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D.C.'s great 18: It's easy to find a stellar golf course in the greater Washington, D.C. area

Kevin DunleavyBy Kevin Dunleavy,
Augustine Golf Club - no. 2
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Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Va. is among the top public courses in the D.C. area. (Kevin Dunleavy/TravelGolf)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Over the last 25 years, the growth in upscale public golf in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area has corresponded with the city's population boom.

It's now as easy to locate a quality golf course in the D.C. area as it is to find a lobbyist, lawyer or government contractor.

Stellar tracks dot the landscape in all directions from the District, enough to easily compile a list of the dream 18 holes -- nine in Virginia and nine in Maryland -- all within an hour's drive from the Beltway.

Virginia nine

No. 1 Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club (Par 4, 411 yards): With the Blue Ridge Mountains stretching in the horizon, the view from the first tee is a jaw dropper as players take in the downhill dogleg. On the spectacular Tom Clark-designed course built on cleared farmland, trees rarely obstruct views or tee shots.

No. 17 Stonewall Golf Club (Par 3, 186): For those who can't play private Robert Trent Jones, the next best option on Lake Manassas is public Stonewall G.C. All four par-3 holes are over water, but the best is no. 17, which has a stunning two-tiered green, surrounded by bunkers and built into the side of a hill.

No. 18 Bull Run Country Club (Par 5, 553 yards): Few designers do risk-reward better than Jack Nicklaus-disciple Rick Jacobson. From the wide fairway on his closing hole at Bull Run, players consider a carry over water to the diagonal green or a lay up to a fairway clear of a large tree.

No. 10 Raspberry Falls Golf (Par 4, 462 yards): Stacked-sod bunkers give the Gary Player-designed course a Scottish feel. Guarding the 10th green, along with a lake to the left, are two of the most dastardly examples -- a tiny pot bunker in front and a sprawling trap behind. This beautiful, challenging hole typifies Raspberry.

No. 3 Westfields Golf Club (Par 3, 223 yards): Westfields' dazzling signature hole is a bear from the tips, also known as the "Boom Boom" tees at the Fred Couples-designed course. The hole plays over water to a generous green surrounded by trouble at the course known for its secluded setting amid the bustle of northern Virginia.

No. 2 Augustine Golf Club (Par 4, 456 yards): A 50-foot drop to the fairway makes this hole shorter than on the scorecard. It's plenty tough, however, as the dogleg wraps around a lake at the Rick Jacobson-designed course, which has rebounded under Raspberry Golf Management.

No. 10 Goose Creek Golf Club (Par 4, 329 yards): The 60-year-old course in Leesburg remains one of D.C.'s best bargains. No hole captures its old-school charm better than the 10th, which opens a scenic stretch along Goose Creek. The wedge approach at no. 10 is from a side-hill lie to a tiny, push-up green.

No. 17 Laurel Hill Golf Club (Par 4, 493 yards): The fairway looks wide from the tee, but there's even more room to the right -- obscured by trees -- for players who want to cut yardage from the dogleg hole. The approach is to the most attractive green site at the municipal gem, which hosted the 2013 U.S. Public Links.

No. 18 Old Hickory Golf Club (Par 5, 620 yards): One of the toughest holes in northern Virginia requires three accurate shots, the first over a ravine, the second to a narrow, diagonal fairway, and the third to a well guarded green. On this hole, there is no place to bail out right or left and few level lies.

Maryland nine

No. 11 Renditions Golf Club (Par 4, 458 yards): The tribute course is best known for its replicas of Amen Corner, Hogan's Alley at Carnoustie, the church pew bunkers at Oakmont, and the island hole at TPC Sawgrass. But muscular no. 11, a copy of the brutal 17th at Oak Hill, feels most like a legitimate major championship hole.

No. 5 Blue Mash Golf Course (Par 5, 580 yards): Built next to a landfill and with a power line running through it, Blue Mash is one of the most unlikely sites for a quality track. But the Arthur Hills course brilliantly integrates woodlands, open farmland and wetlands. No. 5 is a challenging par 5 to a majestic, elevated green.

No. 11 Swan Point Yacht & Country Club (Par 3, 168 yards): The course on the Potomac River is often called D.C.'s answer to Kiawah Island. No. 11 is the first of three holes where players stare into 10-foot-high grass marshland from the tee. The narrow green is fronted by a wraparound bunker.

No. 6 Lake Presidential Golf Club (Par 4, 435): Turning up in an unlikely location east of D.C., Lake Presidential was a revelation when it opened in 2008. After five forgettable holes, no. 6 is the first indication that the course is special, as beautifully sculpted bunkers frame and pinch the fairway.

No. 17 Maryland National Golf Club (Par 3, 203 yards): Willow and pine trees create a magnificent backdrop on this spectacular downhill hole. Of all of Arthur Hills' D.C. courses, Maryland National is set on the best piece of property, combining woods, wetlands and open farmland in a pristine mountain setting.

No. 15 Queenstown Harbor -- Lakes (Par 5, 525 yards): With several holes set on the water, the River course is the star attraction. But the best of the 36 holes is on the Lakes. This left-to-right par 5, which wraps around a lake and has bunkers all the way up the left side, is all about picking a line off the tee.

No. 7 Musket Ridge Golf Club (Par 4, 448 yards): For a designer who made his bones in Florida, Joe Lee showed a surprising touch in the mountains, carving this course along a single ridge. The scenic, uphill seventh plays long, narrow and demanding.

No. 17 Worthington Manor Golf Club (Par 3, 223 yards): No course in the Washington area has a collection of par 3s as diverse as Worthington Manor. No. 6 looks like it belongs at a beach course. Nos. 8 and 15 are mountain classics. No. 17 is a downhill parkland beauty that wouldn't be out of place at Congressional.

No. 18 Whiskey Creek Golf Club (Par 5, 550 yards): Purists question Ernie Els for putting a stone ruin in the middle of the fairway on the closing hole of his stunning mountain course. But it gives the downhiller an interesting choice off the tee -- go left to get home in two or take the safe side. Either way, this hole is unforgettable.

More photos

Westfields Golf Club - no. 3Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club - 1stOld Hickory Golf Club - 18thLaurel Hill Golf Club - 17thOld Hickory Golf Club - 18thSwan Point Yacht & C.C. golf course - 11th

Kevin Dunleavy is a longtime resident of northern Virginia, a graduate of George Mason University, an award-winning reporter covering golf, colleges, and other sports for the Washington Examiner, and a single-digit handicap still seeking his elusive first hole-in-one. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KDunleavy.

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