The Washington Golf and Country Club is considered the oldest golf club in Virginia, and its course now comprises 88 acres of land just off of Glebe Road in North Arlington.
The Washington Golf and Country Club, taken in the late 1930s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The club was incorporated in 1894 by members of the Metropolitan Club, though evidence exists that it was first organized in 1892. The Club was a social and literary group founded by employees of the Treasury Department and whose members were of the elite echelons of Washington society, including Senators, ambassadors, and other men in high government positions.
This was around the time when golf was becoming a major recreational craze. The 9-hole golf course was built on a 165-acre tract leased from the Hoover family, just north of Rosslyn. The Hoover family home became the de facto clubhouse for the golfers. It was noted that a man named Jackson also lived and worked on the property that became the golf course. Jackson had been enslaved by the Hoover family and later became their servant and then a servant at the golf club.
The Washington Golf Club in the 1920s at the Rixey property.
The golf club adhered to a strict set of rules, including regulation dress and a ban on gambling on the premises. An annual fee was between $15-$20, and by 1897 there were nearly 200 members. About 30 women had joined the club by 1898, though they would play on “ladies’ links.”
The club was disbanded in 1907 when the property owners decided to develop the land, and the following year it was incorporated under a new name, the Washington Country Club. Between 1908 and 1920 the club and a now-18-hole course were located at the property of Admiral Rixey, the then-United States Surgeon General.
This property also included tennis courts. Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft were honorary members, and Woodrow Wilson was also an active member, leading it to be known as the “Playground of Presidents.”
In 1915 the club’s name was changed to its current iteration as the Washington Golf and Country Club. In 1936 a fire destroyed the clubhouse and the club’s records, though it was rebuilt on the same foundations by 1937. In 1958, another new clubhouse was built, and the current clubhouse was completed in 2006.
To learn more about Arlington's history, visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library.
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