LEESBURG, Va. -- When you think of golf destinations, the nation's capital probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind.
But the Washington D.C. area, which also includes northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, offers an array of terrific golf courses and resorts with the added backdrop of American history and spectacular autumn colors.
The bonus, of course is all the things you can do in the D.C. area, whether it's checking out the White House, monuments, Smithsonian or taking in a sporting event.
My recent trip the area involved the latter -- more specifically a Washington Redskins game -- combined with a stay at the wonderfully complete Lansdowne Resort and Spa, located in the heart of the Virginia wine country in Leesburg.
The resort feature 45 holes of golf, perfect for all levels of players, as well as an array of dining choices, spa and other activities along the historic Potomac River. As for the Redskins, they would open up their season on Monday night against a tough opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let's just say my quest to find good golf was far more successful than the local team, which suffered red a 38-16 setback to start the season.
Golf at Lansdowne Resort
Multiple golf courses at a resort often fulfill a fundamental need -- something different for everyone. Nowhere, perhaps, is that more true than at The Golf Club at Lansdowne, a Troon-managed private facility that not only serves 500 members but the resort guests as well. At Lansdowne, there are two championship courses and a nine-hole course that's not too shabby as well.
On this short trip, we started out on Lansdowne's Robert Trent Jones Jr. Course , which is the more resort friendly of the two 18-hole courses. With wide fairways, large greens and gentle rolling layout through the woods, the course, which opened in 1991, challenges better players, especially from the back tees at 7,063 yards, but also has plenty of forgiveness. While there are lots of bunkers, both in the fairways and protecting the greens, there are openings to the greens as well for less accomplished players. Best of all, there's plenty of great scenery, including 250-year-old stone walls on the back nine, and beautiful fall foliage.
The other 18-hole course requires a little more precision. Designed by its namesake Greg Norman, there's an island green par 3, plenty more water and tighter fairways. The design incorporates the natural undulations of the Potomac River Valley, where Norman disturbed the land very little. The front nine of Lansdowne's Norman Course ventures west along the river toward Goose Creek, while the back nine runs east along the Potomac River, parallel to 14, 15 and 16. The last four holes on the front nine measure exactly 1,760 yards -- equal to one mile -- creating, according to Norman, "The Hardest Mile in Golf."
The third course at Lansdowne -- the Sharkbite might be just nine holes, but I believe it's actually the bridge that sets this resort apart. At less than 3,000 yards from the back tees, you might not think it's much of a test, but this par 32 is enjoyable for all levels. With smaller greens than the other two courses, it does require a bit of precision, but because it can play as short as 900 yards, it's suitable for all levels and all members of the family, making it perfect for a warm-up or quick round for avid golfers or beginners.
As a bonus, we also headed to Troon-managed Potomac Shores Golf Club in the master-planned community of Potomac Shores. Built right before the economic downturn of 2008, this signature Jack Nicklaus design actually got seven years of grow-in before it opened in 2014. The result, of course, is a layout more mature than its age, and in typical Nicklaus style, it's all the golf course you can handle, especially from the rearward tees. With several elevated tees, mature hardwoods and terrific conditioning, the course is a beautiful daily fee option in the area for residents and visitors alike.
The variety continues at Lansdowne Resort
Located about 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C., the Lansdowne Resort and Spa, owned by LaSalle Hotels and managed by Destination Hotels, sprawls across 476 acres along the banks of the Potomac River. This four-diamond resort cultivates an atmosphere that's connected to nature, offering plenty of hiking and biking trails, fishing, tennis, golf, an aquatic with four pools, a waterslide and a splash fountain, and what really impressed me, great dining.
From the clubhouse restaurant Piedmont's Table to the American tavern Coton and Rye, Lansdowne really does have something for everyone's taste. Under the direction of Chef Marcus Rep, who uses the farm-to-table approach (the resort has an urban garden on property), the food is fresh throughout the resort's half dozen restaurants and features a selection of local wines and craft beers.
My favorite dining experience here was probably Coton and Rye, which serves reinvented classic Virginian recipes and locally sourced ingredients from the mid-Atlantic region. I had the restaurant's signature Turkey Pot Pie, which is nothing like the Swanson's frozen pot pies available in the grocery store.
Lansdowne Resort also has 296 newly redesigned guest rooms, including signature suites and two Presidential Suites, all with views of the resort's championship golf courses, Potomac River and nearby mountains.
And finally, there's the 12,000-square-foot Spa Minerale, which offers 13 treatment rooms numerous relaxation lounges and a terrace that features spa products inspired by Virginia's mineral-rich environment and indigenous botanical ingredients. Signature treatments include: The Chardonnay Wrap, The Chardonnay Facial, and the Cabernet and Cacao Cocoon.