News & Politics

Obama Will Join Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase

“I think most members will welcome him,” one member says.

President Barack Obama plays golf on Martha's Vineyard in 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Former President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to join Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Washingtonian has learned. It’s the second country club he’s joined since leaving office; in May, according to CNN, he joined Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.

Columbia’s board revealed the news in a letter to members on Thursday. “Following careful deliberation, the Board of Governors voted to extend an invitation for Honorary Membership to former President of the United States Barack Obama,” reads an excerpt shared with Washingtonian. “We have received official word from Mr. Obama of his acceptance of our invitation.”

A spokesperson for Obama did not return a request for comment. Washingtonian was unable to reach the club’s president, and its general manager did not immediately return a phone call and email requesting comment.

Ever since the 44th president announced his family’s intention to remain in DC following his second term, speculation reigned about which country club the avid golfer would choose to join. Controversy erupted even before he left office, when some members of Woodmont, the predominantly Jewish country club in Rockville, privately expressed their outrage over the prospect of Obama joining. They were angry about actions the President had (or hadn’t) taken with regard to Israel, including his refusal to veto a UN resolution that declared Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal. (Ten days after the skirmish came to light, Woodmont extended Obama an invitation to join, though it’s not clear whether he accepted.)

The former president is no stranger to Columbia; he’s played there several times over the years with folks such as ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon, both of whom are members. But not all were thrilled when they received the news: “Horrible. They’ll lock up the course,” complained one member—referring to the inevitable Secret Service presence—in a conversation relayed to Washingtonian. (That member, the messenger quickly added, “is very much a Republican.”)

“I think most members will welcome him,” one member says. “Columbia, in a sense, is in competition with the Chevy Chase Club, which is just down Connecticut Avenue, and so I suppose there [are] some bragging rights.”

Golf was a favorite pastime of Obama’s while he was in office; according to CBS’s Mark Knoller, he played more than 300 rounds, many of them in area clubs such as Army Navy, TPC Potomac, and Renditions. Which, for Columbia, makes his acceptance all the sweeter.

“The Board looks forward to the addition of Mr. Obama and his family to our wonderful and very special membership,” their letter to members concludes, “and encourage everyone to provide them with our traditional and time-honored ‘Warm Columbia Welcome.’”

Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.