Playing Through: Fairways and Freeways at Potomac Shores Golf Club

Soren Jacobson took on the challenge of playing 50 courses in 50 states in 50 days for his 50th birthday. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Soren Jacobson took on the challenge of playing 50 courses in 50 states in 50 days for his 50th birthday. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Jacobsen and his wife Melanie spent more than 230 hours together on the road to complete the journey. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #1: Par 4, 405 yards from black tees, 390 from gold tees, 350 from silver tees, 275 from jade tees The opener starts downhill from the clubhouse, a short par 4 that plays even shorter, so long as you follow the sloping fairway down to the left toward the green. The approach can be tough to stick, with a surface that leans left-to-right. Our pin was in the back right of the green, leading to nasty breaks as an introduction to the course. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 4, 405/365/305/265 Another shorter par 4, the second runs uphill with a cut off fairway which ends in front of a ravine. The approach is guarded by a steep, tight bunker in the front left. Right is safe, though a short shot will kick back off the edge and onto the false front. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #3: Par 5, 530/465/415/375 A somewhat blind tee shot on this open par 5 leads to a hole that swings dramatically down to the right. The short distance will tempt some to go for the green in two, but the front and sides of the green are literally surrounded by bunkers, and there’s trouble in the woods long. A safer approach sets up a wedge to help you stay out of trouble.   (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #4: Par 3, 225/170/145/115 After a longer-than-expected drive through the forest, you’ll find yourself at this scenic, downhill par 3, which offers a dramatic drop to a protected green. Check the wind, club down and swing easy. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 4, 355/335/315/300 A blind tee shot runs up and over a ravine, leading to a winding fairway and a green protected by bunkers in front. A short hole is made much tougher by a brutal, sloped putting surface. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #6: Par 3, 200/170/155/135 A fairly straightforward par 3, this hole can play longer than it looks (or than it appears on the card), especially in the wind if drifting back in your face. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #7: Par 4, 435/400/375/325 A longer, narrower par 4 offers some forgiveness for faders off the tee box, but leaves a treacherous approach to a green guarded by traps and truly impossible rough, when it’s cut high. Stay safe to the high side. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #8: Par 4, 305/285/270/235 This very short, uphill par 4 moves right-to-left, but requires a precision tee shot to tip toe through the fairway bunkers and offer a wedge shot to an elevated green. Once there, a very slippery, deceptive putting surface awaits, so consider pin placement carefully and stay below the hole, if at all possible. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 4, 410/380/345/305 A huge, scenic drop from the tee to the fairway can mess with your distance judgment, as the two bunkers that split the fairway are further out than they appear. While trying to cut the hole to the left of the sand seems like a promising play off the tee, the approach is friendlier from the right side of the fairway, as you play uphill to a blind, elevated green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #10: Par 5, 575/535/500/390 A blind, uphill tee shot plays right over the crest of the hill, which swoops down sharply to reveal the second half of the hole. Tall trees bisect the downhill approach, forcing you to shape a shot from one side or the other if you want to attack the green. The right side is more forgiving — the slope feeds nicely toward the long, undulating green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #11: Par 4, 420/375/350/290 Another partially blind tee shot moves uphill into a dogleg right, with traps guarding the right side of the fairway up to the green. A good tee shot leaves a downhill approach to a large, pitched putting surface. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 4, 455/425/405/335 A downhill, dogleg right par 4, if you carry the trap on the right with a fade you can turn a long hole into a manageable one. The fairway narrows substantially as you near the green, leaving little room for error on your approach. Note: Photo is of clubhouse, not 12th hole (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #13: Par 3, 230/185/155/115 A slightly downhill par 3 over a ravine, with not nearly as severe a drop as #4, the distance pays fair here, maybe even a tad short. A treacherous, undulating green awaits — the closer to the pin, the better. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #14: Par 5, 515/485/435/405 A double-dogleg par 5, the tee shot swings right over fairway bunkers followed by an approach back up the hill to the left. Long hitters can make a run at the green in two, but it’s a high risk proposition, with step bunkers guarding most entry points. A better play is to try to stick a third shot tight to cut down on tough, longer potential putts. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #15: Par 3, 135/120/100/80 A very short par 3, a long, narrow green snakes around a three-fingered front-side bunker. Spot a good wedge close and you’ll have a good look at birdie. Hit the wrong side of the green and you may have a tough two-putt. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #16: Par 5, 605/545/485/455 Keep your tee shot left over the right edge of the bunker, then the rest is pretty straightforward. This long, uphill par 5 will play as a three-shot hole for most, which is just fine. You’ll want to make sure you’re on the same level of the green as the pin on your approach. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #17: Par 4, 410/390/365/275 Your tee shot goes partially over a lake on the right, leading to an uphill slope that makes this hole play longer than the listed yardage. If you can work the ball left-to-right, you can help play around the bunkers that guard the middle and right portions of the green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #18: Par 4, 405/335/320/265 A picturesque finisher, this dogleg right plays very short from the up tees back toward the clubhouse above (with a viewing deck, for added pressure). You’ll be left with an uphill approach to a large, pitched green that actually shares a surface with the practice green behind to the left of the hole. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Soren Jacobson took on the challenge of playing 50 courses in 50 states in 50 days for his 50th birthday. (WTOP/Noah Frank)

DUMFRIES, Va. — All sorts of pitches find their way into our inboxes here at WTOP. Plenty aren’t relevant or particularly interesting, and many come from PR shops. Every now and then, though, someone just wants to share their story and thinks you might like to do the same. That’s how I ended up golfing with Soren Jacobsen, as our series Playing Through and his own project, Fairways and Freeways, converged at Potomac Shores Golf Club on a picture perfect Sunday morning.

For his 50th birthday, Jacobsen decided to try to golf at 50 different courses. In 50 different states. In 50 consecutive days. The basic planning and logistics aside, there’s a certain amount of good fortune involved in actually executing even the best laid course of action.

“The original idea was in college,” Jacobsen told WTOP. “At that age, to me, a 50-year-old was somebody with a cane or a walker or something … Now that I’m 50, other than being a little slow, I don’t feel any different than I did in my 20s.”

Jacobsen floated the idea past his wife, Melanie, a couple years back, thinking maybe he’d attempt the lower 48 states for his 48th birthday. But with her help (a project manager, he credits her entirely with the planning), his ambitions expanded not just to include Alaska and Hawaii, but to accomplish the entire journey in 50 straight days.

One might think the toughest part of such a journey would be the stress on a relationship, spending more than 230 hours together in a car, one day bleeding into the next, the next destination never seeming to arrive as quickly as projected.

“We call it the wormhole,” said Soren. “Every trip seems to be about two, two-and-a-half hours longer than we think … We don’t know exactly what happens in that time.”

“It’s kind of like this trip, the concept of time — it feels like forever, but in a good way,” added Melanie.

The only real misery came courtesy of, fittingly, Missouri. The couple dodged bad weather and played through a couple rain-soaked rounds elsewhere, but were stormed out in the Show Me State. When they rescheduled for a double-up later in the trip, storms hit once again. But they managed to adjust and fit the round in on their third try before leaving the Midwest the final time.

There were other bumps in the road. The initial car they rented was far too small, so they traded it in for a van. A crack in the windshield kept growing, forcing them to eventually make another swap. Soren played through a lat injury and biceps soreness, which was afflicting him during our round at Potomac Shores. He broke 80 thrice, shooting as low as 77 and as high as 94.

But perhaps good karma helped them through. In each state, they highlighted a local charity on the blog they used to track their journey, doing whatever they could to give back along the way.

“I think there’s a lot of diversity across the nation, but there’s also a lot of similarities. We’re all kind of doing the same stuff, but in different places. And I think that commonality is kind of neat, especially when you’re looking at it from a charity standpoint, where people are doing good stuff,” said Soren.

He and Melanie saw all sorts of wildlife, including moose that cut a hole short in Alaska and a wild pig that followed them through the first four holes in Hawaii. They’ll have plenty of material for their two books — Soren’s, about the trip, and Melanie’s, a children’s book featuring the stuffed squirrel, Mully (short for Mulligan), who accompanied them on their voyage.

They finished the journey in Hawaii in early June, taking a few days after the final round to decompress. Over the phone from the beach, Soren delivered his final, simple thought on the journey.

“If there’s something you want to do, just do it.”


I’m happy Jacobsen picked Potomac Shores, as it wasn’t yet on our radar for Playing Through. It’s a terrific golf course in terms of quality and beauty, designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. It would be quite a walk, with a hilly terrain and some long traverses between a few holes, but is tucked away such that it feels far more than the mile or so that it actually is off Interstate 95.

I didn’t actually notice until I finished the course, but the distance from each set of tees on each hole is a multiple of five yards, making club selection a little easier for first-timers playing the course.

It’s not cheap, but the dynamic pricing model means that if you have flexibility in your schedule, there are deals to be found.


Dynamic pricing creates a range of greens fees, with more

Deals for prepaying as a foursome (up to 25 percent off)

Weekdays: $78, down to $60

Weekends: $117, down to $87


Yearly full-week membership: $4,495

Weekday membership: $3,752


Tidewater Grill is a full service restaurant attached to the clubhouse, open seven days a week.

Pace of Play

If you’re driving, pace stays quick, in the 4:00 range. Walking will slow that significantly.

Dress Code

Proper golf attire; collared shirts, no denim


Take I-95 South to exit 152A. Follow signs to Potomac Shores Parkway.

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