ALEXANDRIA, Va. — This was always going to be a busy year for Steve Birnbaum.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Men’s National Team, for which he’s made 11 appearances, won’t be playing in this summer’s World Cup, the D.C. United defender’s plate is plenty full. He’s become one of the most recognizable faces on the team, a presence at many off-the-field team events. United is moving into a brand-new, long-awaited stadium. Oh, and he is getting married.
“My fiancee’s doing a great job — she is doing basically all the leg work,” he told WTOP. “I have a little bit of say in some things, but she is killing it right now. I’m just happy not to have to worry about it while the season’s going on.”
Even though he is busy, every couple of weeks — once the weather gets warm, at least — he tries to find time for his own personal refuge on the golf course. He often plays with teammates, but the amount of golfers on the club has shrunk in recent years. His old roommate, Chris Pontius, was a more avid player, who loved Raspberry Falls. Birnbaum’s usual track is out at 1757 in Loudoun County, but not because it necessarily plays to his strengths.
“I wouldn’t say it fits my game very well,” he said. “I’m not a super straight hitter, obviously, so I feel like I’m dropping a lot.”
Now his usual playing partners are Jared Jeffrey and Taylor Kemp, fellow mainstays who have each been in Washington a year longer than Birnbaum. With cold weather and mounting responsibilities, there hasn’t been as much room for golf. But Birnbaum joined Playing Through for a quick nine this offseason, as we hit Pinecrest Golf Course in Alexandria.
Pinecrest offers a nice remedy for those on a time budget. Tucked into an Alexandria hillside, the short, narrow nine holes horseshoes its way around a cul-de-sac, demanding accuracy and proper club selection, as well as good planning. With short overall yardage and easily walkable distances between holes, you can easily finish in less than two hours, if the course is clear ahead of you.
Like any course around here, it’s going to lose its luster in the winter months, but the greens hold up well in the cold weather. The overall hilliness of the course leaves you with plenty of putts where you have to consider not just the line to the cup, but the overall slope of the course around you.
There’s a practice green, which will give you a good feel for the actual course, as it has a fair amount of pitch to it as well. There are also driving stalls, where you can hit into nets, in lieu of a full range.
Birnbaum let me know that I really didn’t need to post the score card. But as regular readers know, that’s not how we roll here. I’ll give him a pass for being a bit rusty — he’s got a lot going on. Speaking of, the D.C. United season is already underway, with the first “home” game coming up Saturday, March 17 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, and the official opening date of brand-new Audi Field on the horizon in July. Birnbaum was at the recent topping off ceremony, when the last steel beam was lowered into place, a role he has grown into as a face of the team.
“This is my fifth year, so I’m one of the longer (tenured) players that have been with D.C., now that we’ve had so much turnover,” he said. “It just kind of naturally happens. It’s not something really any of us think about.”
But it’s also exciting, especially knowing what it will mean to be at a brand-new home.
“It looks awesome, and it fits with the city,” he said. “And you can tell that it’s going to be just a great facility, not just with the players, but with the fans.”
Dates and Rates
Open year-round, weather permitting (follow Fairfax County weather guidelines)
In-season weekdays: $19
In-season weekends: $23
Offseason weekdays: $18
Offseason weekends: $18
Seasonal Passes — current offer, 10% off 5 rounds, 20% off 10 rounds, 25% off 15 rounds
Clubhouse snack bar offers sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs. No cart.
Pace of Play
Can easily break two hours with no traffic in front of you
Standard golf attire; no jeans
From Interstate 395, take West Duke Street/Little River Turnpike exit, cross Braddock Road and the entrance will be immediately on your right.