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.
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
Mon-Thu, 18 holes: $30, 9 holes: $20
Fri-Sun, 18 holes: $34, 9 holes: $23
White Course (9 holes)
Red Course (9 hole executive)
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.
Self-serve grill attached to clubhouse
Beverage cart on weekends, beer/wine available, no liquor.
Pace of Play (Blue Course)
Our round: 3:30
T-shirts and shorts OK, no cutoffs
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.