Forest Greens Golf Club near Washington, D.C.: A private-club experience at daily-fee rates

TRIANGLE, Va. - Just because you are in big bucks territory just 32 miles from Washington, D.C., doesn't mean you have to give up playing golf on a designer course with gravitas. Forest Greens Golf Club may seem like a private club, but in reality, it's a daily-fee golf course with perks like on-course beverage services and a large practice area.

Course designer Clyde Johnston, known for his work in the Carolinas with courses such as Heather Glen Golf Links in South Carolina and River Landing Country Club in North Carolina, has created yet another beautiful layout in the Piedmonts of Northern Virginia where pines and oaks grow tall and the terrain climbs up and down some formidable hills, a perfect canvas for Forest Greens Golf Club.

Opened in 1996, Forest Greens joins a growing list of top tracks around the country owned and operated by public parks, in this case the Prince William County Park Authority. Averaging 32,000 to 36,000 rounds a year, Forest Greens is one of the more popular golf courses in Prince William's golf portfolio.

It's a fair course, without a whole lot of tricky drama or hidden treachery. With big, welcoming fairways and huge, modestly fast greens, this is a course you can enjoy again and again, starting with the first hole, an easy, downhill, dogleg left par 4 playing 385 yards.

Bentgrass tees and greens and Bermuda fairways are extremely well maintained and well watered adding to the private club illusion.

Forest Greens Golf Club: The view

As you play Forest Greens Golf Club, you won't see any houses and very few other fairways. This is not a golf course that charges back and forth along the landscape, rather it settles into the terrain quite comfortably.

Playing 6,808 yards from the tips (4,957 yards from the forward tees) with five sets of tees, you have choices, including the Golds set, at a reasonable 5,480 yards, a length that should appeal to longer hitting women who find the Reds way too short.

Most of the holes have roll-up greens with false fronts, while more drama in elevation is found in a few holes like No. 12. Greens are bent grass, fairways are Bermuda.

It may be debatable which of the holes is the prettiest, but hole No. 10, a formidable, par-5, dogleg left measuring 576 yards, is a strong contender. Dropping about 80 feet from tee to green, you'll need to avoid the trees on the left and bunkers on the right to reach the putting surface.

One local says his favorite is hole No. 12, a par-4, sharp, dogleg left playing up the hill 340 yards past a pond on the left to a narrow green well protected by several bunkers. "To reach the bend is about 180 yards, so I don't use my driver, but I have seen big hitters trying to go over the pond," he said.

"And wait until you see the views. They painted a picture of the hole from the middle of the fairway looking up to the green," adding the prints were available for sale in the pro shop.

Forest Greens Golf Club: The verdict

The par 3s are particularly solid. Peter Kim, general manager, likes No. 13 playing 194 downhill to a two-tiered, kidney-shaped green sloping from back to front. The 170-yard, par-3 No. 16 also plays down to a green, but to land on the putting surface, you must clear the bunkers.

And don't expect to coast home. Forest Greens Golf Club's par-5 18th hole is a tough one playing 582 yards uphill all the way. A dogleg left, your tee shot will need to stop short of a pond off the right "elbow" then you continue up the terraces to the green on the top.

In addition to an expansive practice facility with three-tiered, all-grass driving stations and a large putting green and chipping area, there is the Greenside Golf Learning Academy offering lessons and clinics for all ages. Forest Greens also participates in the First Tee program.

A 3,500-square-foot clubhouse contains a pro shop selling upscale apparel including Nike, Cutter & Buck, Ashworth, Callaway, Page & Tuttle, Footjoy and Titleist. There is a patio, the Golf Club Cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a private function room that can accommodate up to 50 people.

At $51 to $71 for green fees including a cart (it's the same whether you walk or ride), the deal gets even better when you purchase an annual pass entitling you to play at two Prince William County Park Authority courses. Prince William Golf Course and General's Ridge Golf Course, all within 30 miles of each other. Club rentals are available.

Forest Greens is a participant in the Bluebird Restoration Program and was named an Environmentally Friendly Golf Facility by the Virginia Department of Conservation.

The club is adjacent to Quantico Marine base, Prince William Forest Park and I-95 (just 1/4 miles away).

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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Forest Greens Golf Club near Washington, D.C.: A private-club experience at daily-fee rates