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D.C. Municipal Golf: New Lease, New Life?
National Links Trust begins negotiations to restore, rehab three golf courses

by National Golf Foundation

June 2020

In a significant boost for public golf in Washington D.C., the National Links Trust (NLT) has been selected to negotiate a long-term lease for the three municipal facilities in the nation’s capital with backing from architects Tom Doak, Gil Hanse and Beau Welling, developer Mike Keiser and Troon Golf.

The National Park Service has begun negotiations with the National Links Trust with the goal of having a lease in place by Sept. 30.

The NLT is a non-profit entity formed to preserve and protect affordable, accessible and engaging golf course architecture at municipal courses throughout the U.S. The organization, founded by golf course designers and D.C. natives Michael McCartin and William Smith, has proposed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in the restoration and rehabilitation of the golf properties.

“These properties are more than just golf courses” said McCartin. “They are unique cultural and recreational resources with a long and commendable record of offering affordable access to the game of golf. Our plan calls for celebrating the history of the three golf courses, particularly their role in the integration of public golf and recreational facilities in both the greater Washington D.C. area and the nation.

“We are honored to take on the responsibility of revitalizing these remarkable properties and look forward to expanding recreational opportunities for underserved communities, including seniors, veterans, individuals with disabilities and those new to golf.”

Two ladies play golf at East Potomac Park. (Photo credit: National Links Trust)

The NLT has partnered with Troon Golf to execute the lease provisions. Keiser, who has developed golf resorts such as Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley and Cabot, is serving as a senior advisor for NLT while Doak, Hanse and Welling will provide design services for renovation of the D.C. courses.

Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design hopes to restore the 27 holes at East Potomac Park, including Walter Travis’s original reversible nine holes, according to The Fried Egg. In addition, Hanse Golf Design has agreed to improve the William Flynn design at Rock Creek Park and Welling, a senior design consultant for Tiger Woods’ TGR Design, will oversee the renovation at Langston, the Fried Egg said. When Langston first opened in 1939, it was among only 20 courses in the U.S. open to black golfers. In recent years, short-term leases at Washington D.C.’s aging golf facilities have discouraged operators from making any significant investment in the properties. That would change with a long-term lease in place, potentially one up to 50 years, according to The Fried Egg.

The NLT is also partnering with civic, philanthropic and environmental organizations that share its vision and commitment to serving youth, historic user groups and the local community, among them First Tee of Greater Washington, DC; Golf. My Future. My Game; Anacostia Watershed Society and many others. With an assembled team that boasts proven success at the highest levels of golf design and development, the NLT has expertise that spans fundraising, development, agronomy, maintenance, facilities management and economic modeling for the future.

“Our goal is not just to bring these courses back to their original prominence, but also fully restore other historically and architecturally significant elements of the properties.” Smith said “We plan to develop attractive community gathering venues and are committed to maintaining environmentally sound open spaces for the benefit of all those who want to come and enjoy these parks, golfers and non-golfers alike.”

Muni golf has a long and storied place in the history of golf, and these facilities are often where golfers play for the first time, and where golf is most affordable and accessible to people of all ages and demographics in a town, city or county. In many cases, a muni golf course provides an oasis of open space in areas often choked by over-development.

Nationwide, there are almost 2,900 such government-owned courses at the more than 2,500 U.S. municipal golf facilities.

(Top image courtesy of The National Links Trust)

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