Three U.S. Opens.
One PGA Championship.
One U.S. Senior Open.
19 total PGA Tour Events.
Congressional Country Club’s tournament tally continues to prove it’s worthiness to the powers that be within the PGA Tour. Which in turn is why Congressional’s Blue Course may be the DMV’s most sought after tee time. Very few golfers wouldn’t jump at the chance to tee it up on any course that has hosted majors over a span of almost 50 years and is a regular stop on tour.
How does someone land a tee time at Golf Digest’s 82nd ranked best golf course in America? There are really only two ways, either play with a member or pony up for a charity tournament. If you live in the D.C. area, there’s a decent chance you are within a few degrees of separation from a member, so start asking your people if they know someone that might know someone. For all the grandeur that surrounds Congressional, it is not the most exclusive of area clubs with a membership of around 3,000. Several of the other elite clubs in the capital region have less than 1,200 members.
There are a couple tournaments non-members can enter, however they will require ponying up some serious change. The PenFed Military Heroes Golf Classic, for instance, will put you back $2k to enter as an individual. For a bit more you may be able to get your way into the Quicken Loans Pro-Am when they are playing here. However, i’m guessing this doesn’t apply to most folks reading this. So i’d stick to the first plan, ask around until you find an in, then make it happen. If the contact is quite removed, offer to pay his greens fee as well to take you out. If anyone else has any tips on how non-members can play Congo, let us know in the comments!
When you do secure your round, there are a couple things to know. Obviously, at a course this prestigious the dress code is what you’d think it would be, which includes no cargo shorts. Every group with a guest amongst them is required to play with a fore-caddy, which you will be grateful for especially if it’s your first time out. Bring a couple Andrew Jackson’s to thank them with at the round’s conclusion.
As for the course itself, it’s worth the lengths you may have to go to get to the first tee, within reason. As i quickly learned from the opening hole, keeping the ball in the fairway is paramount to scoring on Congo’s par four’s. The fescue rough can be three inches or higher in spots and most fairways have a bunkers one side of the fairway at appropriate driving distances. Throughout the layout, taking less than driver off the tee to ensure an approach from the bentgrass fairways is an option that needs to be considered. Of course, that decision is rarely an easy one as the course plays quite long in spots depending on the tees you play from. Especially the back tees playing at 7278 yards, which are still almost 300 yards less than the championship tees the pros take on.
The opening holes are a pleasant introduction to what lies ahead, with the uphill second hole testing your mettle with your iron game. It plays the longest of any of the par three’s and is protected by six bunkers are on nearside of the green complex, more than any other hole. The real gems on the front nine however are the par fives’s which both feature some fun danger near the green.
The sixth hole plays slightly right to left from the tee to green with the fireworks coming on the approach, with a serious risk-reward decision. Anything less than a striped drive down the fairway and it’s a three-shot hole but after a strong drive it is quite tempting the challenge the pond just short and right. Finishing off the front nine is a true three-shot par five, which shouldn’t tempt 99% of players with any ideas of going for it. If played correctly, your third shot should be an easy wedge aimed directly at the clubhouse.
The back nine at Congressional is littered with fun holes and opportunities to replicate (or avoid replication) of some memorable moments from the PGA Tour. Starting with the 10th, which requires a forced carry downhill over water to a wide but shallow green fronted by a steep bank. This hole used to be the 18th before Rees Jones reversed the direction in 2007, in turn making the dramatic 17th the current finishing hole. While the most recent event that drew attention to this downhill tester was a certain Tiger Woods dunking three in a row (from the up tees). The shot you will want dancing around your head is Rory McIlroy’s brilliant shot to put an exclamation point on his dominating performance in 2011’s U.S. Open.
The 15th hole is another fantastic hole that is both extremely challenging and one where you can replicate a tremendous tournament golf shot. Earlier this year, Billy Hurley III came to the 15th hole with a two-shot lead. After pushing his drive short and right into a fairway bunker, he hit a perfect approach out of the sand to the tongue of the fairway about 20 yards short of the green. The ensuing holed pitch for birdie all but sealed perhaps one of the coolest winning stories on the PGA Tour in years.
Congressional may save it’s coolest hole for last, the aforementioned 18th. Playing downhill to a peninsula green, the approach is treacherous. Just ask Tom Lehman, who splashed one in the 1997 U.S. Open, when it still played as the 17th. If your round is accompanied by a friendly wager, i might suggest playing it a bit short and letting the ball roll onto the front edge. Along with water on both sides, a greenside bunker also sits right of the green which will leave no easy way out.
Personally, i have been a spectator for a tournament at Congressional Country Club more times than i can remember. Playing the course is really the only opportunity a golfer in D.C. area has to walk a modern major championship course. There has already been significant speculation that the USGA will bring the U.S. Open back to Congressional in 2026 which will coincide with the country’s 250th birthday, so keep your fingers crossed! Do not just wait to pounce on an offer to play this course, instead actively do what you can to make it happen. You won’t regret it.