Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents spearheads work for golf course on National Register of Historic Places
Lawrence, Kan. (Feb. 14, 2017) — The rich history of Langston Golf Course on the northern perimeter of Washington, D.C., includes frequent rounds by African American golf pioneers Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder and Calvin Peete. Celebrities Duke Ellington and Joe Louis also spent time at the course, which was constructed in 1938 by the Department of the Interior largely to help African American golfers combat segregation.
Born of a need for black golfers to have a place to play, today Langston is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has overcome shortages of staffing and finances, and currently hosts 40,000 rounds annually, a number that most public golf courses would covet. It also has a vibrant junior program and a thriving First Tee program.
But while there is plenty of interest for playing the course, maintenance practices have lagged as budgets and manpower provide for only the simplest of chores at the 18-hole public facility. The National Park Service, landlord to the facility, has other priorities.
Dean Graves, certified golf course superintendent at Maryland’s Chevy Chase Club and a 36-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, recently rallied area superintendents and businesses to donate the equipment and sand needed to renovate seven bunkers at the short game practice area. Finally, something would be done to keep hope alive at Langston, which sits in the shadows of RFK Stadium.
“The bunkers there are just a mess. They are unplayable,” said Graves, a past president of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Couse Superintendents, which has supported the project scheduled to be completed this month to coincide with the celebration of Black History Month. “There are some bunkers that have overgrown so that they are just grass areas with sand underneath. It all needs to be re-done.
“We needed to do something for the kids, The First Tee and for all the adults who play here,” continued Graves. “Our hope is to continue to improve the course over time, knowing that they have limited resources.”
For starters, McDonald and Sons Inc. is donating the labor for the project, which is estimated to cost about $25,000. It is a labor of love for Joel Weiman, senior designer, who joined the golf course building company in 1996. In addition, York Building Products is donating the sand for the project, and Davisson Golf Inc. is pitching in with logistics expertise.
“We are excited about the project,” said Bart Miller, who is in his fourth year as golf course superintendent at Langston and oversees a small staff of just eight in the high season.
This project is just one of many in recent years for the historic golf course that was named for John Mercer Langston, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress from Virginia. For more than 20 years, up until 1997, there was talk that the golf course would become a parking lot for RFK stadium, or that it would be the site for a new football stadium.
Golf Course Specialists manages the property, and company president Kim Thomas welcomes the chance to make improvements to the famed site.
“Langston is integral to this community, and it has a proud legacy of getting people into the game long before there was a First Tee program,” said Thomas. “This is a golf course for everyone, and when this project is completed it will make a tremendous difference for us. There has been a lot of talk about getting things done here, but actions are bigger than words.”
About GCSAA and the EIFG
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management, and since 1926 GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 18,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.
The Environmental Institute for Golf is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game. Visit EIFG at www.eifg.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.