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 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.

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!