Again a par 5 that favors faders, play your drive out to the left and let it carry back toward the tree line on the right to set up an open second shot. There are no hazards to keep you from attacking the green on your approach, even you end up short, and a large putting surface makes it reasonable for most to reach the green in regulation. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #7: Par 4, 308/297/250 Another short par 4, this one calls for a draw and again encourages something short of driver off the tee. A narrow fairway curls slowly from right to left heading into the green, which is tucked behind a slope on the left side running along the fairway the length of the hole. An accurate wedge will give you another shot at birdie. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Signature Hole Hole #8: Par 3, 210/196/179 While several holes at East Potomac offer views of the Washington Monument, the eighth offers your first unobstructed glance, towering in the distance beyond the green. The longest par 3 on the course, it requires a sturdy tee shot, but the slightly elevated green helps the player to hold the putting surface. Bunkers on either side provide potential trouble, making par a good score. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 4, 356/336/301 A short-ish finish to the front nine, a good drive should leave just a wedge to the green as you hit back toward the clubhouse. Keeping up the left side of the fairway takes the greenside bunker mostly out of play and offers a chance at another low score. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #10: Par 4, 311/302/279 With the huge tree that used to block the corner reduced to a naked stump, this par 4 is more forgiving for aggressive players than it once was. But the smarter play is still to give some space to the right off the tee, giving you a cleaner approach shot with more green to work with. An easy hole if you play it right, it can be a frustrating open to the back nine if you’re not smart. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #11: Par 3, 191/167/142 A greenside bunker guards the front left of this par 3, which has a larger green than appears off the tee. However, the hole also runs slightly downhill, and it’s easy to hit your shot straight through to the back collar, which can leave for a long putt or chip coming back, if the pin is in the front. Resist the urge to be too aggressive if the pin is behind the bunker – a safer play should yield a better result. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 5, 499/456/407 The shortest par 5 on the course doglegs slightly to the right, but opens up as it approaches perhaps the most dramatic green on the course. Long hitters can go for it in two, and even if you need three shots to play in, if you can hit the quadrant with the flagstick, you can give yourself a shot at birdie. This hole plays trickiest when the pin is in the back right, where the surface slopes down into a small hollow, making any putt a tough one. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #13: Par 4, 371/354/256 A par 4 cut similarly to the preceding hole, a slight dogleg right off the tee carries you around to your approach, but be sure not to go too far left, as the turn happens quicker than it might appear off the tee, and a long tee shot left will leave you between the trees with a near-impossible approach. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #14: Par 4, 410/389/316 Yet another dogleg par 4, this one plays much longer and eases uphill to a green tucked back into a hollow. Even with a solid drive, the second shot can play longer than it looks, so it’s better to pull an extra club. Rated as the second-toughest hole on the back nine, par is a great score here. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #15: Par 3, 174/162/146 A fairly straightforward par 3 with a smallish green, if you’re going to miss, short is where you want to be to avoid the heavier rough and a downhill chip from behind the green. The putting surface doesn’t contain much mystery, so any shot to the green gives you a reasonable chance at birdie. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #16: Par 4, 432/419/293 Perhaps the toughest hole on the course, this long par 4 seems exceedingly so given how many of its counterparts are shorter than normal. It also provide another scenic look at the Washington Monument, once you clear the overhanging trees that crowd the tee box. Bunkers guard both sides of the green, adding more peril to what is already a long approach shot. Par is a nice escape here. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #17: Par 5, 563/546/427 The longest hole on the course certainly plays like it, and can stretch even further if your tee shot fades right or if the wind flares up. The fairway moves to the left off the tee, and requires three full shots to reach the putting surface, and perhaps more if you find the rough on the left side or the tree line on the right along the way. A large but multi-tiered green awaits, making this a tough hole to score on. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #18: Par 4, 393/371/344 The finisher requires an accurate tee shot to avoid a tricky approach into a small green. The fairway is much less forgiving than the one on the ninth, and a trap on the right die of the green can punish an errant iron. (WTOP/Noah Frank) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Scorecard Jake stayed eerily consistent, carding a dozen 6s, while I wasted a clean front nine and a shot to break 80 for the first time in years with a mediocre finish. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Red Course With holes ranging from 65 to just over 200 yards, this executive par 3 features small greens and plenty of chances to work on your short game. It is the most casual course option, making it great for beginning golfers, but easily backs up in a hurry. Pace of play on the card is under two hours, but could range from an hour to more than double that, depending on who’s in front of you. We took photos as we made it around the course, but we were getting rained on and, honestly, almost every shot ended up looking the same in the bleak, wet, gray day. White Course While the white course was closed for maintenance when Jake and I visited, I’ve played it a handful of times in the past. The par 3s are full-length, but the par 4s are mostly shorter than on a standard 18-hole course, requiring less distance and more precision off the tee. Small greens demand accurate approach shots, making it a good test of your ball-striking ability. It can be a nice change-up to a standard round, and is often less crowded than the blue course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
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WASHINGTON — For the first full year I lived in the D.C. area, I didn’t know there was a golf course right in the middle of the Potomac. I would hear allusions to “the course on the island,” or “the course in the river,” but could never quite make sense of what people were telling me. I also didn’t have my clubs with me (or much spare time), so I never explored it myself.

Eventually, I discovered what most local golfers already know. The East Potomac courses at Hains Point offer the most convenient golf option for those on the western side of the city or just across the river in Virginia. With three courses — an executive nine-hole, a shorter par 3 and par 4 nine-hole, and a full par 72 18-hole — an extensive practice area, teaching academy, and two-level driving range, it caters to the casual golfer and those looking to pick up the game.

“It’s a stepping stone for new golfers,” says Tom Saathoff, general manager and teaching professional at East Potomac. “A lot of what we do here is player development.”

In addition to the two-level, 100-stall driving range (including 26 heated stalls for winter), the most compelling practice feature is the ability to rent one of three practices hole. At just $16/hour, they give you a chance to work on the part of the game most overlooked off the course, and at the end of your session, you can take the balls with you and hit them off the range.

If you’re looking to play, you’re much better off trying to get onto the course on a weekday. They will cycle anywhere from 600-800 rounds through on weekends, which can back the course up.

One change this year from the past is the grass itself. Saathoff and his staff took the offseason to plant bent Bermuda grass throughout the fairways, replacing the patchwork of multiple strains of grasses that existed in the past. Once the weather heats up and everything fills in fully, this should provide a more consistent playing experience across the course.

The greens are largely saucer-shaped and devoid of any treacherous features. They tend to be cut fairly long, making putts both slower and straighter than you may be used to, depending on your home run, but comparable to many other municipal courses.

If you’re looking for an accessible place to play “right here in the heart of everything,” as Saathoff says, East Potomac offers a convenient option for golfers of all abilities.

Jake’s Take

East Potomac is perfect for the casual golfer. It’s flat and you won’t find any water hazards –maybe that’s why I played OK. If you are starting out, this is the course for you. The rough is thick and deep so you may have trouble finding your ball or getting it out. There are some great views. It’s kind of cool you can aim for the Washington Monument. I had my best drive on 16, leaving me less than 100 yards from the hole in the center of the fairway. No way I could mess this up, right? On my second shot — just like a Redskins’ front office decision — I shanked it. Of course I made up for it by three-putting and took a 6. As for the par 3 nine-hole Red Course, it’s perfect for beginners. The holes are short and not difficult. This is ideal to practice your short game — and mine needs a lot of work. We finished the nine holes in about an hour. Overall, if you are new to the game or are still trying to improve (like me), play this course.

Dates and Rates

Dates: Open year-round

Blue Course

Mon-Thu, 18 holes: $30, 9 holes: $20

Fri-Sun, 18 holes: $34, 9 holes: $23

White Course (9 holes)

Mon-Thu: $15

Fri-Sun: $18

Red Course (9 hole executive)

Mon-Thu: $12

Fri-Sun: $13

Specials

Juniors and seniors have discounted greens fees.

There are monthly specials running all spring and summer for different demographics, including uniformed service members, women, families, juniors and young professionals. Check the course website to see the current offer.

Food/Drink

Self-serve grill attached to clubhouse

Beverage cart on weekends, beer/wine available, no liquor.

Pace of Play (Blue Course)

Our round: 3:30

Weekdays: 3:30-4:00

Weekends: 4:30-5:00

Dress Code

T-shirts and shorts OK, no cutoffs

Directions

Take I-395 across the Potomac River to the Ohio Dr. SW exit (midway across the river). Make a right on Ohio Dr. SW and follow the signs to the course, about a half mile down on the right.


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