Playing Through: Pinecrest Golf Course, with DC United’s Steve Birnbaum

D.C. United's Steve Birnbaum joined Playing Through at Pinecrest Golf Course in Alexandria. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum joined Playing Through at Pinecrest Golf Course in Alexandria. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
In addition to being an avid golfer, Birnbaum spends his non-soccer time on his bike and touring the city's expanding restaurant scene, listing Le Diplomate as a personal favorite. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
In addition to being an avid golfer, Birnbaum spends his non-soccer time on his bike and touring the city’s expanding restaurant scene, listing Le Diplomate as a personal favorite. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #1: Par 4, 387 yards from blue tees, 355 yards from white tees, 333 yards from red tees If you can put a draw on your driver, your first shot of the day gives you a good chance to show it off, with a dogleg left moving down the hill away from the clubhouse. If not, you’ll still want a wood off the tee here to be sure you clear the corner and have a clean look at the green on your approach. The putting surface moves fairly quickly away down the hill to the right, so control your long putts. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 4, 252/244/174 From an elevated perch, longer hitters have a chance to drive the green here. Faders get the benefit of the shape, as a well sculpted ball can start at the left edge of the back tree line and bound right into the putting surface. There’s water trouble right, but if you can find the green, you’ve got a great chance at a good score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #3: Par 3, 143/126/108 This par 3 seems straightforward enough, but has given me trouble every time I’ve played it. It’s uphill all the way to the green, so pull an extra club than you expect to need. Miss right at all and the ball will kick away dramatically and leave you with a nasty chip. The green itself has a bit of back-to-front pitch, but isn’t too tricky. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #4: Par 5, 346/317/300 Perhaps the strangest hole I’ve played in the D.C. area, on this incredibly short par 5 it’s all about shot-making. A drawn driver is the ideal play here, with a fairway that angles to the left with a slight slope in that direction. That will leave you with a blind second shot over a ridge — seriously, don’t be fooled by the flag at the end of the fairway. Go look for yourself where the actual approach goes and, if you’ve got a shot clear of the trees, try to drop one on the green in two. The putting surface is huge and sloppier than it appears, so any strokes you can save yourself on the way in will improve your shot at a red score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 4, 313/295/266 This hole edges slightly to the right before dropping off dramatically downhill to the green. An ideal drive is about 220 yards, leaving you atop the hill with just a wedge down to the ample putting surface. Again, a well-placed and thought out drive dramatically increases your chances at a low score. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #6: Par 4, 321/299/274 Easily the trickiest hole on the course, there is trouble everywhere here. You’ll need to shape your tee shot to the right, no matter what club you pull, to give you any shot of targeting the green on your approach. Ideally, you’ll want to be at the very far right edge of the landing area, as the overhanging trees nearly entirely obstruct an approach with any loft. Don’t leave your second shot short, as a nasty downhill with a pot bunker sit in front of pitched green that falls off heavily to the left. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #7: Par 3, 135/127/121 This par 3 tends to play a little longer than it appears, especially if the wind kicks up. The putting surface is plenty wide, so take the safe angle and avoid the sand to the right (and the water further right). Just hitting the surface is no guarantee of a par, though, as missing the pin badly enough can leave a tough two-putt. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #8: Par 5, 443/425/382 Yes, it’s another weird par 5. There are bunkers along the left side that will catch a lot of drives, so unless you can confidently and expertly bomb one, this is probably a three-shot hole. Playing safe with an iron to the fairway lets you hit a wedge onto the landing strip left of the lake, giving you an iron across the water to a mammoth green. Play it that way, and you can give yourself a chance at a birdie and a good shot at par. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 3, 119/101/90 A short, par 3 finisher, make sure you pull the right low iron/wedge given the flag placement, as the green is deeper than it appears from the tee. It’s also fairly narrow, so accuracy is especially important if you want to leave yourself with a finishing birdie putt. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
The damage… (WTOP/Noah Frank)
D.C. United's Steve Birnbaum joined Playing Through at Pinecrest Golf Course in Alexandria. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
In addition to being an avid golfer, Birnbaum spends his non-soccer time on his bike and touring the city's expanding restaurant scene, listing Le Diplomate as a personal favorite. (WTOP/Noah Frank)

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

Dress Code

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.

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