Golf Course Architecture - Issue 56: April 2019

51 Image: Mike McCartin East Potomac Park and the other two DC golf courses under the National Park Service umbrella (Rock Creek, a William Flynn design, and Langston, one of the first 18-hole courses built specifically for African American golfers) are about to be available for a long-term lease of 50-60 years. The idea behind the plan is to enable the types of long-term investments in the courses that the concession system made impossible. I’m hoping that the result of all this will include restoring East Potomac’s reversible Travis design. We have almost all of Travis’s original plans for the course and the as-built (seen in aerials and ground level photos) tracks extremely closely to the plans. I’m trying to get the word out publicly about East Potomac, its history, and the opportunity to restore the Travis course there with this new lease. To me, the combination of the federal government’s decision to build a municipal golf facility to be a model for the rest of the country, an extremely cool course design by a great architect, the course’s unparalleled location in the heart of the capital connected to the monumental core of the city, the amazing history that played out on the course (from the 1923 US Public Links to the civil rights movement), and the National Park Service’s mission to preserve and protect makes for a very compelling story that we should be able to build momentum around. If we do a good job telling those stories, we can shape the direction of what happens with the courses so that restoring the original designs and keeping the courses affordable/accessible becomes the obvious route. Just in the past ten years, I have heard several hare-brained schemes that involve turning the course into a PGA Tour venue or the ‘Augusta National of the Mid-Atlantic’. I’m afraid if someone doesn’t effectively make the case for an alternative that the chance to honour the history of the course will be lost for good. early twenty-first century, which added hugely to the course stock, mostly of proprietary courses, created such a flood of supply that the munis ceased to be the profit centres they had been, and became a liability. It isn’t too hard for local government to justify the provision of municipal golf if it makes money, or at least breaks even. A popular recreation for local people that is also profitable? Bring it on. When the course is losing money, matters change rather. If the choice of ways to spend council money is schools, roads or golf, golf loses every time. And so, a lot of municipal courses have closed in the last ten years, and others have come perilously close. Tynedale, in Hexham in the north east of England, and Bowring Park in Liverpool, two of the country’s oldest munis, are good examples of this: Tynedale lost a grant from the county council and was on the edge of Walter Travis designed a reversible course for East Potomac Park in Washington DC