Most people play golf with friends or business companions. But some of my most enjoyable rounds have been with strangers late in the afternoon. I've played some of the area's best public courses for little money by taking advantage of twilight rates. Because I'm usually paired with a stranger or two, I've gotten to know lots of people--priests, news anchors, actors, and more. Once I was paired with the CEO of Gannett.
Drive a few miles north of the Beltway to Worthington Manor in Urbana during the summer and you can play from 4 until dark (except Fridays) for $35 or $40. I can get in 27 holes by playing the front nine twice before moving to the back nine. Worthington's twilight rate starts at 4, but many other courses begin reduced rates at 2. Twilight golfers don't usually need reservations--singles can usually be slipped in at the first tee. But call ahead to make sure the course is open to the public that day.
Here are 15 of the best afternoon deals within an hour's drive of DC.
1. P.B. Dye Golf Club, 9526 Dr. Perry Rd., Ijamsville, Md.; 301-607-4653; pbdyegolf.com. The super twilight rate at this challenging course starts at 4. Monday through Thursday it's $35, Friday it's $39, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays $45. Regular twilight rate (2 to 4 PM) is $49 Monday through Thursday. It's a hard course for high handicappers, but it's usually not too crowded because it's not easy to find. Prices include greens fee, golf cart, and use of the driving range.
2. Musket Ridge Golf Club, 3555 Brethren Church Rd., Myersville, Md.; 301-293-9930; musketridge.com. Twilight rate at this nifty course west of Frederick starts at 3 in the spring and fall, 4 in summer season. It's $39 Monday through Thursday, $49 Friday through Sunday. Includes greens fee, cart, and use of the range before your tee time.
3. Worthington Manor Golf Club, 8329 Fingerboard Rd., Urbana, Md.; 301-874-5400; worthingtonmanor.com. Monday through Thursday the noon price is $50 and the twilight rate, starting at 4, is $35 for all you can play on a gorgeous course off I-270. Friday is $60 until 5, $40 thereafter. Saturday, Sunday, and holidays the noon price is $64 and twilight is $40. The play is very friendly and well paced. Price includes greens fee, cart, and use of the range.
4. Penderbrook Golf Club, 3700 Golf Trail La., Fairfax; 703-385-3700; www.penderbrook.com. Super twilight ($25) at 4 all week and includes greens fees, cart, and use of the putting green. The house-lined course is compact and good for high handicappers; it is newly under the oversight of Arnold Palmer Golf Management. No driving range, but there is a small practice area for chipping. There's an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-play special with breakfast (7:30 to 10:30) and lunch (11 to 2) buffets included in earlier fees. Play can be slow, but it's a terrific deal.
5. Westfields Golf Club, 13940 Balmoral Greens Ave., Clifton; 703-631-3300; westfieldsgolf.com. At one of the finest courses in the area, the twilight rate, starting at 3, is $50 Monday through Thursday; that includes a cart, which you'll need. Saturday, Sunday, and holidays the twilight rate is $55 including free range balls. Westfields was designed by pro Fred Couples. To play this course during prime hours on weekends is nearly $100 a round.
6. Black Rock Golf Course, 20025 Mount Aetna Rd., Hagerstown; 240-313-2816; blackrockgolfcourse.com. This is in Washington County at the outer limits of our one-hour perimeter, but if traffic's not bad on I-270, you can make it. Twilight rate Monday through Thursday ($30) starts at noon, Friday through Sunday ($32) at 2; super twilight ($25) at 5 daily. That includes greens fees, cart, and all the golf you can play. The driving range is extra.
7. Augustine Golf Club, 76 Monument Dr., Stafford; 540-720-7374; augustinegolf.com. You have to battle I-95 south toward Fredericksburg, but if you live in that direction, this spectacular course is worth playing. The twilight rate, starting at 3, is $39 Monday through Friday, $49 Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. The fee includes greens fees, cart, and use of range.
8. Blue Mash Golf Course, 5821 Olney-Laytonsville Rd., Laytonsville; 301-670-1966; bluemash.com. This is a good walking course--almost perfectly flat. I favor it on wet days when other places will be cart path only. Twilight rate starts at 3--it's $44 Monday through Thursday, $53 Friday through Sunday and holidays with cart. It's even cheaper (by $6) if you walk.
9. Cross Creek Golf Club, 12800 Bay Hill Dr., Beltsville; 301-595-8901; crosscreekgolfclub.net. Just off I-95 north of the Beltway, Cross Creek is easy to get to. Twilight rate on this tight course is $35 ($45 Saturday and Sunday) with cart starting at 2, and if you start at 4 you can play until dark for $25 ($30 Saturday and Sunday). Watch for Internet ads offering further discounts or free balls, which you may need.
10. Swan Point Yacht & Country Club, 11550 Swan Point Blvd., Issue, Md.; 301-259-0047; swanpointgolf.com. This beautiful course with lots of water has the feel of playing in Myrtle Beach but is seven hours closer. Twilight rate starts at 2 and is $49 any day of the week. It's a great deal for a course of this quality. A play-all-day special that includes lunch is $79 weekdays. Prices include cart, greens fee, and range balls.
11. Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club, 41601 Raspberry Dr., Leesburg; 703-779-2555; raspberryfalls.com. This course is pretty but tough and doesn't come cheap even late in the afternoon. Twilight rate starts at 3 and is $52 Monday through Thursday, $62 Friday through Sunday and holidays--cart, range balls, and greens fees included.
12. Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas, 15601 Turtle Point Dr., Gainesville; 703-753-5101; stonewallgolfclub.com. This wonderful course across the lake from the exclusive Robert Trent Jones layout doesn't cut you much of a break. Summer twilight rate, starting at 4, is $55 Monday through Thursday, $65 Friday through Sunday, including cart, greens fee, and range balls.
13. Whiskey Creek Golf Club, 4804 Whiskey Ct., Ijamsville, Md.; 301-694-2900; whiskeycreekgolf.com. This hilly golf paradise off I-270 starts its twilight rate at 1:30 in April and May and 2:30 June through August. The price drops from $78 to $58 Monday through Thursday and from $93 to $62 Friday through Sunday and holidays, including greens fee, cart, and range balls.
14. Goose Creek Golf Club, 43001 Golf Club Rd., Leesburg; 703-729-2500; goosecreekgolf.com. This course is not in the same league as Westfields or Raspberry Falls, but the price is right, and it's great for beginners. Twilight rate, 3 to 5 Monday through Friday, is all you can play for $25; Saturday and Sunday it's $29. Super twilight, starting at 5, is $19 daily.
15. Reston National Golf Course, 11875 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston; 703-620-9333; virginiagolf.com/restonnational.html. I've enjoyed this course for many years, but it seems to close too often for corporate outings. The course is hacker-friendly, fun to play, but usually slow. Twilight rate, 3 to 6 daily, is $35, $40 Friday. Super twilight starts at 6: Monday through Friday $30, Saturday and Sunday $25.