June 23, 2020 By: Dylan Dethier — When our Michael Bamberger visited East Potomac Park last year, he described the scene as such:
“There are two nine-hole courses beside the Blue Course, plus a tired driving range and a clubhouse and snack bar where I saw a golfer with two thermoses in his picnic bag, one for his soup, the other for his iced tea. True Everyman golf.”
Well, this is Muni Mondays, the home of the entire Everyman family. And ooh boy, are the Everymen celebrating tonight! Thermos soup for everyone. Three of the game’s premier course architects — Tom Doak, Gil Hanse and Beau Welling — have signed on to provide design services for East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek Park, three D.C. munis in need of some love. They’ve no doubt heard the refrain echoing ’round Bamberger’s columns of late: “Public golf! It’s where it’s at.”
On Monday, the National Links Trust, the good folks behind all of this, announced in a release that their non-profit had been selected by the National Park Service to negotiate a long-term lease for the operation of the three courses. In the release, NLT cited a goal of a lease in place by Sept. 30, 2020.
The players involved here are big-time. You know Doak from Pacific Dunes, from Cape Kidnappers, from his work as author of “The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses.” You know Hanse as the go-to guy for every high-profile course construction, restoration or renovation currently going, from Merion to The Country Club to Winged Foot and so on. You know Welling as Tiger Woods’ guy, who headed up Bluejack National and has his name attached to the PGA Frisco West Course, among piles of others. They’re being advised on the NLT by Mike Keiser, the mastermind behind Bandon, Sand Valley, Cabot Links and more. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-credentialed bunch, brought together by course architects and D.C. natives Michael McCartin and William Smith. Oh yeah, and they’ve announced they’re waiving their fees, which is probably why this whole thing has a chance.
I’ll hardly pretend to be an expert in this exact space; I’ve visited East Potomac just once and it was to play the miniature golf course on property — allegedly the oldest in the country — for a particularly fun NPR interview. I’m not sure if any of the above have taken on a putt-putt restoration as part of the project.
Nay, instead I’ll point you towards the work of Bamberger, who noted the 7th hole at East Potomac, a slight dogleg left, like this: “Drive it down the right side, then take dead aim at the Washington Monument for your second.” Pretty cool.
I’ll point you to the work of Andy Johnson, the Fried Egg, who has been at the forefront of reporting progress on this particular project. He notes that Doak would tackle East Potomac (and restore its reversible Walter Travis design) Hanse would tackle Rock Creek Park (originally William Flynn) and Welling would take on Langston. He has a treasure trove of articles and podcasts surrounding the project here that are well worth your time.
I’ll send you to John Ledesma’s on-site coverage of Steph Curry’s announcement that he’ll support a golf team at Howard University, and that Howard will play at Langston, which was one of less than two dozen U.S. courses open to black golfers when it opened in 1939.
Finally it’s worth mentioning that McCartin, the engine behind NLT, wrote a Master’s thesis on East Potomac, the original goal of which was “to create an exemplary public playground at Potomac Park in Washington, DC.” You can dive in deeper here.
The whole team at Muni Mondays is thrilled, not only with the good news but with the general stated vision of the NLT in restoring the greatness of America’s public golf parks:
“SHINING EXAMPLES OF ENGAGING GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTURE COUPLED WITH EASY AND AFFORDABLE ACCESS — WHAT MUNICIPAL GOLF CAN AND SHOULD BE.”
This is part of our Muni Monday series, spotlighting stories from the world of city- and county-owned golf courses around the world. Got a muni story that needs telling? Send tips to Dylan Dethier or to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Muni Mondays on Instagram.