For some, golf was the ideal socially distanced activity, so there was little reason to put off playing during the COVID lockdown. But for others more wary of doing anything with anyone, we are coming out of our birdie-free hibernation after months of not swinging a club.
Before you book your first tee time, hit the driving range before hitting the links, more than once if you have time. You will save yourself embarrassment and frustration—trust us, driving a golf ball is not the same rote physical activity as riding a bicycle.
Happily, the region is surrounded by accessible, affordable, and well-groomed public and public/private courses, each with its own personality. Like these:
Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club: This layout designed by Gary Player runs along the spine of the Catoctin Mountains north of Leesburg. Everywhere you look, there’s something to see. Beware the Scottish-style stacked pot bunkers. You know what—better yet, don’t fear anything and just hit it. Don’t miss: If the wind is to your back on the elevated tee box at No. 3, you could drive the green 400 yards away. A great feeling. 41601 Raspberry Dr., Leesburg
Potomac Shores Golf Club: Now that the bunker renovation is completed and the fairway grass has been converted to Latitude 36 Bermuda, this 7-year-old Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is ready to rock. The scenic layout boasts wide fairways (something to think about if you haven’t played in a while), challenging traps, and fun elevation changes that keep things interesting. Don’t miss: the downhill, 410-yard, par-4 No. 9. The green is guarded by towering trees that feed on overshot balls. 1750 Dunnington Pl., Dumfries
Meadows Farms Golf Course: You would think a golf course owned by the folks who operate a chain of nurseries would know how to grow grass, and they do. Not only that, but the 27 holes appear to be plucked from 27 different courses—these are landscape designers, after all. Bridges, waterfalls, walls, an island green—imagine a miniature golf course, all grown up. Don’t miss: The official Guinness Book of World Records “Longest Hole in the U.S.” is here, a par-6, 841-yard whopper that you’ll talk about at the 19th hole. 4300 Flat Run Rd., Locust Grove
Bull Run Golf Club: Golf is supposed to be relaxing, right? This is the place. When the course architect, Jack Nicklaus–trained Rick Jacobson, admits, “I don’t drive the ball that straight myself, so it’s a course where you can spray it a little and not be punished too severely,” well, we’re in. No parallel fairways (which means you keep it in yours no matter where it ends up), large landing areas that drain in the right direction, and a great view of Bull Run Mountain on No. 4. Don’t miss: No. 1 gets the water hazard over with right away with an intimidating pond right in front of you, but there’s also a driving range to hit beforehand, highly recommended. 15000 Bull Run Estates Dr., Haymarket
Jefferson District Golf Course: One of seven golf courses operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, this friendly nine-hole executive course is all you want in a neighborhood muni: wide fairways, a few ponds for the fun of it (none of them fear-inducing), playable greens, and verdant grass all season. The chipping and putting greens help you warm up while you wait for your tee time. Best of all—and we hope we don’t jinx it—but as a single walk-on, we’ve never been matched with anybody we didn’t end up liking. Don’t miss: beer specials and the adjacent mini golf course. 7900 Lee Hwy., Falls Church
And for Golf-But-Not-Really-But-Kind-Of
Topgolf: Ever since the first ball was struck by a mashie in the 15th century at St. Andrews in Scotland, all-weather and nighttime golf was a distant dream. And now, we have Topgolf. Take your position in one of more than 100 air-conditioned/heated hitting bays. Place an order for a burger and beer with one of the waitstaff. We truly live in miraculous times. 20356 Commonwealth Center Dr., Ashburn, 703-763-2020