The course built by Toomey & Flynn Contracting Engineers to a design by C. H. Alison at the private, all-male Burning Tree Club in Bethesda made its debut in 1923. It’s been remodelled a little in the modern era – Robert Trent Jones lengthened it, for instance, converting a couple of long par fours into short par fives – but the current layout retains much of the original design intent.
Legend has it that Burning Tree was formed after a male foursome got stuck behind a slow-playing group of ladies at nearby Chevy Chase Club so they decided to establish a golf club that wouldn’t allow women on the premises, never mind play the game! There are a few other boys-only clubs around the country but they’re very much a dying breed in these more enlightened times.
In its pomp, between the 1940s and 1960s, the club reeked of political power, with honorary membership extended to US Presidents and high-ranking figures on Capitol Hill. It’s been described as “a timeless place [where] the past is omnipresent [and] the attitudes and prevailing world view are of a different time” so some obviously think it still has a role to play in modern society.
Jane Vieth, the wife of a Washington lawyer whose husband is a member, was quoted as saying: "I don't know what wives would do without it. It's such a great day-care center. It's simply wonderful for them to have a place to go, even if they can't play golf any more. There are a lot of them who've gotten sort of decrepit. They go to have lunch, visit with their friends and play gin rummy."