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Redesign of DC's muni courses ...

 tiderider ·  
tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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thought this would be of interest to all, so placed it here ... Doak and Hanse are involved ...


The National Park Service granted the rights to spend the next decade or so completely restoring East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek golf courses to something called National Links Trust. Why does that matter in the least? Over the past two decades, there have been plans put forth to revive the public courses, but most envisioned making East Potomac — which sits on a sliver of land between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel, with copious views of the Washington Monument — into an expensive, high-end facility that in turn helped prop up the other two. Such plans highlight inequity, not equality.


The golf nerd in me loves this plan. The idea of Doak getting his hands on East Potomac — where I have played more rounds than anywhere in the area — makes me salivate. Hanse’s restoration credits included U.S. Open sites such as Winged Foot, Merion and the Country Club, so the notion of him building a par-3 course and augmenting the front nine at Rock Creek is tantalizing. Throw in Beau Welling, who has worked on Tiger Woods’s TGR Design team, helping bring back Langston and creating a course that takes better advantage of its site along the Anacostia River, and the whole idea is thrilling.

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  • AThompson_3AThompson_3 Members  1570WRX Points: 190Posts: 1,570 Platinum Tees
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    Played East Potomac once. I don’t have an course architects mind, but I have a hard time believing anyone could turn that place into a high end course. Would love to see it though. My sister and brother in law live very close to it so it would be nice to have a solid public track to play in DC when I go visit them.

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  • Righty to LeftyRighty to Lefty Members  121WRX Points: 77Handicap: 5.2Posts: 121 Fairways
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    Would have to move alot of dirt and put a lot of money into that place to make it "exclusive." It wasn't a bad course in a pretty descent location but I think even after a redesign that most will remember what was there and never pay a premium rate.

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  • AThompson_3AThompson_3 Members  1570WRX Points: 190Posts: 1,570 Platinum Tees
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    Depends on the definition of exclusive is. There’s potential because of the location, but to turn it in to a “must play” they would have to scrap everything and start with a blank canvas of dirt. I’d love to see it. But if they keep with the current holes and just update the conditions I don’t think it would ever be more than a $70 golf course. If they start with a blank slate it could turn in to a $150+ type place to make up the cost of the project.

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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
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    I used to play Rock Creek on my way home from work simply for the convenience and price. It's on a horrible piece of property so a ton of money would be required to make it decent. Its as hilly as East Potomac is flat. At least East Potomac has some views of the Memorials.

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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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    ?? ... they don't want it to be an exclusive golf course ... or even $70 ...

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  • Man_O_WarMan_O_War Members  3727WRX Points: 716Posts: 3,727 Titanium Tees
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    great idea! hope they do it.

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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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    i don't know anything about those courses, but i have to assume that doak and hanse will do their "minimalist" thing and use width to increase "playability" ... which is fine, and absolutely what a muni course needs ... i think both are aware of the need to increase playability in order to grow the game and appeal to more people, and right now is a good time to do that ... golf could stand to get a little creative with some things right now ...

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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
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    After re-reading the original post it seems the plan is to make East Potomac an upscale course and put a facelift on the other two courses. If that's the plan it will take a lot of money to bring EP up to that level. All three courses fill their market (low cost, low quality, few amenities). Rates now are about $30 ($20 seniors) to walk at EP. If those rates doubled or tripled it would probably turn off a lot of golfers. The property is dead flat so a lot of dirt (or creativity) would be needed. I don't know how much money the Park Service wants to put into these courses but I would think a minimal modernization at modest cost would be a better plan. Then just raise the rates slightly.

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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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    upscale? ... how did you come to that conclusion? ... the project is specifically avoiding making any of them 'upscale' ...


    The goal of McCartin and Will Smith, his NLT partner, is to make them very much the same places — just better.

    These heavy hitters are donating their time. Which matters to the end goal: keeping the courses affordable and accessible to the same cohort that plays them today. Walking 18 holes at East Potomac’s Blue Course, for instance, costs $37 on the weekend and $33 during the week right now. When this is all finished, McCartin said, the greens fees won’t be markedly different other than adjustments for inflation.


    “We just really appreciate and have personal experience with the golfing culture and inclusivity at each of the golf courses, and that’s our top priority,” McCartin said. “The reason we started the National Links Trust is we believe that’s the type of thing that can be preserved at the same time you build really cool golf courses.”

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  • AThompson_3AThompson_3 Members  1570WRX Points: 190Posts: 1,570 Platinum Tees
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    It’s a complete waste of time if the green fees aren’t raised. There is no way they could do the work they want to on EP without recouping those costs by raising green fees. If they keep the green fees where they are and do the work they are talking about, then the courses will be closed in 2 years. Unless they receive some sort of grant to upgrade the courses then it’s financially not possible. They aren’t able to maintain the courses now at the current rates, how could they possibly upgrade the courses and maintain them at that level, with no increase in revenue? It makes no sense.

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  • AThompson_3AThompson_3 Members  1570WRX Points: 190Posts: 1,570 Platinum Tees
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    It’s a playable course as is. It’s just not in good shape. I don’t think they would be bringing in Doak and Hanse to simply upgrade the conditions. EP has a ton of potential to be a great golf course because of the location, but if they want a more playable golf course it’s a waste of time because it’s “playable” enough as is. Just spend the money and hire a great super if that’s the goal. Read between the lines and see that they are bringing in Doak and Hanse for way more than that.

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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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    i'm sure there's a 'greater good' appeal ... etc ... interesting project, nonetheless, if the intent is to maintain reasonable fees at those sites ... the article mentioned a possible par 3 course ... what is the likelihood of that occurring?

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  • AThompson_3AThompson_3 Members  1570WRX Points: 190Posts: 1,570 Platinum Tees
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    Maybe it’s my own bias coming in that would want a bit more a higher dollar public course in DC. EP is a great location so maybe I’m just hoping Doak and Hanse can come in to make it something special. Maybe you’re right, but I’m definitely hoping your interpretation of the press release is wrong. As far as the likelihood of a par 3 course I’m really unsure but there is the space I would think to build a 9 hole par 3 course. I’m definitely excited that they’re doing something at the end of the day.

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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
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     "into an expensive, high-end facility that in turn helped prop up the other two."

    Since this was in italics in the original post it seemed like it was from the original article.

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  • razor_1razor_1 Members  86WRX Points: 59Handicap: 2.8Posts: 86 Fairways
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    As a native Washingtonian who learned how to play golf on courses such as East Potomac, a high end facility that is exclusive in price is not what is needed on public land. Granted it is on some of the most expensive real estate in the country, but it is a public facility. And it should be available to all people, not some of the people. Because I slap a $100+ price tag on a round and yet open it to the general public, is exclusion by income level. That is not the mission of that property. That is the mission of Pinehurst. If I don't want to pay the price of Pinehurst, I can just drive a little farther SE to Myrtle Beach. The difference- neither is located on public property. Those 3 properties are owned by the U.S. Government directly and us indirectly. By attaching a name like Hanse to a golf course (even though he is donating energy, presumably), will automatically bump those facilities into a premium level like those that exist outside of NYC. There is also not enough land at those 3 facilities to do what was done on Long Island at Bethpage.

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  • Ngjg21Ngjg21 Members  981WRX Points: 118Posts: 981 Golden Tee
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    Listen to the recent Fried Egg pod on this exact topic—I had the impression that, as stated previously in this thread, there is no intent to significantly raise greens fees. Not sure about Langston, but East Potomac and Rock Creek are on National Park land and are administered accordingly. They are designed to provide a service to as broad a swathe if the golfing (and non-golfing) public as feasible.

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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  edited Jul 4, 2020 2:32pm #18

    Even though its on public land it's still a business. If time and money are going into upgrades they have to adjust green fees. The rates can't stay at $30 forever. They can always opt to do nothing and continue to serve the lower priced market. Just because the US Government owns the property doesn't mean they price it for everyone. I'm sure to many even $30 is beyond their means. Try eating at the restaurants in the (US Govt owned) museums downtown - very pricey.

    Of the 3 courses I would think Langston would be saved and given improvements and the other two just turned into public parkland. Rock Creek and East Potomac are poor pieces of land for golf. Langston was one of the earlier courses catering to black golfers and has a long history. It overlooks the Anacostia River and RFK stadium. I remember when the Redskins wanted to build a new stadium there were issues of being too close to Langston or they wanted to buy some of the property. Either way I believe Langston was given a historical status and was protected.

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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  edited Jul 4, 2020 3:09pm #19

    it is ... guess i should have linked the two paragraphs a bit better ...


    probably not a bad idea to just let one of them go and focus on two of them, at most ... but hope it stays public land in some way ...

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  • klebs01klebs01 Members  656WRX Points: 280Handicap: 2.5Posts: 656 Golden Tee
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    That quote has been taken out of context in this tread. The article and podcast explain that that is what other proposals have been and why they were NOT awarded the contract. All three will remain golf courses open to the public at reasonable rates. I’m personally really interested to see how East Potomac turns out going back to a reversible course. I loved the Loop and would travel to play EP if properly restored.

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  • razor_1razor_1 Members  86WRX Points: 59Handicap: 2.8Posts: 86 Fairways
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    It is not a business. That's my point. It is a national property like Mt Rushmore or Yosemite and the quote was not taken out of context. Many people (including Eleanor Holmes Norton- DC's congressional delegate) want the property around Haines Pt to be upscale. The neighborhood across the river north has changed much to do with the building of the Washington Nationals ballpark and the new soccer facility just south of that.

    An aside, the property that the East Potomac course is on is all created by man. It is all back fill when building the capitol and the mall. Langston is one of the original African-American golf courses in this nation. Rock Creek is in an area in the middle of the city and when in the park, you would think you were in some type of rural facility. All 3 properties are unique, and all 3 are public properties. Langston is going to get caught up in the new stadium development for the Redskins. That's where the stadium is more than likely built.

    Back to East Potomac since that is the premier facility out of the three. That course/facility does more rounds per year then just about any course in the country. The public course in Honolulu (next to the zoo), a course in Brooklyn, and one outside of LA are the only courses that may sell more rounds than East Potomac (off the top of my head). The driving range there is just about self-supportive. They don't need a 3-nine rotating premium layout there. What they need is what they have there already. A championship course, an executive 9 hole, a par 3 nine and a practice area with a driving range and multiple practice greens. If you want to play disc golf, the 9 hole course allows you to do that. Go out there one day on the weekend around 10 am and see the volume of people in and around that facility. If they want to improve the condition of the courses, I'm all for that. The championship course was first layed out by Walter Travis (who is an iconic golf designer) much the same as Donald Ross. When the cherry blossom trees are in bloom, it is one of the most scenic courses in the world. And how many other courses can you say you saw the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the President fly over you in the same round?

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  • razor_1razor_1 Members  86WRX Points: 59Handicap: 2.8Posts: 86 Fairways
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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
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    Call it a business or don't. Either way if their expenses go up so will the rates.

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  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members  278WRX Points: 74Handicap: 21.9Posts: 278 Greens
    Joined:  edited Jul 14, 2020 8:50pm #24

    When I first started golfing, I really enjoyed East Potomac. The majority of the golfers out there that I saw seemed like beginners. I never felt like I was holding anyone up or bothering anyone there. It's wide open and perfect for learning the game. That said, I agree that the conditions could definitely be improved. Hard to say if that would necessitate a fee increase. I think they serve beer at the range there. That seems like a great way to make a little extra cash, and I wish the ranges around me would start doing that. I'm more interested to see what happens to the other courses.

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  • cristphotocristphoto Members  4056WRX Points: 410Handicap: 7Posts: 4,056 Titanium Tees
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    It would be interesting to know how many (if any) politicians actually play East Potomac. Could be ego/prestige issues or possibly concerns of security. I played a very low end course years ago (Maple Run in Thurmont, Maryland). Its claim to fame was that several presidents played there since it was just a couple miles from Camp David.

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  • dcmidnightdcmidnight Marshals, BST Volunteer Mods  13215WRX Points: 3,037Handicap: 3.5Posts: 13,215 Marshals
    Joined:  edited Jul 27, 2020 11:36am #26

    Exactly.

    About the worst thing they could do is put millions into cleaning up the place and then leave their operating budget and daily rates the same. Something has to change. They've shown that they can barely - and I'm being polite - but barely maintain the place with the current budget they have. Whats going to happen with new fairways/bunkering etc if they tried to keep the same maintenance budget. Years ago there was a PGA pro who played there during the annual PGA stop in the area. I think he said something like - this would be a great course but I'm just not used to the weeds on the green or the sticks lying in my line.

    I always loved the range at EP. It was the only course I could afford the first three years I lived in the city and I spent 2-3 days a week at the range. It is still a great practice facility that probably could be even better with just a tiny bit of touch up.

    So its fine if you want to just leave the place alone and let it operate as is. But you cant put all this time/effort into it and then leave the annual budget the same. That makes zero sense. Just because its a public facility on government owned land means nothing in terms of whether or not you can or should raise prices. Again - its a business. Have you ever been to the McDonalds at the Air and Space Museum downtown? Prices are at least 2-3x a normal McDonalds. Just because its a public building on public land doesnt mean they still have to sell a cheeseburger for 99 cents.

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  • XHoop24XHoop24 Members  1113WRX Points: 557Posts: 1,113 Platinum Tees
    Joined:  edited Jul 27, 2020 7:53pm #27

    I'm a DC resident and play EPP almost every weekend (played yesterday as a matter of fact). My .02 is that the current rate of $37 to walk is probably not sustainable. Just look at what the public courses in neighboring counties cost to run. Check weekend rates at Falls Road or Twin Lakes. That is probably a good idea of what it actually costs to maintain a reasonably well conditioned munnie. Doak has talked about EPP and has stated the design will have some similarities to what they did at Common Grounds in Denver in that they'll work to keep the maintenance costs as low as possible to help keep rates down. I think that means that they would be more in line with the MoCo and Fairfax county rates, so something in the $60/65 per round area. All of that is just a guess.

    I really am pulling for NLT (actually bought their driver head cover and EPP picture), but they have their work cut out for themselves. To create interesting courses, keep rates in a reasonable place, and ensure the courses aren't closed for years at a time is going to be incredibly difficult.

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    Post edited by XHoop24 on
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  • tideridertiderider Members  3182WRX Points: 2,202Handicap: 5ishPosts: 3,182 Titanium Tees
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    whats the upper end of what you’d be willing to pay?

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  • ALTSeanALTSean VirginiaMembers  1510WRX Points: 728Posts: 1,510 Platinum Tees
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    They could go with a Torrey Pines pricing model where residents pay significantly less than visitors. Torrey South is $63-$78 for residents versus $202-252 for non-residents. Torrey North is $43-$56 for residents and $122-$152 for non-residents. It seems like a redesigned EPP could be in the Torrey North price range and still have discounts for juniors, seniors, twilight, etc. Your out of town guests who are visiting D.C. for work or vacation would be fine paying $100+ one time to play the new EPP while your locals (D.C. / VA / MD) could still be regulars at around $50.

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  • XHoop24XHoop24 Members  1113WRX Points: 557Posts: 1,113 Platinum Tees
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    Honestly, cost isn't a real issue for me. I play Worthington Manor, Blue Mash, Laurel Hill on a more regular basis when we are not in a pandemic. EPP is convenient and its an easy walk which I prefer right now (versus riding a cart with a stranger). In its current state, I'm not sure its worth paying much more than they charge. If they built an strategically challenging, walkable golf course in better condition, I think I'd be willing to pay as much I would to play Worthington or Blue Mash on a weekend morning.

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  • XHoop24XHoop24 Members  1113WRX Points: 557Posts: 1,113 Platinum Tees
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    The NLT group was on a few podcasts and said this is unlikely due to the fact its national park and not city (Torrey) or state owned (Bethpage) . Its harder to justify a local rate when the locality has not paid for the course. They are hoping to keep it 'affordable' for all. I think that is going to be very difficult for them to do but I'm hoping for the best.

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