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A Change of Course

Beltway Golfers Have Plenty of Enticing Options for Weekend Outings

With late-night votes and desk-bound lunch breaks, Hill staffers have little time to play a round of golf during the week. But as the weather breaks and the Easter recess hits, staffers typically limited to the likes of Hains Point can enjoy leisurely rounds at a host of courses throughout the mid- Atlantic region.

“You have to make a concerted effort to get away and play some courses,” says Greg Crist, vice president at Dutko Worldwide and an avid golfer.

An 8 handicap, Crist takes at least four golf trips a year, including two in the mid-Atlantic region. He prefers the courses in his native Virginia but he says in four hours or less, any Washington professional can find a golf mecca.

“If you’re going to be out there, you might as well be playing good golf,” Crist says.

A Historic Backdrop

Washington history buffs and golf enthusiasts can travel two hours to Williamsburg, Va., and find resorts, museums and acres of courses. Perhaps the most famous is Kingsmill Golf Resort, home to this year’s LPGA Michelob Ultra Open, but there are 15 to 20 other courses in the Colonial Williamsburg area, according to Andrew Blair with the Virginia State Golf Association.

“We’re lucky in the commonwealth to have a number of good courses,” Blair says. “There’s a lot of variety, from the beaches to Williamsburg.”

Golden Horseshoe Golf Club has two 18-hole courses and one nine-hole course, plus the bells and whistles of a full resort, including a spa and pool. LeeAnn Petersen, who works for Off the Wall Products and is a member of the Women’s Congressional Golf Association, says the variety of amenities is helpful when trying to recruit more friends along for a weekend getaway.

“It’s nice to just get your friends out of town and do something over a long weekend,” Petersen says. “We all work so hard. It’s nice to have a change of pace.”

Weekend trips also can serve as spring training for the season ahead, allowing rusty golfers to warm up their swings and perfect their putts before entering those ever-present corporate tournaments.

The average golfer walks at least three miles during a round, and while some opt to tote their clubs on the back of a battery- operated golf cart, there is still a physical element to the game, LPGA professional Julieta Stack says. Before golfers take that first swing of the season, they should “be able to walk a little bit, so you’re not totally knocked out,” she suggests.

“You should make sure you’ve played a couple of rounds before heading out of town,” advises Stack, who teaches at Pine Ridge Golf Course in Baltimore. “You’re going to want to enjoy it.”

Course by Day, Cocktails by Night

Unlike Williamsburg, which is a family-oriented spot, Stack says Atlantic City, N.J., has a lively nightlife — a major plus for a burned-out Hill staffer or anyone who had a rough day on the course.

Seaview Resort & Spa, 10 miles from Atlantic City’s boardwalk, has unlimited golf weekend packages and an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Twisted Dune Golf Club, 15 minutes outside of Atlantic City, is more moderately priced and has a handful of Internet deals. Stack also recommends the Links at Brigantine Beach, a coastal course with sandy dunes and few trees.

Stack just returned from a golfing trip in Argentina, where she enjoyed wine tastings and sightseeing in between rounds. Stack has taken her Beltway clients on trips to a handful of places, from Scotland to South Carolina, and says it’s a great way to continue developing your skills.

“I think it’s better to have your local professional on a quick trip early in the season so you’ll see them throughout the summer,” Stack said.

Eastern Shore Links

Maryland also is home to a handful of well-known courses, from the private Congressional Country Club that has played host to several PGA tournaments, to Burning Tree Club, the men’s-only course that includes House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) among its members. But the Old Line State, with its waterfront property and sprawling greens, has a host of public courses for rank-and-file golfers.

A 90-minute drive east on U.S. 50 will lead you to the Eastern Shore, known for its scenic views and steamed crabs. The area’s scenery was featured prominently throughout the 2005 Vince Vaughn film “Wedding Crashers,” making it an even more popular hot spot for overworked Washingtonians. But unlike the oft-quoted line from the movie — “crabcakes and football, that’s what Maryland does” — a weekend traveler will find the state also does golf.

Hog Neck Golf Course, 66 miles from Capitol Hill in Easton, Md., has two golf courses spread out along 255 acres. Hog Neck offers 27 holes of golf, a par-72 championship course and a par-32 executive course. And while it’s not the top course on the Eastern Shore, Petersen says Hog Neck is a great place for both new and experienced golfers. Hog Neck also has deals with local hotels, which offer discounts to weekend golfers.

North of the Beltway and through the Harbor Tunnel is Bulle Rock Golf Club, a onetime horse farm and current site of the McDonald’s LPGA Championship. Located in Havre de Grace, Md., Bulle Rock is a top-rated course, and with $150 greens fees, a top-priced one.

“Most of us weekend warriors like the idea of playing a top PGA course,” Crist says. “If you can, you should find a way to play one.”

Junior Hill staffers who can’t swing that price but are still looking for quality greens can play just south of Bulle Rock at Beechtree Golf Club in Aberdeen, Md., which charges $95 for a round.

Pennsylvania Putting

Farther north, in Fayetteville, Pa., Penn National boasts 36 holes of play nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. The Women’s Congressional Golf Association takes an annual trip to play the two courses, one a par 3 and the other a par 5. The Penn National Inn, situated on the eighth fairway of the Founders Course, provides golfers quick access to the links. But unlike the cocktail-friendly Atlantic City courses, golfers looking for a little “aiming fluid” won’t be able to order a drink at the turn. Located in the dry Franklin County, golfers at Penn National have to bring their own booze.

“Given the average Hill staffer’s schedule, you’ll be happier if you drive a little bit to play,” Crist says. “You have to make a concerted effort, but you’ll be happier for it.”

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