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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Introduces Bill to Upgrade Public Golf Courses in D.C. and Create a World-Class Golf Course

Apr 7, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to pave the way for desperately needed investment and improvements at the three federally owned golf courses in the District of Columbia – Langston Golf Course, Rock Creek Golf Course and East Potomac Golf Course.  The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the feasibility for public-private partnerships to operate the three courses.  The bill suggests that one of the courses be transformed into a world-class, tournament-quality course with playing fees commensurate with such courses around the country to help upgrade and sustain the other two courses to the same standards as the best public courses in the country owned by cities, towns, counties and states.  Those two courses would retain the same fee structure that exists on the date of enactment of the bill.  Norton has been working for years, beginning with a bill in 2007, to reverse the three courses’ long-term slide into deterioration, and to preserve, as she said, “these unique, valuable and historical D.C. attractions for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Norton, in her statement introducing the bill, said, “The courses have long been in desperate need of capital investment to reverse decades of deterioration and to maintain and preserve their historic features.   From the time Congress created the first of the courses in the 1920s, they have been underfunded… The three courses together constitute a magnificent but underutilized public asset that could be renovated and modernized, facilitating affordable recreation, attracting significantly more golfers and generating revenue to maintain the courses.”

Norton’s full introduction statement follows.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

On the Introduction of a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a resources study to determine the suitability and feasibility of entering into public-private partnerships to operate federally owned golf courses in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes

April 7, 2014

Ms. Norton.  Mr. Speaker,

           Today, I rise to introduce a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a resources study to determine the suitability and feasibility of entering into public-private partnerships to operate federally owned golf courses in the District of Columbia.  The three golf courses -- Langston Golf Course, Rock Creek Golf Course and East Potomac Golf Course -- are owned by the National Park Service (NPS).  The courses have long been in desperate need of capital investment to reverse decades of deterioration and to maintain and preserve their historic features.   From the time Congress created the first of the courses in the 1920s, they have been underfunded.  The major reason is that NPS has continued to operate the courses under concession contracts even though concession contracts do not allow for the significant annual capital improvements necessary for golf courses.  The concessions approach to operating golf courses has led to an inevitable declining state of repair.

           East Potomac Golf Course was built in 1920 and included three courses that accommodated all levels of play, with an 18-hole course and two 9-hole courses.  East Potomac was initially segregated, with African Americans permitted to play only on Mondays.  The course was desegregated in 1941 by the then-Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, following pressure from an African-American women’s golf club, the Wake Robin Golf Club.  However, Langston Golf Course opened in 1939 as a segregated course for African-Americans, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Langston was the home course for the Royal Golf Club and the Wake Robin Golf Club, the nation’s first clubs for African American men and women golfers, respectively.  Langston, named for John Mercer Langston, the first African-American elected to Congress from Virginia in 1888, was originally a 9-hole course.  Langston’s expansion to an 18-hole course began in 1955, but was not completed until the mid-1980s.  Rock Creek Golf Course opened in 1923 as a 9-hole course and an additional nine holes were added to it in 1926.  None of the courses have been modernized, all three have fallen into disrepair, and all lack the amenities necessary to serve the public today.

            My bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Director of NPS, to conduct a special resources study to determine the suitability and feasibility of entering into public-private partnerships with a non-Federal entity or entities to operate the courses.  The study would assume that one of the three golf courses will be a world-class, tournament-quality public course, with playing fees commensurate with such courses.  The other two courses would be public courses of substantially similar quality to top-ranked courses owned by cities, towns, counties and states.  The playing fees for these other two courses would remain the same as they are on the date of enactment of the bill, indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index.  The study would also determine which course would be best suitable as the world-class, tournament-quality public course.

           The three courses together constitute a magnificent but underutilized public asset that could be renovated and modernized, facilitating affordable recreation, attracting significantly more golfers and generating revenue to maintain the courses.  Unlike other NPS facilities, golf courses require significant, continuing capital investment for maintenance.  The current fees collected from patrons at the courses, which are established in the concessions contracts, must remain affordable and therefore do not generate sufficient revenue for NPS or the concessioners to properly maintain the courses.

           Because the public golf courses in the nation’s capital are in such poor condition and are in need of a different and better means of operating and funding, I urge support of this bill. 

Published: April 7, 2014