An under-the-radar 1907 Donald Ross design that was later modified by William Flynn, the course at Washington Golf and Country Club (the oldest private country club in Virginia established in 1894) has been re-imagined by Renaissance Golf Design.
Project architect Eric Iverson described the $14 million-dollar initiative as more renovation than restoration. “The course evolved from a Donald Ross design on a surprisingly small amount of land, with lots of very short holes taking advantage, or yielding to, pretty severe topography,” explained Iverson. “It was later expanded by William Flynn, with an additional 40 acres purchased by the club. That course remained essentially intact into the 50s, but at some point soon thereafter, Flynn’s version began to be undone by numerous renovations by the club.”
Iverson said it was “impossible to put the Flynn course back in its entirety,” but old photos and an aerial map were used as a point of reference when rebuilding the holes.
A few routing changes were implemented “to remedy what was clearly the worst hole on the course, the former par-five fifteenth,” commented Iverson. “The real standout feature of the course is the topography. It’s a short course, somewhere between 6,300 and 6,400 yards even after we’ve stretched it out but configured in a way that makes it play much longer than that.”
Before Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design firm had been commissioned for the renovation, Doak commented as follows in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses: “Just five miles from the Washington Monument, this is a short but difficult test (and walk), with never a flat lie for your second shots.”
Soon after William Flynn’s revised layout reopened in 1922, the club became known as the Chosen Playground of Presidents. According to Washington Golf and Country Club’s history: “Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, and Calvin Coolidge were all members and Taft, Wilson and Harding were active golfing members at the club.”
This is one of Renaissance’s boldest renovations where layers of former changes have been stripped back in an audacious attempt to find the course’s Golden Age roots dating back to the early 19th century. The 2020 in-your-face bunkering is, to say the least, bold, and Washington Golf and Country Club’s new millennium layout is certainly memorable.