Playing Through: Needwood Golf Course

The view from the snack bar above the clubhouse looking back at the 18th green at Needwood Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The view from the snack bar above the clubhouse looking back at the 18th green at Needwood Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The snack bar has a grill and seats 75. There is also a drink cart most days on the course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The snack bar has a grill and seats 75. There is also a drink cart most days on the course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The course has a couple putting greens and a 20-stall driving range (in the background). (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The course has a couple putting greens and a 20-stall driving range (in the background). (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #1: Par 4, 364 yards from blue tees, 347 from white tees, 320 from red tees The opening par 4 moves uphill slightly right-to-left, and will play much shorter if you’ve got a draw in your bag. The uphill approach is guarded by bunkers front on each side of green. Overall, a pretty straightforward opener. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 4, 401/398/395 After a big drop-off from the tee box, a very wide fairway swings back uphill, making this par 4 particularly long, considering its listed yardage. Even a perfect drive leaves a lot for your second shot. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #3: Par 3, 185/172/145 This medium-long par 3 can play longer than the card yardage, depending on the wind. The hole also moves slightly uphill to a green guarded by bunkers on both sides. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #4: Par 5, 514/502/358 You almost always want to hit the golf ball straight, but that’s especially true on this par 5, where you need to avoid the tree on the left on your drive and on the right on your second shot. The approach leads downhill, then back up to an inviting green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 5, 470/459/326 Don’t be fooled by the yardage — this is an uphill, mammoth par 5/4 (par 5 from the men’s tees). A blind second shot wraps slowly around to the right toward the green. There’s room in front for the biggest hitters to try to play the ball up in two. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #6: Par 4, 383/360/328 Another pretty straightforward par 4, the fairway dips slightly in the middle, though less than on previous holes, then rises again to the green. The left greenside bunker makes a center-right approach the safest play, if you can swing it. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #7: Par 3, 193/173/140 Like the third hole, there are greenside bunkers guarding both sides of this long par 3. When you reach the putting surface, you’ll find a fairly heavily pitched green, but nothing too complicated to keep it from rating as the easiest hole on the front nine. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #8: Par 4, 349/329/258 The fairway is quite narrow on this short par 4, but missing the short grass won’t kill you, as the path toward the green is fairly open. A massive greenside bunker on the right can make the approach tricky if the pin is tucked into the front right of the green. The pitch of the putting surface is steeper than it looks at first glance. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 4, 397/384/291 Another slope-down-only-to-rise-again par 4, a good drive will reward you with a much shorter approach. You can miss a bit to the right and be ok, though a front-right bunker guards the green, leading to a potentially tougher approach angle if you do. Pay close attention to the pin — the large putting surface means that just hitting the green isn’t enough for a good score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #10: Par 4, 359/347/314 We go back down, then we go up again to start the back nine. Once again, a long drive is doubly rewarded and a short one doubly punished on this U-shaped hole. The green feeds slightly back away from the fairway, so touch is key on your approach. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #11: Par 4, 395/366/344 This mild dogleg from left to right starts out right at the driving range, where a large fence of netting separates the range from the course and can provide something of a backstop on shots that miss the mark long and left. Better to be there than right, where there is thick rough begging to cause you trouble. Set yourself up well off the tee and you can give yourself a shot at a good score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 3, 195/177/146 The longest par 3 on the course, the hole plays slightly downhill off the tee. The bunker on the left may encourage you to play the ball in from the right side, which is fine if you’re short and right, where the ball will feed into the green. But don’t be long — there’s potential disaster if you go over the top. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #13: Par 5, 515/506/466 This is where the course gets really interesting. A tee shot high above a dramatic ravine doglegs sharply to the right as the hole slopes back up the hill. A blind second shot should follow the left side of the fairway, which slopes left-to-right and will take the ball with it. Almost certainly a three-shot par 5. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #14: Par 4, 332/319/306 Despite the déjà vu look from the prior hole, the tee shot here doesn’t actually open up as quickly as you think unless you really crush the ball. Don’t try to cut the corner, as a massive tree will block your approach. The green is deeper than you may expect from down below, so measure up the pin and be ready for subtle slopes on the surface once you get there. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #15: Par 3, 177/151/101 A scenic, overwater par 3 that’s probably the runner-up for signature hole, the elevation drops ever so slightly to the green that opens up from front to back. Bunkers on either side factor into play, depending on pin placement. Clear the water, and give yourself a good look at birdie. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #16: Par 4, 419/405/376 Probably the unique and my favorite hole on the course, a tightish, blind, uphill tee shot turns into a long, soft dogleg left par 4. A tee shot in the fairway reveals a downhill approach to a green with bunkers both short and long right, which can favor a fader who starts the ball at the left edge and works it in toward the flag. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #17: Par 3, 173/135/110 The shortest par 3 on the course, a front right bunker offers far more trouble than the one hugging the far left edge. There’s a big putting surface for such a short hole, just make sure to hit it. Whatever you do, done be long left. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #18: Par 4, 433/418/388 Perhaps my least favorite part of this course is how it ends. A course shouldn’t limp back to the clubhouse, and finishing hole ought to provide a challenge, but making it the toughest hole on the course with danger lying, well, everywhere, just seems downright sinister.  You can just see the top of the flag poking over the mid-fairway rise as you head back toward the clubhouse on this long par 4. Stay out of the right tree line or you may have no angle to the green. Water encroaches from both sides as you make your approach downhill, over the lake to the putting surface, flanked by bunkers on both sides. Good luck! (WTOP/Noah Frank)
The view from the snack bar above the clubhouse looking back at the 18th green at Needwood Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The snack bar has a grill and seats 75. There is also a drink cart most days on the course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The course has a couple putting greens and a 20-stall driving range (in the background). (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)

DERWOOD, Md. — It’s always fun — on the rare occasion I get to — to play courses out of my price range. But there tends to be some measure of diminishing returns as price goes up in golf.

At some point, how much better can a really top end course be than those in the mid or bargain range?

That’s why my favorite courses to play are often well-maintained municipal runs.

Needwood is certainly that, and makes up for whatever monotony the front nine offers with a dramatic back nine over “totally different terrain,” as general manager Kim Mabry puts it. It also plays pretty quickly, if you don’t have anybody holding you up — we finished  in 3:40, despite me hacking my way around. Oh, about that — it’s not a terribly difficult course, if you stay out of trouble. I had what felt like an awful round and still shot 86 a day after a much better round — and an 87 — at Potomac Shores.

One of Needwood’s biggest selling points is its easily accessible location, something Mabry fully understands.

“Obviously with us being so centrally located to D.C., we get a lot of traffic, a lot of play,” she told WTOP.

One thing that helps disperse the foot traffic a bit is the nine-hole executive course, providing a quicker and cheaper option for those who aren’t looking to play 18. It’s also a good spot for those learning the game, especially youngsters. The course runs a family golf special, where it’s just $10 for adults with a kid under 18.

Needwood offers basic practice facilities as well, including a 20-stall driving range and putting greens. It’s also got a players club option (detailed below) for those who want to make it their home base. All in all, it provides everything a casual or regular player needs, with a track that gets more interesting the deeper your round goes.

Jake’s Take

Needwood is a great course for the casual golfer.

The front nine is open for the most part and you shouldn’t lose too many balls, unless your ball has a natural draw to water, like mine. The back nine is slightly tougher, especially if you miss in the wrong spots.

On the par 3 12th hole, I missed right, hitting the cart path and it rolled down hill. I took an 8. There are also a fair amount of holes where the water is in play. You need to know how far you can hit your individual irons. I’m learning my distance for each one — and it helps.

Needwood also has an executive nine-hole course with two par 4s, the rest par 3s.

This course is great for beginners and kids, and ideal to practice your short game. I play the executive course a lot and it really has helped my game — and I’m not saying this just because I recently recorded my first ever hole in one on #5. Unfortunately, I was playing alone and no one saw it!

As for time, I can play the executive course in less than 90 minutes walking. Give Needwood a chance. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Dates and Rates

Open year-round

Mon-Thu, 18 holes: $34.99 (cart $15)

Fri, 18 holes: $39.99 (cart $15)

Sat-Sun, 18 holes: $54.99 (cart $15)

Executive nine-hole

Mon-Fri: $14.99 (cart $10)

Sat-Sun: $19.99 (cart $10)


Senior: Mon — Thu., $34.99; Friday $39.99

Players Club: $59.95/month

  • Unlimited range balls
  • Discounted greens/cart fees
  • Happy hour discounts
  • Shop merchandise at cost +10 percent


Full service grill upstairs, above clubhouse

Snack bar seats 75

Beverage cart on course almost every day

Pace of play

Our round: 3:40

Weekdays: 4:00-4:15

Weekends: 4:30

Dress Code

Collared shirt and khakis preferred


Take the Beltway to the 270 Spur, take Redland Blvd. exit. Continue onto Redland Blvd. and make right on Needwood Road, course will be on your right.

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