Golf Course Architecture - Issue 63, January 2021

Congressional change BETHESDA, MARYLAND The Blue course at Congressional Country Club, host of four majors, has been stripped back. Bradley Klein reports W hen architect Andrew Green interviewed for the job at Congressional Country Club in January 2018, he pointed out a curiosity about the club’s reputation. For all the legendary history of the 36-hole club, much of it thanks to three US Opens (1964, 1997, 2011) and a PGA Championship (1976) on the Blue course, the imagery and initial impression of the place seemed to revolve around the clubhouse. Not surprisingly, at one level, since the 135,000-square foot Spanish Revival building dominates the landscape due to its scale, location on a high point, and position overlooking the start and finish of both golf courses. Green’s goal, he said, “was to make the Blue course meet or exceed the clubhouse in reputation.” He might well have succeeded. After closure for all of 2020 that saw the Blue course completely overhauled, Green and Congressional are about to unveil their work. It’s not a restoration. Certainly not a modernisation. Let’s call it a transformation into a new-old golf course. Congressional occupies a lightly rolling, 380-acre tract 12 miles northwest of the US Capitol Building. It opened in 1924 as a recreational outpost for the nation’s governing class. Its founding life members included five US Presidents plus leading names from industry, media and entertainment. When the club’s doors officially opened on 23 May 1924, the news occupied the lead spot on the Washington Post ’s front page. Swimming pools, tennis courts, a bowling alley and extensive banquet and dining halls, 20 overnight rooms and a Presidential suite – all of it stood available to the nation’s elite. The amenities included an 18-hole golf course designed by Devereux Emmet. Emmett was not among the best- known designers of the Golden Age of architecture, mainly because much of his work preceded that era and not a lot of his best work has survived intact. A lawyer by training, he was more interested in golf, raising hunting dogs and selling real estate around the burgeoning community of Garden City in the middle of Long Island, New York. It was there that he laid out an early nine-hole version of Garden City Golf Club in 1897. As brother-in- law to the famed New York building architect Stanford White (the two married millionaire sisters), Emmet was extremely well connected to Metropolitan society. Emmet was fond of peppering his courses with all sorts of bunker formations – necklacing, cross hazards, ON S I TE 68