The Vibram Open at Maple Hill Review – September 2-4, 2011

Disc golf is fun for me on many levels --- athletic competition, design and educational principals related to landscape architecture, the mental requirements it demands of you, similarities to my childhood love of golf and best yet…promotion. Golf is fascinating to me, but to many it’s boring. I feel bad that they think its boring to watch or incredibly frustrating to play, but does EVERYONE know what the sport of golf is, right? Pretty much, yes. Can the same be said about disc golf? “What, you mean Frisbee golf?” Sure, I guess.  It’s actually called disc golf though --- and you’ll like it. It never really struck me that I loved promotion, I just did it. I heard a band I loved and I’d go tell all my friends about it because it was so much fun and so good that I wouldn’t want anyone missing out on it. I didn’t want anyone to miss out on anything fun, simple as that. I went to more and more music as I promoted more and more bands. I’d get free tickets to shows, but it was never about that. It was me not wanting my friends to miss out on the fun. It was about promoting a band because that’s what they want to do it and I wanted to do my part in making sure that it was a reality. Promotion was always natural because there was always something fun going on. The deeper into the music scene I went, the more fun I found.

Now I’ve found my most recent, endless promotion: disc golf. How many people know about disc golf? A lot. How many are OBSESSED with it? A lot. How many don’t even know what disc golf is? More than both those a lots put together. Sad, isn’t it? Disc golf is a sport I will play until the day I die. I literally mean that with ever fiber on my being. The fastest growing demographic of disc golf players is seniors --- and they’re turning out in record numbers! Disc golf rocks! If you know me, I’m not a tattoo guy. I’m tall, skinny, have a beard and like disc golf, music and excel spreadsheets --- a tattoo on me would be awkward. I would get a disc golf related tattoo, though, and it would be amazing. Constant promotion! Haha, now that I read that I think promotion is the reason I’d get the tattoo, but it wouldn’t --- it would be because the sport is fun and I love everything about it. You should too.

My growing love of disc golf over the past 6 years was taken to another level when I spent multiple days at The Vibram Open at Maple Hill in Leicester, MA. This was the last National Tour Event on the 2011 Professional Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) schedule and the majority of the world’s top pros were going to be in attendance --- all of this a little over an hour from my house in Amherst. I was going to be viewing my first PDGA tournament through the eyes of my new company, Explore Disc Golf. Explore Disc Golf is me using my Master’s in Landscape Architecture, and fusing it with my knack for promotion and my connections within the music industry over the last 9 or so years. If there is only one thing I took from my graduate work in Landscape Architecture, it would be DOCUMENT EVERYTHING --- and I did. I took pictures of everything from tee pads and baskets to porter pottie locations, vending and tee time sheets. What a wonderful weekend it was!

When I pulled in, the family vibe was very apparent. I was parked by the Tournament Director’s mother, and pointed in the direction of the clubhouse where I walked around to check out some of the discs before heading over to check out some of the vending. I was expecting at least half a dozen vendors, but this weekend there were only a couple, Ten Down Disc Golf from Maine and Bachnein Disc Golf from Vermont. Some of the vendors were also dotted throughout the course to provide hospitality to players, while trying to catch some tee shirt and disc sales as well. The only other set up I saw was at the first tee where a large tent was erected to attract patrons over to the tee. The tent and small trailer go from event to event promoting the sport of disc golf, but the first thing I wondered was, “why is this at a disc golf tournament and not at a music festival?” I get it --- it’s a disc golf tournament, but don’t the few hundred people in attendance already know about or play disc golf? Why not take this massive tent and portable baskets to a 25,000 music festival or a beach on a beautiful, yet calm day. Well that’s exactly what Explore Disc Golf is going to do!

After getting my bearings , I decided to go find the first Super Group of the day. I got a late start to my day, but found the group of Nate Doss, David Feldberg, Will Schusterick and Paul Ullibari on the 7th hole. I followed these guys until the 15th hole, where I would follow the other Super Group of the day, which included Nikko Locastro, Avery Jenkins and two others I can’t remember. I apologize for not knowing everyone’s name, but this was my first tournament and I don’t really know the players that well. The name thing was actually one of the first flaws I saw in the system. We are trying to promote this sport, but what about the common person who has no idea who the #1 player in the world is? At a Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) Tour event, there are handouts that have a breakdown of each group. Each player has a color next to his name, and his caddy is wearing that color with his name on it. That makes it easy. Nikko Locastro (Blue) --- oh look at that guy in a blue bib that says Locastro handing that guy a disc; that must be Nikko Locastro. Done, problem solved. I’m not trying to be harsh; I’m just trying to help the sport. I was bummed when I had no idea who I was watching, but then again I was thrilled I could walk right up to someone and bump fists with them after they threw 600’ bomb over water and sat it next to the pin just like they envisioned it. Ridiculousness.

Unless you have seen professional disc golfers play, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. It took me less than 10 minutes to start laughing uncontrollably, and even tearing up a bit. That’s what I did when I saw Zach Deputy for the first time in 2007. The same thing happened when I saw Rubblebucket in 2007, as it did when I saw Australian-based sensations OKA in Nova Scotia in July of this summer. It’s all I know how to do when I see something I can’t believe. I just have to laugh and cry --- and take pictures.  The reason I get all weird is because I know I'm seeing the future right in front of me. I was formerly a Tour Manager for a nationally touring band, and went through college seeing music 3-5 times a week. I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs --- but when I see the FUTURE --- I lose it. Zach Deputy and Rubblebucket have one of the fastest growth rates of bands I’ve ever seen. OKA will destroy the U.S. music scene in less than 5 years. And disc golf? There is just so much goodness already in place, but still TONS of opportunity. I’m a nerdy, attention-to-detail guy and there is so much missing in the sport. These guys are INCREDIBLY talented, and once I really saw it in person, I almost couldn’t take it.

The one thing I really took from my time watching these players is the confidence they putt with. I remember watching David Feldberg putt on the island green of the 9th hole --- he had a downhill putt of about 25' with water less than 10' beyond the basket. He doesn’t see the water --- he sees individual chains. The guy strokes it and smiles as he walks back to his bag and onto the 10th hole. Unreal! They aren’t limping these putts in either. The disc is going UP as it hits the chains. I usually throw a pancake putt in there so it’s high enough to give myself a chance to float it in, but if I miss, it’s not wet. I really think anyone can throw the Big D. That’s just technique and torque, but putting is where the money is made and championships are won.

This year’s championship was won by Nate Doss. Nate had just picked up his third World Championship five weeks prior in Santa Cruz, CA before trekking across the United States to win the year’s final NT event. I watched this guy for two full rounds and he was solid as a rock. I think over the two days I watched, he had two bogies, maybe three. If you saw this course, that fact would rock your world. He avoids the high highs and low lows. He doesn’t get pissed when he messes up; he fixes it. He doesn’t celebrate when he makes birdies; he marches to the next tee. It was such a pleasure to watch him play because he was almost robotic. There’s something to be said about playing with no emotion and ice in your veins. Like I said previously; all this on the PDGA Tour in related back to the PGA Tour. Some of my favorite golfers are the most boring --- not calling Nate Doss’ playing boring, but it was methodical. I distinctly remember him kicking a small rock on the 10th hole on his final road, and after a massive 500’+ drive over water and between trees, his disc nestled up next to the basket on the 16th hole where he tapped in his birdie and gave a mini fist pump before marching on. You should have seen this drive on 16 --- a huge carry over water, skirting between trees as it crossed land and before carrying another 100’ or so up to the pin before it came to rest for a kick in birdie. And all he did was a mini fist pump? He just locked down the tourney! I would have jumped in the fucking pond in early celebration! Did I mention he almost aced 17?

Not knowing or ever speaking to Nate, he seems like a great face to promote the sport through. Avoid the high highs and low lows, one stroke at a time, every shot counts, bogeys are easier to get back than doubles --- all that stuff. Too many people get all caught up in the fact that they just made a double bogey and they lose their concentration. Then when they lose by one shot at the end of the round, it’s the end of the world. If they stayed focused after that double and didn’t compound it with another bogey on the next hole, they would be tied at the end of the round and going into a playoff instead of losing by one. Sorry to break off on a weird scenario there, but it’s true to the game, and true to how Nate plays. The three other players that played together in the Super Group on day one were some of my favorites as well. As enjoyable as following around the lead card on the last day was, day one really stole the show for me. I really enjoyed watching were Ullibari, Feldberg and Schusterick as much as I enjoyed Doss. The thing I remember most about watching these guys --- Schusterick in particular --- is the fact that they don’t step when they throw their mid range shots. They anchor their front foot into the ground and just uncoil on it. Uphill shots of 300’ with an anchored foot are no problem for these guys, as you could imagine.

To make this sport and tournament even cooler, there were dozens of other activities planned to round out this high profile event. There were putting competitions, accuracy challenges, long distance drives, speed contests, match play challenges, ultimate showcases, pie eating contests and more. These guys are very driven and very competitive, but they do enjoy the laid back atmosphere that the sport is based around. It seems that the disc golf community is very close and very supportive. I wish I could have spent more time at The Vibram Open, but I enjoyed every minute I had. I can only wait for more tournaments and more exposure for the sport. My advice to readers is the next time you think or hear about disc golf, look up a course with a 5k loop or playground nearby. Tons of information can be found out about particular disc golf courses on on www.discgolfcoursereview.com. When you do finally find that perfect course --- go over to the 5k loop and take a walk or even branch off on some holes and use the fairway as a hiking trail. Maybe you’ll find hikers, dog walkers or off road BMX bikers. See how disc golf fits into the landscape with almost no visual impact whatsoever and think about how well it connects on-site features. Disc golf can be enjoyed on so many levels --- from the spectator to the promoter to the player. Go out and give it a try, I promise you will have just found a recreational opportunity that you will enjoy for the rest of your life.

The Vibram Open Course Preview – Maple Hill DGC in Leicester, MA

The other day I had the opportunity to play Maple Hill Disc Golf Course in Leicester, MA --- it was the closest thing to playing on a major tournament course I’ve ever experienced. Playing golf since I was 6 years old, I have been brought up watching the sport’s majors intently. I used to dream of what it was like to play on the courses --- fully manicured, greens rolling 14 on the stimpmeter, grand stands erected, rough 4” thick and tournament officials walking about. What would it take to get me to be able to play those courses only days after the event? Probably nothing --- no chance. Now I’m 27 and have had a new passion for 6 or so years now --- disc golf. So what would it take to play in such a setting --- a major event on the Professional Disc Golf Association tour schedule?  Apparently, simply driving to the course, paying my $5 fee and strapping up my shoes would suffice. Cool!

Wrapping up our 3-week Northeast tour with Zach Deputy, we enjoyed a couple days off in Massachusetts before having to head down to Fredericksburg, VA to pick up tour at The Otter House and follow up on successful summer music festival appearances at All Good Music Festival in Masontown, WV and Camp Barefoot in Bartow, WV. Our two days off proved to be very enjoyable, as I was finally able to play Maple Hill which has been a course I’ve had on my to-play list for a while now. Maple Hill will play host to The Vibram Open in a couple days, from September 1-4 to be exact. The Vibram Open is the 8th and final National Tour event on the Professional Disc Golf Association tour schedule.  All the top disc golfers in the world will be there, and I’ll be ready to document every little sliver of information.

I’m a landscape architect professional and disc golf enthusiast. I have spent many hours documenting proposed courses all over the United States, but am yet to actually attend a disc golf event. I’ll be at The Vibram Open on Thursday, as well as the United States Disc Golf Championships at Winthrop Gold in Rock Hill, SC in early October. To be able to see the operation of the tournament directors, video crew, score keepers, hospitality staff, maintenance crew and more is something I will watch very closely. My life as Tour Manager for a nationally tour banding (and Innova-sponsored celebrity ambassador) has afforded me the opportunity to see massive production from behind the scenes. I am able to see the overall flow of it all, and get down to the nitty gritty and see the finest of details from paperwork in the production office to candy in the dressing rooms. Disc golf is an emerging sport --- I still can’t believe how unknown it is to many --- and I’m unbelievably thrilled to be able to see a National Tour event less than an hour from my home.

When we pulled up to the parking lot, I popped out excitedly with camera in tow --- snapping pictures of everything I saw! Taking pictures of the woodchips, signage, skid steers, pro shop, practice putting area, old signage from last year’s Vibram Open, and the extensive Christmas tree farm. I personally have always wanted a Christmas tree farm, so to see this course integrated so beautifully within one was a nice surprise. Douglas Firs acts as a whole other level of hazards in disc golf, too. Have you ever thrown a disc (or hit a golf ball) through a tree and heard someone say, “Trees are 90% air”? Ok, now let’s think about a Christmas tree. On the 11th hole, I had a routine second shot into the pin for what I thought was a solid par. I let down my guard for a minute and my Roc clipped the edge of the Douglas Fir, batting it down to the ground without a second thought. There is no way to penetrate a disc through one of these trees, so to dot them around your course (or to put a course in the middle of a Christmas tree farm) is highly intelligent.

The 1st and 2nd holes are located within the Christmas tree portion of the property as well, but that should be the last of anyone’s worry. Standing on the first tee, disc golfers face one of the most difficult shots on the course right out of the gate. With no practice throws and only minimal stretching, I took my Umphrey’s McGee Valkyrie out of my bag in hopes that I wouldn’t plunk it in the drink. Maybe this was my demise --- thinking “Don’t put it in the water” instead of “Put it next to the pin.” I put a good huck on the disc, but not enough as it landed in the water about 3 feet short of the stone retaining wall. I hustled down to the basket, took of my sneakers and anything valuable off and jumped in to get my precious disc. I love this thing more than a lot of things in my life, and there was no way I was losing it! The next couple holes were routine pars, but things got exciting once we got back to the water again. Holes 4-9 were an absolute blast, as water was in play most of the time. I really enjoyed this stretch cause a lot of the shots were all about positioning --- leaving yourself on the correct side of the fairway, or putting your shot in a location that takes the water out of play, but still leaves you an uphill putt for par. The only shot on this stretch of holes that is all about muscle and less about discipline is the drive on the 8th hole. With a 275 foot carry all over water, you can’t miss your drive left OR right. Short and left is the large pond, while to the right side of the pathway that takes you to the hole is more water! I tried to peel a left to right turning Sidewinder into this hole, but I didn’t get enough on it and left it about 5 feet short and wet. After plunking two discs in the water through 8 holes, I turned my game around and finished up quite nicely.

Hole 10 isn’t the prettiest of holes, but it does have a signature element to it --- a castle wall. The wooden retaining wall perches the basket well above grade, giving disc golfers even more of a challenge to this Douglas Fir-lined, uphill start to the back nine. The tee shot is pretty straight forward, while the second shot demands a pin high right approach, leaving a level putt for par. If you end up short on your second shot, par putts will be to a basket that is located 10 feet above grade --- very tricky par from there! The back nine is significantly longer than the front, but much more open for the most part. There were a couple wooded holes that really caught my attention, but were much more straight forward than their wooded counterparts on the front nine. I strung together a lot of pars on the back nine and escaped it only +2, which was a thrill for me after a +6 front nine. Ugh.

I was happy to keep it under +10 on my first attempt at this course, but was very disappointed with my play on the tight wooded holes, as those are usually my specialty. This wasn’t my best round, but it was more of a course introduction for me so I’ll be prepared for The Vibram Open, which starts in a couple days. I have seen the gold ropes laid out, making the course THAT much tougher for the world’s best. I remember standing on several holes, looking at the out of bands surrounding us, and just laughing at the gold rope. I’m a halfway decent player, but this blew my mind! I can’t wait for the tourney to start and see these guys BOMBING discs like I’ve never seen before. I’ve scouted out some slot holes that I’ll probably stake out just to see these guys peel it in, landing it within feet of the basket. The Golf Course was fun to see, but very humbling to say the least. Seeing the course in tournament conditions, the pin locations, the out of bounds, the tee signage, and the overall course layout were a treat. The world’s best are about to descend on Central Massachusetts and I hope that attendance for the tournament exceeds expectations. There is no reason for every avid disc golfer within a 4 hour drive not to be here. We are talking about seeing the world’s best at one of the finest, most demanding layouts in New England! For those who don’t come, look for a follow up to the tournament, chalk full of pictures, video and extensive review.

Quarry Run Disc Golf Course- Augusta, Maine

Quarry Run Disc Golf Course- Augusta, Maine

            This course is straight up awesome!  Any type of hole you can imagine is here.  There are short ace runs, long downhill bombers, tight wooed shots, shots from fields into gaps, open field holes, and plenty more.  The course plays through an old rock quarry with a few of the holes going over or though the quarry, which is a cool touch for me.  Quarry Run also has a decent sized pro shop with reasonable prices and the staff are very friendly and willing to help.  Talking to the owner, he is planning on expanding his course and making 2 different course, a pro level course and a beginner friendly course.  This is very exciting and disappointing at the same time because I love the current lay out, but I can’t wait to see what else this property has to offer.

Pros-

-          Great Hole Creativity

-          Great mix of shots i.e. backhand/flick, hyzer/anhyzer, short/long, open/tight

-          Great use of elevation

-          Super clean course

-          Very friendly and helpful staff

-          Course is maintained as well as any other top notch course

-          Tee signs give the perfect amount of details

-          Tables and/or benches at every hole

Cons-

-          Pars are too easy ( I shot 10 under par with 2 or 3 eagles, I’m not THAT good!)

-          The course is going to be changing in a year, so get this lay out in as soon as you can!

-          Tees are rough at times, multiple kinds of concrete used and in sections so they can be bumpy and uneven

 

This is just a fun course to play.  If you are a player looking to get your first under par round or looking to hit par, this is the course to do it on.  Get it out of the way so when you find yourself shooting under par during a tournament, you don’t choke cause you’ve never gone under par before.  With a readjustment to the pars, this course would be a 5 out of 5, but with the easy pars, it is a 4.5 out of 5.  I am excited to see the changes and the new course put in here, but I will miss the current lay out.  Another great thing about the location of the course is that it is a hot bed of courses.  New courses are developing and popping up often to add to the many existing course up there.

Pyramids Disc Golf Course, Leicester, MA

Pyramids Disc Golf Course is my favorite disc golf course.  This play has it all, open, tight, long, short, doglegs, elevation, and one of the best and most famous pro shops in all of the North East- Marshall Street Disc Golf.  This course is located on a great piece of land that has a stream running through 8 of the holes.  Being on privet land, it is a pay to play course (the only down side to the course).  The maintenance on this course is like no other I’ve ever seen.  There is hardly any litter around the course and the course is constantly being improved.  The course has two different baskets for each hole, creating a gold and silver layout.  The gold course is the longer, more challenging course that offers plenty of birdie opportunities, if you can make a good drive and upshot.  The silver course really tests your ability to make great drives and to convert 15-30 ft putts.  Each lay out tests yours skills and rewards you for good throws.

Pros:

-2 lay outs

- Great balance of shots i.e. backhand/forehand, hyzer/anhyzer, long/short, open/tight

- Super clean

- Home of the Marshall Street Disc Golf store!!!!!!  Best selection, best service, and the best prices!

- Great elevations shots

- Great use of over water shots

- Tons of the small detail touches to make a course great! (benches around, tables at every hole, great Tee signs, bridges over water, warm up driving net, DDC court)

- Creative hole design

-Jason Southwick- this man has done so much for disc golf in New England, and he is quite the character.

 

Cons-

-          Pay to play (although I don’t mind paying to play this course, its worth it)

-          Some of the holes zigzag and errant drives and become dangerous for other players.

 

So over all, I give this course a 5 out of 5!  There are such for negative things about this course that they really don’t come in to factor about the course.  This should be on every player’s must play course list.  You really can’t find a better maintained course.  Plus you can’t find a course with such an extensive and amazing pro shop!

The Redwood Curtain in Arcata, CA

Have you ever played a disc golf course that you absolutelyloved, never to have played it again? Have you only played HALF of a disc golf course that you absolutely loved, never to have played it again? Well, until this summer, I thought the second half of that statement was applicable to me. Here’s the back story on a beautiful course: In 2008, I took the summer off to travel. I spent the first part of my summer in Honduras and Guatemala, with the later half of the summer spent trekking across the US hitting up all the festivals I promoted for throughout the school year. Early July found me at High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA having the absolute time of my life --- raging late nights into the early morning, only to do it again the next day with new found friends. After four days at High Sierra, I hitchhiked back to San Francisco, eventually making my way to Arcata, CA for a couple nights of couch surfing before an even wilder trip led me to Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, OR.

The two days in Arcata, CA found me exploring ever piece of the town I could. I ended up in a park playing Frisbee and listening to some banjo pickers before seeing a couple kids walk by with disc golf discs. I picked up my gear, tracked the kids down and joined up for an afternoon of back nine disc golf. These kids were a blessing for a couple reasons --- 1.) I would never have found the course if it wasn’t for them and 2.) I would never have been able to find the next hole, either. This course was INTIMIDATING! If I could get past the sheer size of the redwoods that laid the framework of each hole, I still had absolutely no idea where the next hole was or where an appropriate place was to miss, as the vegetation was so thick and the signage so poor. Playing the course several times, I was only able to play six or so holes before getting completely lost, only to find the remaining three holes a day later. I never did play the front nine as my time spent in Arcata was limited, but I did enjoy the local bars and music scene with the guys from the disc golf course and a couple kids I met on the ride in. I was bummed I barely completed the front nine of the course, as I was leaving early the next morning to meet up with friends I met at High Sierra for a couple day hikes that would take us to who knows where.

Fast forward to July of 2011 and I’m back at High Sierra, tour managing Zach Deputy who is playing a total of four sets over two days. After a fly in date to Electric Forest Festival in Michigan and a show in Mendocino County, we were tired, but ready to wake up early for a trek up to Arcata and a round at The Redwood Curtain. Last time I played this course I walked from the park to the college then over to the back nine of the course. I can’t remember much of the back nine other than it started with a par 3 over water with an elevated island green. The island green was created by a three foot retaining wall that turned good enough shots into bad shots, as the wall would spit discs right back into the pond that your disc just cleared moments earlier. The rest of the back nine have a mix of long, narrow holes that are framed by towering redwood trees as opposed to the skinny pine trees that I’m used to in my home state of Maine.

We parked our 50 foot long Sprinter and trailer under the shade of the redwoods as those in the back laced up their shoes and get mentally prepared for what we thought was going to be a long, grueling round. Coming up to the message board that denotes the first hole, you could see that this course had put in some effort to educate the public about the vegetation along the course. In my opinion, this is the least that a disc golf course can do, as the holes are just an extension of the landscape, grabbing you and forcing you to interact with nature. The message board, signage on the tees or even in the fairways can and should educate the public about their surroundings, as there is so much to be know about this wonderful world. How the hell do these trees get so big? Why can you eat some of the plants on the course and not others? And how do you know which plants are edible?

The first hole wasn’t the hardest of holes, but the visual intimidation was extremely significant. The uphill, dogleg left hole called for an Eagle that would split a sliver of redwood trees, while making it far enough up the hill to leave yourself with a clear second shot to a pin that was guarded by a couple fallen trees. The fascinating thing about disc golf (as well as golf in general), is how some holes just don’t fit your eye. The opposite end of that would be holes that perfectly fit your eye, but this was not the case on the first hole for me. Usually I pick a line and try to keep it, but this time I just looked at a couple big windows in a general area and hucked it. Lucky for me, it landed perfectly at the bend of the dogleg, leaving me with a kick in par and a significant weight lifted off my shoulders. The second hole boasted one of the more unique features I’ve seen in all my disc golf travels...the tee was located on top of a redwood stump! There were a couple hand and foots holes to help players climb up the stump, as it was a good 8 feet above grade, giving a neat perspective of the second hole as well as looking back down to the first hole and the flying discs coming up the fairway. I ripped a Shark on this tee, turning the corner to the right and moving hard to the basket. There wasn’t a lot to this hole, but the experience on the tee is one of the coolest I’ve had yet.

The remaining holes then headed deeper into the Arcata Community Forest, at one point even criss-crossing and blending in perfectly with the local bike and hike trail system. I love disc golf so very much, and with more courses trying to fuse the sport with its surroundings will bring the sport more promotion as there are far more number of hikers, bikers and dog walkers than us disc golfers. The signage on the course was a unique feature, as the wood burned placards were nailed to the massive redwood trees, giving a unique appeal to a common feature in the disc golf world.

Overall, the front nine of the course was relatively easy in comparison to what I remember about the back nine. I’m not going to say I was disappointed, but I was hoping for much more of a challenge and some better scenery. The trees were significantly smaller on the front nine and there were even a few holes that didn’t have the same feel as the rest of the course. These holes could be considered “field” holes, but were just clear cut woods that were now home to access roads for a plethora of vehicles. This is all well and good; it just took away from the continuity of the rest of the course, as well as a lot of the challenge. I finished at +1, but felt like I left a couple strokes out on the course --- showing how easy it was playing. All in all, the course is one I would recommend to any avid disc golfer, as the sheer size of the redwood trees and the rugged terrain you play on makes it all worthwhile. There aren’t too many big D opportunities out there, but precise driving and precision approaches are in high demand. With a couple pole holes dotted throughout the course, disc golfers must be ready for a challenge, as these narrow poles are significantly smaller targets than the normal baskets that we are used to. With a plethora of challenges and unique course features, if you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest for any reason, check out The Redwood Curtain in the quaint town of Arcata, CA for a real sleeper of a course. Be forewarned --- don’t be awestruck by its beauty, cause if you’re not on your game, it will eat you alive!

Nature’s Finest: Flat Rock Disc Golf in Athol, MA

Every time I step foot on a disc golf course, it absolutely boggles my mind how the sport is completely unknown to the majority of the world. You ask anybody on God’s given earth if they have heard of basketball, and what do they say? Yes. What about disc golf? It’s incredible that a sport that is so good on so many levels has yet to reach the mainstream public. A basketball court is comprised of two hoops, a large amount of cement and a basketball. It has a low start up cost (nearly free) for users, but the nearly $10,000 capital investment for the folks installing the court is a bit pricey. Add in the fact that cement is an impervious surface that contributes to erosion and degradation of streams, the court needs to be on a completely flat piece of land and that at its highest time of use can only accommodate 10 players, it’s funny how basketball is so common yet disc golf is so foreign.

With that being said, disc golf courses can go anywhere! Courses not only CAN go along riparian corridors and unbuildable slopes, but they SHOULD. Think of all the beautiful places you have seen in your lifetime and how badly you wished more people knew about it. Why don’t they know about it? It’s probably a bunch of reasons, but two of them are usually the fact that it is in a location that not many know about and that no one is taking them there. Well, enter disc golf. Disc golf can be the conduit for helping people interact with nature! Slopes over 25% are extremely costly to re-grade and situate a building upon, and with 200’ buffers along streams and riparian corridors, buildings simply can’t be located in these locations. Once again, enter disc golf. With no permanent foundations or playing surfaces, disc golf holes can follow streams and wetlands as well as ridge lines and even mountain tops. To tie back to the statement about basketball, disc golf can accommodate up to 72 people at one time (assuming the course is an 18 hole course and every hole has a foursome playing it), and the capital investment is minimal. Assuming that the course uses top of the line baskets, compacted gravel tee pads and signage for each hole, it’s still only around $7,000. Many courses decide to reach out to local businesses to sponsor holes. With a price tag of $250 per sponsor, and two sponsors per hole, the capital investment has been recouped and courses can now think about spending the extra cash on course improvements. Sounds fun!

Spending the last four years living in Amherst, MA has giving me some of the best memories of my entire life. Having a huge work load at UMass, I was unable to venture out too far to see what Western Massachusetts had to offer. I spent the majority of my time doing school work and seeing music, but I would still frequent Northampton State Hospital Disc Golf Course and The Highlands of Conway multiple times a week, year round. Sadly, I didn’t get to play too many other courses besides Crane Hill Disc Golf Course in Wilbraham, MA, Wickham Park in Manchester, CT and a few others, but I still heard great things about some of the courses along Route 2 like Flat Rock Disc Golf in Athol and Tully Lake Disc Golf in Royalston. Finally, on my four day break from Zach Deputy tour, I was able to make it up to Flat Rock in Athol. The previous two days had seen my friends and I play rounds in Wilbraham and Conway, so to continue the adventure we drove 35 minutes north to Athol to play this private course.

Only getting some information from friends and DG Course Review, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew the course was quite challenging and that it laid on private property with state conservation land flanking the holes as its boundaries. When we pulled up, we were all blown away. The disc golf store is situated in a rustic looking barn that lays adjacent to a small garden and the first tee box. The garden is closed off by a twig laced fence and acts as an out of bounds on the 14th hole. While enjoying the garden, some of us take putts on the 14th basket to warm up for what is promised to be a memorable round. As we walk over to the 1st tee, we see wooden structures, rustic metal sculptures and environmental art dotted throughout the landscape. The message board is stocked with information, including an honesty box, sign in sheet, hole in one shout outs and tournament announcements. The attention to detail that caught my eye was the pencil sharpener and bottle opener! It’s common for disc golfer to enjoy a nice beverage while they play, and not every pencil is the sharpest, so why not give the players what they need an want to enjoy their round to the fullest.

As we stand on the 1st tee and look down the fairway, we search for the pin as the dog leg right hole keeps the target just out of sight. To our delight, we look to the sign for information and I see my first ever 3 dimensional hole layout. Small rocks denote the rock wall that acts as the out of bounds along the roadway, while small plugs show the large trees that give the hole its shape. The pin and tee are marked with blue dots as we survey the landscape and map to find which disc we’re going to huck first. Naturally, I take out my Valkyrie as low flying bullet that turns a little right should leave me in perfect position to ease into this tightly wooded course with a par. I’m awestruck as I approach my disc on the edge of the fairway that is lined with flowering mountain laurel and rock outcroppings. The course is absolutely gorgeous and we’ve only played one hole! As we walk down the road to the far removed 2nd tee, we stare into the woods at the large canopy trees and ferns scattered along the forest floor. We’re all so happy to be with one another on this beautiful June day as we try our hand at what is to be an enjoyable day on the disc golf course.

The 2nd hole opens up a bit more, but a large pit full of wood chips lies in the middle of the fairway, awaiting big booming drives or sloppy second shots. Just over the crest of the hill, the unassuming player will dump their second shot in this out of bounds pit, which is home to an assortment of strawberry plantings. More out of bounds awaits players on the next 16 holes, so keep your shots straight and long. It is that easy, right? The 3rd hole is one of my favorites on the course, with a narrow fairway and a hanging basket. If you’re even lucky enough to hit the fairway, a Wolf would suit any player well as a disc that moves slightly to the right and sits quick will award a birdie opportunity. If you can pick you position here, be pin high left or a little long, as the hanging basket hovers over a ledge that drops off severally on two sides. If you don’t have a makeable putt, take your par and get out, but if you feel like risking a birdie for a bogey, go for it…just don’t be surprised when you hit the basket and the disc rolls 30 feet to the bottom of the hill.

The 4th hole is a short, but challenging hole, and the 5th and 6th holes give each player a fair shake at birdie. If you don’t make birdie on at least one of these holes you’re asking for trouble as the last couple holes of the front nine and the majority of the back nine don’t leave you with many opportunities to pick up strokes. The back nine is significantly longer than the front, but by the time you get to the 11th hole you’re ready to bust out a big Sidewinder and see if you can turn the corner on what is, in my opinion, the hardest hole on the course. If you were to remember one hole at Flat Rock Disc Golf, it would probably be the 12th, which demands a precise drive and approach shot to an almost island green that is 50 or so feet below, all the while surrounded by slow flowing water and more flowering mountain laurels.

The last three holes I will mention quickly catch anyone’s attention. The 13th hole actually made me laugh out loud. A short par three, this hole boasts a multi leader tree that splits the fairway in two, offering players to either split their drive between the tree limbs or take it to the right of them. The only thing about going right is a small stick figure blocks your shot. Flat Rock is dotted with goofy faces carved into wood and sculptures to catch your attention. This stick figure sits atop a dead tree with its goofy smile and an arm holding up a disc. The arm holding the disc is so perfectly positioned that it forces you to abort the low hyzer shot and makes you contemplate splitting the trees in the middle of the fairway. This was my worst shot of the day as I hit a tree and went deep into the brush on the right, forcing me to grind out an ugly bogey and be happy it was only that. The 17th and 18th holes are the first and only holes that really bring water into play. Crisscrossing a pond that sits in the owner’s backyard, these holes demand two opposite disc flights. A low hyzer Roc works just fine on 17, as the hyzer helps keep the disc under the tree limps past the pond, while allowing the disc to skip all the way back to the basket. The 18th hole asks for a long anhyzer drive with something like a Sidewinder, Beast or Katana. These two holes utilize the same pond, one being a short mid range with the other being a long driver, and really put an exclamation point on one of the finest courses in Western Massachusetts or New England as a whole.

To wrap this review up, I can’t stress enough how terrific this course is. From tightly wooded slot shots to big D field opportunities this course tests the depth of your bag. As you make your way through the 18 hole layout, stacked rock outcroppings and environmental art gives a delightful playfulness to the course. None of the tee boxes are permanent, but they are level and compacted so there really is no problem with them at all. Signage from hole to hole is very well done so wayfinding is fairly self explanatory. With a couple hanging baskets dotted throughout the course, there is even variety in the placement of baskets. I can’t say enough good things about this course as the towering pines, flowering mountain laurel and alternate pathways entice players to take a stroll in the woods and almost forget about why they are there. Flat Rock Disc Golf is disc golf at its finest…testing every shot in the bag all the while taking players somewhere they’ve never seen before. We as disc golf course players and designers need to use the sport as an extension of the landscape, helping to bring players and non-players alike to some of the most beautiful, unexplored tracts of land that this fine country has to offer. Thank you to Chenoa Charpentier for pictures!

Hylands Disc Golf Course- Sturbridge, MA

First and foremost, this is a member’s only course.  You cannot play here unless you are a member or are with a member.  This course is part of an apple orchard, brewery, farm attractions, and many more fun options.  A stage is set up under the pavilion so live music can be heard often when visiting Hylands.

With that out of the way, what a beautiful piece of land!  There is a great combination of open, grip and rip holes, and tight wooded holes.  Each hole has elevation changes and some have a small creek running through it.  The out of bounds lines really make you think your shots through and challenge your shots.

Pros  - Great Elevation

-         Great mix of long and short holes

-         Great use of tight wooded shots

-         Attention to small details (bridges, woodchips around pins)

-         Lots of other activities to do (but why would you want to do anything besides play disc golf?)

-         Massive downhill hole so it makes you feel like throwing 500ft is easy

-         Very clean (there isn’t litter all over the course)

Cons - Members only

-         Poison ivy is all over the place

-         Very tall grass (this could be because it’s been raining so much)

-         Most holes have only one tee/pin option

-         Beer drinking rules (only certain beers can be drunken at certain holes of the course)

-         Very buggy

-         A couple long walks between tees

-         Not all tees have tee pads, some are natural tees

Overall, Hylands is a good course.  There are some awesome parts to it, but I feel as though there is so much potential not being utilized.  I feel as though with time and some tweaking and more love, this course can be right up there with the best.  This is a newer course and it shows.  Paths need to be worn down for walking and this will get rid of some of the undergrowth that can hide discs.  All in all this is a fun course and I suggest that you find yourself a member to take you so you can go play it.

The Jungle DGC {Sanford, Michigan}

-The Jungle is located at Sanford Lake Park in Sanford, Michigan. The daily rate per car is $6, so have your money ready at the gate. When you get inside you’ll want to follow the road left until you see the message board and first tee on your right. Hole #1 was recently moved to provide a better parking situation and give the course a better flow. However, the practice basket is still where it used to be (by old hole #1 or new hole #3). Keep that in mind if you want to get some putts in before teeing off. The practice basket really isn’t TOO far from the start of the course, but I imagine they will eventually move it closer to help avoid confusion.

Hole #3 View

-The overall maintenance here is very good. Not just on the course, but in the park as a whole. I almost always see the employees with their hands full on some project. Along with good maintenance is good course amenities. On all 18 holes there’s concrete tees, descriptive tee signs, and nice baskets with number plates. Benches and trash cans are appropriately scattered throughout the course as well. A couple spots help direct you with “next tee” signs, but for the most part it’s very easy to follow anyway.

-The atmosphere at The Jungle is cool. Being from downstate, I am used to mobs of people at every course. It’s nice to get a break from that and be able to play a full round without having to be held up by anyone but yourself or your own group. I’m serious when I say that I’ve played here about 10 times and never once had to wait for anyone at a hole. It’s also located by a very nice lake and beach. Almost every time I play here, I’ll toss a Buzzz around on the beach before or after the round.

Hole #5 Basket

-As far as the layout and design goes, it’s challenging! If your one of those people who play all par 3’s, you could be in for a long round. The birdies will come far and few. Besides the couple possible ace runs, you will need perfect drive placements and honest putts on mostly every hole to come out with a good score. Surprisingly at a place called “The Jungle”, the great challenge isn’t really even from “pinball” type holes. Even though there are a few pinball runs, a lot of holes have an open cut fairway with scattered guardian trees near the basket. IMO, most of the challenge is incorporated from sharp angles and the un-forgivingness of misplaced drives that go in the rough. This course does not favor one throwing style over the other either, It was made to challenge EVERYONE.

-The fun factor here isn’t anything amazing. Honestly I could see this course making more people mad than happy, lol. But on the flip side, if you do end up throwing well, you would certainly feel like you accomplished something really good. Another thing that might hurt the fun factor is a lack of a signature hole. There are a couple that play down by the lake and make for nice scenery, but nothing that will really stick in your mind as “Your favorite hole of all time”. Don’t let me make it sounds like it’s no fun though, just tough. I do like the way the elevation was utilized here. There might not be any huge hills, but they incorporated what they had the best they could. A few elevated tees and fairways add to the fun factor.

-Not too many negatives about this course that I can really dwell on. To me, the challenge is never a negative, but I could see a lot of people getting frustrated here if they didn't have their game fully down. Besides that, there is a little bit of standing water during the wet season. But it’s nothing you can loose your disc in, or even get soaked trying to play your lie in. And the park has done a great job in making some man made canals for the water to run off in on many of the holes.

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-{}-  I rate this course a 3.75 out of 5  -{}-

-{}-  My rating system is based off a personal preference scale. I mainly determine my ratings from things such as, course amenities, overall design, fun factor, atmosphere, and maintenance. The challenge of the course is considered too, but doesn't always help/hurt the overall rating.  -{}-

 

Disc Golf Mecca: Walnut Creek Park in Charlottesville, VA

Since this is my first contribution to Disc Golf Traveler, I wanted to take a second to introduce myself. My name is Brian Giggey and I’m the tour manager for nationally touring band, Zach Deputy. Zach and I met in 2007 when I was in my first year of graduate school at UMass where I was getting my degree in Landscape Architecture. When he came to play Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA in April 2008, I made sure to introduce him to a deep passion of mine: disc golf. I had only started playing disc golf about two years prior, but it’s all I could think about. My golfer brain would think about flight patterns, course management and pin positions, while my land arch brain would drool over riparian corridors, ridge lines and the amicability of the sport with other uses such as hiking, biking and dog walking.

Fast forward two years and I find myself putting the final touches on my disc golf course design: Orchard Hill Disc Golf at UMass Amherst, which will hopefully play host to several Zach Deputy disc golf tournaments in the future. As I pack my bags and say goodbye to Amherst, I’m ready for my new full time adventure of traveling town to town and state to state across the country. Zach, Innova’s newest sponsored celebrity, is a touring machine --- six nights a week for months on end. As we approach markets with shorter drive times between shows, our angst for disc golf grows. We start paging through DGCourseReview for the local goodness. Ratings and reviews left by other players are like gold as we seldom like to derail from our path unless we know it’s worth it. Low and behold, almost a year to the day after I joined the road full time, I find my favorite course thus far.

After our show at Clementine Café in Harrisonburg, VA we headed south to Charlottesville, VA for two relaxing days off in the old stomping grounds of Dave Matthews Band in the early 1990’s. As we traversed the hills and valleys of the local roads, I couldn’t help but wonder where Haunted Hallows was; the custom built recording studio for DMB and their associated projects. The farm lands and mountain vistas already have me thinking of a potential house here in the future, but the amount of disc golf courses in the vicinity is surprisingly low.

A little over 10 miles outside downtown Charlottesville lay Walnut Creek Park. As you drive down the entrance road, excitement grows as baskets and pin positions begin to reveal pieces of the course. I’m already making mental notes of where pins are tucked and where not to miss. The road culminates in an impervious parking lot with a large facility that houses vending machines, picnic tables and family gatherings, overlooking a large lake that’s pressed up against the backdrop of rolling hills and mountainsides. This lake will come into play several times throughout your round, so get ready for it. If it’s not hypnotizing you with its beauty, its making you sweat a couple bullets as it entices you to bite off a little more than you can chew. Flanking the parking lot are two small playgrounds and a few huts that are ready to host your family barbeque. All of these separate entities are perfectly connected by a trail system that runs throughout the park, aiding bikers, hikers, fisherman and disc golfers in their daily activities.

Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the disc golf course that circumvents the park is a shot maker's course through and through. With a 4.21 rating on DGCourseReview, I knew we were in for a treat. We all piled out of the Sprinter with excitement running through our veins, me especially, as tight wooded courses are my specialty. Zach is more of a rolling hills and fields player, while I could care less for those big D opportunities --- Walnut Creek Park: advantage me. Created in 2002, the course’s three designers put together a beautiful mix of uphill, downhill, open and wooded shots. This course is extremely challenging from either tee box, as each hole has multiple tee boxes and a variety of pin positions. Pin positions, as well as league information and course layout can be found at the message board near the parking lot, so head over to it before you venture off to the first tee.

As is standard with many disc golf courses across the nation, the primary feature that was lacking at Walnut Creek Park was signage between holes. Easily discernable to locals, wayfinding between some holes for us was quite frustrating. The only other negative in my opinion was that fact that all the tee pads were a compacted type of gravel, which depending on their structural integrity and amount of rainfall, were in either fair or poor condition. A course of this caliber should have permanent tee pads. Speaking from a landscape architecture point of view, less impervious surface (such as concrete or pavement) is a good thing, but in this case, concrete pads are a must.

After only three holes, you could see that this course was going to provide us with a wonderful mixture of both hyzer and anhyzer shots. Walnut Creek Park will bring out every shot you have in your bag! With tight fairways, water hazards and numerous elevation changes just on the front side, I was happy to be right around level par headed to the back. Notable holes on the front nine were the downhill, overwater 2nd hole, where if you split the uprights of the towering trees, you will be left with a short, level birdie putt. The 6th hole was the first of many holes with genius pin positioning. A relatively open field hole, the drive is uphill through a shoot of trees leaving players with a second shot that only affords them a glimpse of the top of the basket. Situated on a 45 degree slope, players need to figure where they want to putt from. I decided short right would leave me the best putt, as who knows where my Roc would roll to if I flirted with that slope. I made par and left happy.

The 10th hole is your window to make up any shots you may have given back on the first part of your round. A straight shot, 235 foot hole, anything more than a par should make you think about heading to the car early. The 11th and 14th are two holes that being too aggressive will only lead to birdie sometimes and bogey most of the time. With the baskets situated on severe slopes, unless you have a kick in, you might just want to take your par and move along. Saving the best for last, the 17th hole is one of the most breathtaking holes you’ll see. What initially looks like a big downhill drive and an awkward second shot slowly reveals itself to be so much more. With an elevation change from tee to basket of a couple hundred feet, this is your chance to let out all your frustrations. Be warned though, the lake on the right hand side is very much in play, while the thick woods on the left will catch the majority of drives. As you make your way down to the plateau that catches most drives, a new obstacle presents itself --- more water! From the plateau to the basket isn’t much more than 125 feet, but the severe elevation change and water in the background should make you think for a bit before you throw. Remember that your disc is going to break A LOT when it slows down, so give yourself a large buffer from the water as it runs along the back and left hand side of the hole, leaving an almost island green to some degree.

Our round at Walnut Creek Park only took a couple hours, but this is a place where anyone could (and should) spend the day. If you’re in the area, block out a part of your day and really take the opportunity to explore this beautiful tract of land. Besides some wayfinding issues from hole to hole, there aren’t many negative things that can be said about this course. Charlottesville, VA has a prize in the form of Walnut Creek Park, so I urge you to put this course on your “to-play” list. You surely won’t regret it.

Disc Golf Making an Appearance at Penn State

Penn State...when you think of this school you probably think of football, partying, and cows ... and probably in that order. While Happy Valley's  new disc golf course is getting plenty of traffic, it is unlikely to dethrone Beaver Stadium as the area's most recognizable sports complex any time soon.  However, that doesn't mean the Circleville disc golf course in State College, PA isn't a step in the right direction.

 

I visited the nine-hole course last fall, and while it doesn't have the bells and whistles of some of my local Maryland courses, playing a round is certainly a good way to kill an hour. The holes are extremely short, so bring your lucky "Ace" discs. While I wasn't able to ching any during my round, driving to most holes was not a challenge (most were under 300ft.)

As far as stand-out holes go, there is not much to write about when it comes to the Circleville Disc Golf Course. Most holes don't have much in the way of hazards, so if you can throw straight you're in business. Hole number nine stands out because in order to birdie one must squeeze their drive through an open path in a wooded area.  If you can do so, you will be rewarded with an easy deuce.

Overall, this is not a course you'll want to drive all the way to central PA to go play, but if you're in the area you could do a lot worse than a half-round of disc golf. The challenges are few, but this is a great first step for disc golf in Centre County.

click for a course map