An old Walter Travis layout from 1916, the course at Columbia Country Club hosted the US Open five years after it first opened for play. In more modern times, the club held the 2003 US Junior Amateur Championships when Brian Harman won the tournament – an event Tiger Woods won three years in a row in the early 1990s.
The course lies on a hilly, rather restricted site which offers little room for expansion so, as a consequence, the layout has remained much the same in length (a modest 6,545 yards) for almost a century. Indeed, apart from some bunker modifications, nothing much has changed here on any of the holes.On the front nine, the 426-yard 2nd and 357-yard 3rd are excellent par fours which see the fairways of both holes cross the same creek between tee and green whilst the short par four 17th – where the tee shot almost plays over the 16th green – is the pick of the holes on the closing stretch back to the clubhouse.
It amazes me how much of shadow Congressional CC casts on a number of other courses in the immediate DC area. One of them is Columbia CC. The course hosted the US Open in 1921 and the US Junior was played there in 2003.
The layout is blessed with really interesting topography. It's a layout constantly in motion and the range of holes is clearly engaging. The greens are well defended and pity the hapless player who cannot hit quality approach shots that remain below the hole. The putting surfaces can run quite fast so if you have a balky putter you'd best work things out on the practice green before heading out for the round.
The opening trio of holes gets the golf juices flowing. You work uphill at the start -- then back downhill with the dog-leg right 2nd and then back up again at the 3rd. Being able to work the ball off the in order to get to the correct position pays big time dividends. The long par-4 6th is also a stout hole -- playing downhill before rising noticeably with the approach. The uphill 9th ends the side in fine fashion -- once again playing uphill to a well contoured and vexing green.
The inward side is quite interesting. The 10th green is one you'll not forget -- plenty of movement and a clear requirement that one's approach be gauged correctly. The par-4 11th is a slight dog-leg right and puts a premium on position as the fairway is protected by bunkers on both sides and features a tapered fairway. The rest of the nine is a good mixture -- the par-3 16th is often mentioned and quite rightly so -- particularly when the pin is cut towards the far right side. From what I was told -- the 16th provided much inspiration to Bobby Jones when the 12th at Augusta National was created.
The finishing hole at Columbia pushes players to the max. Uphill and quite ruthless in eliminating the pretenders from the contenders. Originally, the green featured no less than six distinct portion -- there are now four. You have to be sure to take enough club with the approach as two frontal bunkers will swallow you up quicker than the shark in "Jaws". If the pin is cut in either the back right or left corners you'll need a bit of Divine guidance to exit the green with a par. The stately clubhouse in the background is equally impressive.
The main issue in the times I have been at Columbia is the overall DC area can be extremely challenging in having top tier conditioning. The entire area is in a transition zone where bent grass can easily get stressed out. Usually, the greens are not impacted. Often times the course can play a bit "slow" and it's best to make a visit when the excessive heat and humidity have leveled off from the summer. Playing in the Fall can be optimum as the dry and cooler temps firms up the turf and add to the challenges inherent on the rolling terrain encountered.
M. James Ward
Columbia is a solid track. The course is in great condition during the spring and fall; however, during the summer it’s the rye fairways tend to burn out.
Built on a small, hilly piece of land Columbia has a couple of holes that make you think they ran out of space. No hole is a better example of this than the par 4 17th.
All in all Columbia is a good course and if you are in the area and have the opportunity to play it, you should not pass up on it.