CONGRESSIONAL CC (BLUE COURSE)
Course Architects: Devereaux Emmet (1924), Donald Ross (1930),
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1959-64), Rees Jones (1990s, 2006)
Year Opened: 1924
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Slope: 142. Rating: 75.4
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 402 Yds 10 - Par 3 218 Yds
2 - Par 3 211 Yds 11 - Par 5 507 Yds
3 - Par 4 455 Yds 12 - Par 4 415 Yds
4 - Par 4 427 Yds 13 - Par 3 187 Yds
5 - Par 4 407 Yds 14 - Par 4 454 Yds
6 - Par 5 544 Yds 15 - Par 4 439 Yds
7 - Par 3 174 Yds 16 - Par 5 579 Yds
8 - Par 4 354 Yds 17 - Par 4 437 Yds
9 - Par 5 602 Yds 18 - Par 4 466 Yds
Par 36 3,576 Yds Par 36 3,702 Yds
Awards Won: Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Best in State (Maryland) (2005-08),
#30 by Golf Connoisseur - 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs,
Ranked #70 by Golfweek - America's Top 100 Classic Courses (2008),
#86 by Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Courses (2007-08).
Key Events Held: U.S. Junior Amateur (1949),
U.S. Women's Amateur (1959),
U.S. Open (1964, 1997, 2011),
U.S. Senior Open (1995),
PGA Championship (1976),
Kemper Open (1980-86),
Booz Allen Classic (2005),
AT&T National (2007-09),
Quicken Loans National (2016, 2018, 2020).
HISTORY: When one talks about the history of a golf course, all you have to do
is look at what championships have been staged at the venue to know where it
ranks among the greats. That certainly is the case with Congressional Country
Club's Blue Course. From the U.S. and Senior Opens and PGA Championship, along
with PGA Tour stops, Congressional is as storied a venue as it gets. The list
of past winners at Congressional reads like a who's who, with such notable
victors as: Gay Brewer, Ken Venturi, Dave Stockton, Craig Stadler, Fred
Couples, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf and Ernie Els.
Founded in 1924, Congressional was first laid out by Devereaux Emmet, who
also crafted some notable venues; St. Georges Golf and Country Club, Garden
City Golf Club, Leatherstocking Country Club and Meadow Brook Club. With most
of his work done in the state of New York, Emmet's work at Congressional, nine
holes each of the Blue and Gold, was his only design in the state of Maryland.
Six years later, the one and only Donald Ross was brought in for a revision of
the course. Congressional Country Club was the centerpiece for one of the
world's most famous regions, Washington D.C.
Congressmen Oscar E. Bland and O.R. Luhring of Indiana helped found the venue
with Herbert Hoover as the Club's first president. Their intention was a club
designed for members of Congress to socialize with the most influential
businessmen of our time. The list included such luminaries as John D.
Rockefeller, the DuPonts, William Randolph Hurst, Harvey S. Firestone and
Walter Chrysler to name a few. Congressional is synonymous with the Presidents
of the United States. Former Commanders-in-Chief who were lifetime members
were Calvin Coolidge, Howard Taft, Hoover, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding.
President Dwight Eisenhower and his Cabinet frequented the lush fairways on
many occasions, as did recent leaders George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr was brought to Congressional in 1959 to redesign the
course in time for the U.S. Women's Amateur and the 1964 U.S. Open, while
his son Rees, who took over as the "Open Doctor" from his father, came aboard
in the early 1990s for the last major renovation work for the 1995 U.S. Senior
Open and the 1997 U.S. Open. Jones rebuilt every green and bunker, re-graded
many fairways and added considerable mounding. He returned to Congressional in
2006 to design a new par three to replace the original 18th, which played back
to the clubhouse. The new hole is now the 10th and plays away from the main
building, stretching as much as 218 yards. "I think what they've done to this
golf course is they have made it better," commented Tiger Woods. "They have
made it more fair, but they have also made it more challenging."
In just the second year of the tournament, the USGA brought the U.S. Junior
Amateur to Congressional, as former Masters champion Brewer defeated Mason
Rudolph, 6 & 4 in the championship match. The 1959 U.S. Women's Amateur saw
Barbara McIntire capture the first of her two championships, as she defeated
Joanne Goodwin, 4 & 3.
The best was yet to come, as the 1964 U.S. Open was awarded to
Congressional. With temperatures approaching 100, Tommy Jacobs played the
first two days in four-under par and led Arnold Palmer by one with Sunday's
final 36 holes remaining. Six shots back was Venturi, who after losing to
Palmer at the 1960 Masters, suffered through numerous injuries and by 1964
was hardly noticed. That would all change on Sunday. Despite the heat and
humidity, Venturi opened with a front- nine 30 to take the lead. After
adding another birdie on 12, the weather conditions began to take its toll
on Venturi, as he missed a pair of short par putts on the final two holes of
the third round for a 66. Jacobs fashioned an even-par 70 to lead by two
heading into the afternoon's final round. Visibly drained, Venturi was given
salt tablets and tea and was advised by a doctor, a Congressional member, to
withdraw from the event. The former CBS commentator played steady golf,
making 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys for a final score of 70, a 278
total and a four-stroke win over Jacobs, who collapsed down the stretch with
a 76. Venturi's final 54-hole total of 206 set a record at the time and his
last 36 of 136 tied the record. In the press room afterwards, Venturi was
asked what he thought of Congressional and without hesitation, "Best course
I ever won the Open on." Interestingly enough, due to additional television
revenues and the enormous physical circumstances Venturi withstood, the USGA
opted in 1965 to play the Open over four days, ending the final day marathon
that the last day of the Open had become. Palmer, who played in the final
group with Jacobs, shot 74 and tied for fifth. Venturi would later add two
more wins in 1964 and was voted PGA Tour player of the year.
The PGA of America made its only stop at Congressional in 1976 for the PGA
Championship. Tom Weiskopf opened with a tournament-low 65 to take the lead,
but could not continue his fine play, closing with 74-73-72 to tie for
eighth. Trailing by eight shots at the halfway point, Dave Stockton roared
into contention with a 69 to trail Charles Coody by only four. With the
final round being played on Monday for the first time in history due to
rain, Stockton shot an even-par round of 70 for a one-shot win over Ray
Floyd, who played with Venturi for those final 36 holes during the 1964
Open, and Don January. Standing on the final tee (17th hole was the final hole
for the PGA, 1964 Open and 1995 Senior Open), Stockton needed to make par to
avoid a playoff. The 14-time Champions Tour and 10-time PGA Tour winner
calmly knocked in his 15-foot putt for par for his second PGA Championship
title. Stockton's total of one-over 281 matched the highest winning total
at the time. Congressional certainly came out on top, as the four-day
average was 74.44 and the halfway cut came in at nine-over par.
The PGA Tour's regular stop in the area, the Kemper Open, made Congressional
its home, as the course hosted the event from 1980-86. Playing as a par 72,
Craig Stadler became the first back-to-back winner of the event, as he titled
in 1981-82 after finishing second to John Mahaffey in 1980. Fred Couples won
a five-way playoff in 1983 for his first career PGA Tour title. Norman won
his first Tour title in 1984, as he cruised to a five-shot win over Mark
O'Meara at Congressional. Norman added his second Kemper Open title in 1986,
when he knocked off Larry Mize in a playoff. Mize, of course, would return
the favor the next year at The Masters.
The USGA returned to Congressional in 1995 for the Senior Open. Perennial
runner-up Tom Weiskopf, who never won a USGA event before, became only the
second Senior Open winner to post all four rounds in the 60s, as he
defeated longtime rival Jack Nicklaus by four shots. Weiskopf, who
finished second at the 1976 U.S. Open and was runner-up at four Masters,
missed only 16 greens all week and his final round of 68 ranks as one of
the best final rounds by a champion in the history of the Senior Open.
It took 33 years, but the U.S. Open returned to Congressional for the 1997
edition. Colin Montgomerie opened with 65 and held a one-shot lead over Hal
Sutton, as he hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 greens in regulation. Monty
would struggle in day two, shooting 76 while Tom Lehman carded 70 to take
the lead, just one clear of 1994 champion Ernie Els, who fashioned a 67.
Day three was a mixed bag, as 21 players were forced to complete their
third round on Sunday, including Els, who at the time was struggling at
two-over par through 13. Els came out of the box smoking, as he rolled in a
12-foot par save on 14 and then birdied holes 15 through 17 for a 69. Lehman,
who was playing in the final group for the third consecutive year, led Els
and Jeff Maggert by two.
Despite a shaky start, Lehman was tied for the lead with Maggert after six
holes, with Els and Montgomerie just one back. Playing holes 7-12 in three-
under, Els took a one-shot lead over the trio, but fell back into a tie
with a bogey at 13. Maggert fell out of contention with bogeys on 13 and 16
and a double on 17. Montgomerie was the next player to fall back. After
making bogey on 17 the three previous days, Montgomerie was faced with a
five-foot putt for par. He waited several minutes for the group of Jay Haas
and Tommy Tolles to putt out on the nearby 18th green, and Montgomerie missed
his putt and then two-putted from 40-feet on the last for a 69 and a second-
place finish. After a solid tee shot on 17, Els, playing with Montgomerie,
hit his five-iron approach on the green and two-putted for par and then
made par on the last for a 69.
Sitting in the fairway at the 17th hole, Lehman decided to hit seven-iron
from 190 yards out, as he trailed by one. After striking his shot, Lehman
knew his chances were sunk as he splashed his approach into the water.
Despite getting up and down for bogey, Lehman could only par the last for a
73 and a third-place finish. The win by Els made him the first non-American
to capture two U.S. Open titles since 1910 and the youngest two-time champion
at the age of 27 since Jack Nicklaus in 1967. The key to victory was the
South African's play over the final five holes, as he played them the last
two days at three-under par. Lehman played them at even- par, Montgomerie at
one-over and Maggert five-over. Nicklaus, who tied for 52nd, played in his
41st consecutive Open, 142nd straight major and his 150th major championship.
The 10th hole during the third round also marked his 10,000th hole
played in his major championship career. At 7,213 yards, Congressional
was the longest course in U.S. Open history at the time and was 160 yards
longer than the 1964 Open.
The field also included Tiger Woods, who was competing at the U.S. Open for
the first time as a professional. Woods broke 72 only once (second round 67)
and finished tied for 19th. Congressional once again was the winner, as the
average score for the week was 73.65 with 403 rounds over par.
After hosting the Booz Allen Classic in 2005, won by Spaniard Sergio Garcia,
Congressional became the site of the PGA Tour's newest event, the AT&T
National, hosted by Tiger Woods.
The first staging of the event was in 2007, as K.J. Choi held off the
tournament host and the Tour's best, as he recorded a three-shot win over
Steve Stricker. Choi opened with 66 and was tied for the lead with four other
players. A second-round 67 moved Choi atop the leaderboard with Stuart
Appleby. The talented Australian moved in front with his third straight round
in the 60s to lead Choi by two shots. Appleby struggled right from the start
on the final day, with a double-bogey on two and four straight bogeys from the
fourth to fall out of contention. Tied with Choi after 14 holes, Stricker
bogeyed the 15th, while Choi, playing in the final group, birdied from 12 feet
to take a two-shot lead. Stricker had birdie chances on the final two holes,
but missed and after a Choi hole out from the bunker on 17 for birdie, the
tournament was his. After an opening round of 73, Woods rebounded with
66-69-70 to tie for sixth.
REVIEW: From an elevated tee, the first hole is a straightaway par four, just
over 400 yards from the blue tees. Bunkers dot the right side of the landing
area with one solo trap on the left. A mid to short-iron will remain to a
fairly flat green with three traps, right, left-front and back-right. The
putting surface is one of the smallest on the course at 28 yards deep with a
back-left pin placement the most difficult. Rumor has it that during the 1964
U.S. Open, Chi Chi Rodriguez drove in the rough and asked the starter, "Can I
have a mulligan?"
The first demanding hole on the course is the par-three second. Stretching
as much as 235 yards, this hole plays uphill to a slick green guarded by
six strategically placed bunkers. The putting surface slopes severely from
back-left to front-right with a ridge in the center. Whatever you do, avoid
long and left, as getting up and down will certainly be a chore.
Your next test at Congressional comes in the way of the third. Bending ever so
slightly to the left, this par four plays downhill to the fairway and uphill
to the green. Three fairway traps with high lips protect the right side,
while thick rough flanks the left. The undulating green has a large and small
trap to the left and a pair of pot bunkers on the right. The second deepest
green on the course slopes from back to front and is quite intimidating. Stay
below the hole, or else! Charles Coody, who led the PGA with one round
remaining, fell out of the lead on this hole as he made double-bogey.
A dogleg to the right, the fourth is another outstanding hole that
features no fairway bunkers but trees flanking both sides, especially the
right. Although played off an elevated tee, the second shot will once
again be uphill to a tiny 25-yard green. Sand comes into play around the
putting surface, with a deep trap left and two right. Back to front is the
slope of the green, so stay below the hole for any shot at birdie. Ken
Venturi made mincemeat of the fourth en route to his 1964 U.S. Open title
with three birdies in four rounds.
From an elevated tee, the fifth doglegs sharply to the left. At just 407
yards, this is a definite birdie hole, but it must be played strategically.
Three or fairway metal off the tee is all that is needed to dissect the
sloping fairway that boasts three bunkers on the left. Miss the fairway left
and you'll end up in trees. Drive through the fairway and you'll have no shot
at holding the green. Ideally, a short iron remains to a green guarded by a
long bunker left, a pot bunker back and a deep bunker, front-right. The
putting surface features a ridge in the center and slopes from back to front.
A shaved chipping area will collect any shot that misses right or long, so
club selection will be key.
If you're a member, you'll play the sixth as a par five of 544 yards,
however for the 1997 U.S. Open it played as a par-four. A big drive down the
right side of the fairway is required to have any type of success. The key
however, is too avoid the two bunkers that span 55 yards in the landing
zone. Next up is deciding what to do, as your second must either avoid the
pond fronting the green or lay up to a negotiable yardage. To be honest,
there is no choice. Lay up and leave yourself 100 yards. This takes all the
trouble out of play and can set up a real birdie chance. The deep putting
surface can be tough, especially with a front-right or a back-left pin. One
of the toughest greens on the course, the seventh is two-tiered and slopes
wickedly from back to front.
Playing uphill, this par-three gem is fronted by four traps and requires
pinpoint accuracy. Long and left will require a magic hat and wand to get
up and down. Jack Nicklaus made his usual Sunday charge at the 1995 U.S.
Senior Open when he aced the seventh. One of only two par fours under 400
yards, the eighth is thought of as a birdie hole, but if you're not careful,
it can result in bogey.
The defense of the eighth is that the hole plays as a dogleg to the right
with bunkers and trees on the right and a small, well-guarded green. A
fairway metal or long iron is all that is needed to attack the hole off the
tee. From there, just a little wedge is left to a putting surface that
slopes from back to front with five traps around the green. The key to
success is the tee shot, because missing right will lead to trouble.
The final hole on the outward nine is one of the most demanding par fives
around. It's a roller-coaster of a hole that requires pinpoint accuracy.
First of all, length. The ninth is a 602-yard beast. Second, your drive
plays down into a valley of a fairway with a pair of 20- yard traps flanking
each side of the landing area. Next, your lay-up must be towards the right
side of the fairway to avoid being blocked by tall trees that overlook the
fairway. By the way, going for the green in two is sure suicide, as a
deep ravine in front of the green features thick rough and leaves a
blind, uphill third shot. Negotiating the putting surface is no bargain
either, as it slopes quickly from left to right and back to front, with
numerous bunkers around. One final thought, any shot on the beginning of the
green will fall off due to the shaved area fronting the surface.
Completely redesigned by Rees Jones in 2006, the 10th, formerly the 18th, is a
much stronger par three than its predecessor. Originally played back towards
the clubhouse at 190 yards, this one-shotter now plays in the opposite
direction, with six sets of tees ranging from 109 yards to 218. Once again
over water, the green plays devilishly close to the pond, with two bunkers
deep and one, short-right. Playing downhill from the tee, precision is key, as
the putting surface is wide and undulating, but not very deep. A watery grave
will result in any shot short of the target due to the slope of the green, so
choose your club wisely, take a deep breath, and let it go.
Most of the talk around Congressional has 18 as the signature hole, however
the second hole on the back nine has to be considered as one of the best
holes on the course. Played as a par four for championship events, the 11th is
regularly played as a three-shotter for us mere mortals. From an elevated tee
box, the golfer needs to play for the left side of the fairway, as the slope
in the landing area goes to the left. Two bunkers protect the right side of
the fairway while trees and a steep slope guard the left. Let's not forget the
stream that runs the entire length of the right side to the green ending at a
pond to the right of the surface. No doubt a long iron is left, maybe even a
fairway metal to this 34-yard deep green. Laying up is no bargain either with
three traps left of the narrow landing zone. My advice, play it as a par-five
and take your par and move on.
Although the 12th is a severe dogleg left of a par four, it most definitely
can be had. That being said, the key is the tee shot, which must be played
from right to left off the elevated ground, thus avoiding the trees guarding
the left side and the 40-yard bunker on the right corner. A short iron will
remain to one of the largest greens on the course. A back-right or front-
left pin could be difficult, but play below the hole to give yourself the
best shot at birdie.
The first par three on the back nine, the 13th features a narrow entry to
the front of the green, and although not that deep, the putting surface is
quite wide. Three enormous traps protect the front-left and right of the
green, while the putting surface is two-tiered and slopes quickly to the
front. A back-right or back-left pin could prove costly if you err in club
There is no let up when you reach the 14th, a brute of a par four. Another
elevated tee box allows the player to see what's in store. With that in
mind, pull out the big dog and let it rip. Out of bounds left and deep
rough and trees will make you think twice about accuracy. Your second shot
will be played uphill to a smallish, two-tiered green guarded by three deep
bunkers left and one right. Make sure you take an extra club or two when
hitting your second shot or you'll end up short and your shot might come
back down the fairway.
From no fairway traps on the 14th to a quartet on the 15th, that's what
awaits you on the tee box. What makes matters worse, missing left will
result in deep rough, giving you virtually no shot at reaching the
uphill green. This hole was so difficult in 1964 that champion Ken Venturi
made bogey here three times. The putting surface is quite difficult
with a ridge in the middle and it slopes from back to front and left to right.
Also, three finger bunkers guard the right-front of the green while one trap
deep catches the long play. If the flag is back-right, don't fight it, just
take your medicine and move on.
The final par five on the course, the 16th is reachable, but in the real
world this is definitely a three-shotter. After the tee shot, the hole plays
uphill all the way to the green. The hole bends to the left after the tee
ball and your opening shot must dissect the pair of traps right and left.
Your lay-up must avoid the quartet of traps on the right side, so leave
yourself 100 yards for your third. Remember, it's uphill, so take an extra
club or you'll fall short of your target. The putting surface is quite small
with a 30-yard trap protecting the left side. Although the view of the
Presbyterian Church in the foreground is appealing (Founded in 1874), do not
miss long, as the green will not allow you to get up and down.
Another great hole, the 17th requires some thought on the tee. The fairway
runs out from the back tee at 295 yards, so for you big blasters, you might
want to take three-metal, as a shot played too far might leave a downhill
second out of thick rough. A mid to short iron will remain to one of the
slickest greens on the course. Five traps surround a putting surface that
slopes from back to front. Not used in the 1964 Open and the 1976 PGA, the
17th was back in play for the 1995 Senior Open and the 1997 Open.
If there was one shot Tom Lehman would like to have back, it has to be his
second at the 18th that he deposited in the water (played as the 17th for that
event). The Blue Course's signature hole is, in a word, awesome. The
scorecard says 466 yards, but for the 1997 U.S. Open, it played at 480
yards. The elevated tee shot must be played with a slight draw to catch the
slope. Anything missed right or left will result in trees and deep rough.
The real test comes with the second shot, as water surrounds three sides of
the green, not to mention four traps to the right of the surface. The problem
here is that your approach is played off a downhill lie, so choosing the
correct club and committing to the shot is of utmost importance. With a
ridge in the center of the green and the shaved slope on the left, the smart
play is right-center and two-putt for par. Cute will get you wet. What a
FINAL WORD: Over the years, some of the greatest architects of our time have
converted Congressional into one of the premier courses in the country. There
is a reason why it has been ranked in the top-100 for so many years.
Let's begin with the intangibles, such as the history of the course.
Congressional has hosted U.S. Opens, the PGA Championship and a Senior
Open, along with being a Tour stop for many years. The membership can't get
much better than the Presidents of the United States. Speaking of
membership, you'll have to pony up well over $100,000 to join, not to mention
be patient, as the waiting list is around a dozen years.
You'll be hard pressed to find a clubhouse with more charm and ambience than
Congressional. But, let's not forget about the course. The practice facility
is outstanding and the course, well, top notch.
When Rees Jones came in the early 1990s, he rebuilt every green, lowering
17 of them, changing many of the contours to make them more receptive. Jones
also elevated many of the tees and re-graded the fairways to take out many of
the blind looks the course had. With the changes, Jones brought strategy
back into focus for all shots, not just the tee ball. "I want the golfer to
stand on the tee and think about how he's going to play it," said Jones. The
changes were needed, but they did not damage the integrity of the course. Even
his work on the new 10th, has made the venue more complete.
Congressional Blue has been crafted into a phenomenal layout. It comes as no
surprise that the USGA will come back in 2011 for the U.S. Open. "It will be
interesting to see how the Open is set up when it comes back here," Woods
added. "It is longer now, very demanding and there is really no rest hole out
here. That's why the USGA loves coming here, because you are tested on every
factor of the game." Talk about a course that has gotten better with age, the
Blue at Congressional is quite presidential.