I have a list of things I do whenever I go to D.C. — the same specific things every time. I people-watch from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I take pictures of ducks in the fountains. (They’re in the fountains, not me.) I watch the sun rise over the National Mall from the Iwo Jima Memorial, kick parking signs that don’t make sense, watch paddleboats churn across the water under the watchful eye of Dr. Martin Luther King, and I play the Robert Trent Jones golf course at Lansdowne Resort. I also eat at Red Robin but I can do that most anywhere.
Now, Lansdowne Resort is actually in Leesburg, Va., some 30 miles from the Washington Monument, but that doesn’t make it any less of an ideal base for your family when visiting the nation’s capital. Sure you could always stay downtown and pay those premiums, but there’s a rare serenity out in the wine country beyond Dulles National Airport that draws me back there time and time again. The rooms are adequate, the pools extravagant, and the Troon-managed golf, well, that’s the main draw for me. The 45 holes of golf, including two championship courses and a nine-hole “Shark Bite” loop, are great.
Lansdowne is a 500-acre slice of paradise on the banks of the Potomac River. It’s a one-hotel resort with four pools, a spa, restaurants and a pretty spectacular driving range. In fact, with the range, instructional facility, nine-hole family and footgolf course and the two behemoths, it is unquestionably the area’s premier golf resort. No one offers more to the every golfer in the D.C. area. Better yet, the two championship courses are dramatically different from each other. Most would contend the front nine on the RTJ course is the easiest nine on property, even easier than the Shark Bite course. But those same people would point out that the back nine on the RTJ might be the property’s most difficult. Talk about a contrast in nines. And then you bring in the Norman course, which has far less elevation but just as much trouble.
I will confess to loving the Jones course a bit more. But I will also confess to playing the 18th hole of the Jones course backwards (when no one is around, of course) because the design makes so much more sense that way. (Crazy hard hole.) There are some real design gems on Mr. Jones’s routing — nine by my count, including the opening three and the entire six-hole stretch from 12 to 17. The dramatic changes in elevation are impressive, and the old stone wall features, water carries and photogenic qualities in general provide as many bangs as you’ll see bucks roaming about the course. A veritable deer farm.
Ranking the Norman course second is hardly a slight. How so? Well, Greg’s design has three holes better than all the other holes on the Jones course. The opening par 4 along the river is a genius design and the closing par 5 is easily the best long hole on the property. When you factor in Greg’s brilliant Shark Bite course, the two architects at least come out of the project on even footing. Only the golfer gets a slam-dunk win.
Perils of the Lost Jungle
There are many different names for miniature golf: putt-putt, goofy golf, adventure golf, shorties, crazy golf and mini-putt among them. NONE of those names sufficiently sums up the Nigel Bogey guided (slash Indiana Jones) adventure that is The Perils of the Lost Jungle in Herndon, Va. Adjacent Woody’s Golf Range—and not far from Lansdowne Resort—this raucous riot act of a game takes you through creative, challenging and occasionally spooky environments where the goal is always the hole, but the process of getting there is never the least bit cookie-cutter. Spitting alligators and swinging monkeys are among the many distracting hazards presented in this pricy but highly entertaining loop of links. Newsweek ranked it Top 5 in America. It’s certainly in the conversation.