Playing in the Shadows of History – East Potomac Park’s White Course

The executive nine hole White course at East Potomac Park has the location, price, playability, views and history that make it a must play for any local or visiting golfer who hasn’t walked the par 34 course at least once before. The golf courses at East Potomac Park in the southwest quadrant of our nation’s capital is part of the National Park system and offer a 18-hole Blue course, an executive nine as the White course, and a par-3 Red course.

The first nine holes opened in 1921 and by 1930 the 36 holes that stand today had been completed and open for business. The early years of East Potomac Park golf were a bit bumpy as it reflected much of the country’s troubling segregation policies of the era, with black golfers originally only allowed to play on Tuesday’s after 3pm. In 1925, the newly built Lincoln Memorial Golf course, across the tidal basin in West Potomac Park, was designated in Jim Crow fashion as a blacks only course making the courses at East Potomac Park whites only. This lasted through 1941, when the secretary of the interior issued an order opening up all dc courses to all golfers. An infamous incident of the first three african-american golfers playing the course after the order passed, turned ugly as the golfers being escorted by National Park Service police were harassed and threatened as they played their round. Yet despite the controversial history of early golf in the district, East Potomac Park has remained the epicenter of public golf in Washington D.C. for almost a century now, with golfers from all over the area and tourists visiting dc playing over 90,000 rounds annually. In 1994 they opened a 100 bay driving range featuring covered and heated stalls which along with a handful at the Paint Branch golf course in College Park, are the only of their kind, open to the public, inside the beltway. #1 The real scene stealers on the white course are the array of nearby monuments, memorials and points of interest that are all in plain sight from various angles of the course. While the Washington Monument can be seen from at least 7 of the holes as it seemingly towers over the latter portion of the course just to the north, don’t miss spotting the U.S. Capitol building directly down your line of sight from the 6th tee past the green, or the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in plain sight as you line up your drive on the 8th. While approaching the green on number three or walking the fairway on nine, you can look west across the Potomac and spot the Air Force Memorial, the control tower at Reagan National Airport and the George Washington Masonic Memorial, referred to by most locals simply as the Masonic Temple. #3 The white course offers a trio of par 3’s, all of decent length, ranging from 156 to 190 yards. The fifth is the trickiest of them, as your line of sight from the tee box is not only blocked by a short tree about 80 yards out, but there are two good-sized bunkers protecting the front side of an elevated green. Unlike alot of executive nine-hole courses, the six par 4’s on the white course all allow for a driver to be used, although not necessarily recommended on the 266 yard third hole, where if you push a drive right you will likely end up out of bounds into the driving range. The 285 yard 4th hole allows for long hitters to go for the green off the tee without much risk aside from a front left bunker about 10 yards short of the putting surface. The final three holes, all par 4’s,welcome the golfer to pull driver and rip away. #6 Conditions at the White Course aren’t exactly Augusta National, as clover and crabgrass can often be found throughout the fairways as well as on a few greens which can lead to some bumpy putts.  No one should come with the expectations that you are playing Pine Valley, after all the prime-time rate here is sixteen bucks!  East Potomac Park is on a 300 acre man-made island sitting in the Potomac River, which in turn created the Washington Channel directly to the east of the park. As a result of the low lying parkland, there can often be some soggy lies if there has been any type of rainfall in the days leading up to your round.

For golfers living in DC or in nearby Alexandria & Arlington counties, the location just of the 14th st bridge is so convenient that an early morning nine on the white course can be gotten to and played as quickly as any in the area. Starting off a day with nine holes among the landmarks of so much of our country’s history provides this golfer with a good walk rarely spoiled.

-Alex Dickson

East Potomac Park Golf