LEESBURG, Va. - Beltway politicians and lobbyists aren't the only ones in the D.C. area who can enjoy top-notch golf, thanks to the public Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club in northern Virginia, about 15 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport.
True, the District is known for it's ultra-exclusive private clubs fit for Presidents, like Congressional Country Club, the TPC Avenel and Bethesda Country Club, where the ordinary taxpayer isn't even allowed to think about such golf courses without being wire-tapped.
"Razz Falls," on the other hand, stakes its claim as one of the area's finest daily fees, up there with P.B. Dye Golf Club, Bulle Rock Golf Club and Augustine Golf Club. It's a relatively new Gary Player design built in the Raspberry Falls community, which was once a fertile raspberry farm and home to a local fox-hunting club.
The guns have since been put away now to make room for championship golf and an upscale residential community littered with million-dollar homes. But golfers won't be feeling claustrophobic here. Home sites are kept well off the fairways, so you won't be dropping bombs into little Suzie's sandbox.
The golf course begins relatively tame with two back-to-back par 4s with slightly elevated greens.
But Raspberry Falls really comes into its own on No. 3. It's a long par 4 with a highly elevated tee box that heads straight downhill. From here, you can see the par-5 11th hole, as well as the surrounding open countryside and the Catoctin Mountains in the distance.
The course is in most parts not only wide open with few parallel holes but affords plenty of these expansive views of the sparsely populated surroundings - a welcomed sight from the dense metropolis just minutes away.
But it's not all fields of green here. Raspberry Falls features a collection of hallowed pots with steep sod walls, built to be as formidable as Scotland's links, where Player himself grew his legend as one of the game's great scramblers with three Open Championship victories.
Every golfer here is bound to find themselves in at least one of these swallowing pits, where chances are you won't be able to see over the lip. Several in particular are even named, like "Satan's Foxhole," "Grant's Tomb," "Lee's Bunker" and even "Myrtle Beach," a bunker 30 feet wide and 12 feet deep next to the par-4 16th green.
The long, par-4 10th hole is a signature hole contender. An enormous bunker behind the green corals approach shots hit too long - and that's a good amount of them, as a large pond sits to the front and left of the green - making for one of the most knee-knocking approaches of the round.
Another sand-heavy hole is the par-3 13th, which features not only a waste bunker spanning the entire hole from tee to green but also rock outcroppings around the front of the green, which can cause some errant caroms.
On the 18th hole, you finally meet up with the Raspberry Falls, which tumble down the hillside next to the hole's multiple staggered tee boxes, tucked into woods. It's an awkward drive, as trees encroach on the left-hand side, but there's no need swinging for the fences here, as a creek running in front of the green is a not-so-subtle suggestion to lay-up your second.
Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club: The verdict
Raspberry Falls is considered by a lot of D.C.-area golfers as one of the best public metro plays and with good reason. It's kept in outstanding shape with smooth and fast bent grass greens and features a championship layout with five sets of tees, ranging from 7,191 yards to as short as 4,854.
Like many of Player's courses, it's rather forgiving off the tee (as are most of his courses) with wide fairways and plenty of rough on most holes before either O.B. or long heather kicks in. The sneaky-large bunkers on many holes are what defend par here.
Facilities include a pro shop and dining room, along with a full-length driving range and short game area. Range balls are included in the $85-$105 peak season green fees.