After playing in cold, wet conditions most of yesterday here in Wisconsin, today I got to work most of the day designing what will be the 12th disc golf course I have helped to create over the years. And in addition to today’s steady rain (heavy at times)? I got to work on a particularly interesting challenge: designing a disc golf course on a property that does not have a single tree!

The property has around 40 acres of land with rolling hills and excellent access to more than one Interstate highway. But as a designer and player who absolutely LOVES working with and playing in the trees? Having literally zero trees to work with on this land is a good test of my design skills… though I have designed one course in Worthing, South Dakota with very-limited access to trees in the past.

That said, my tasks and To Dos from the landowner were as follows:

  1. Help design a several acre holding pond that will serve to beautify the property, as well as add challenge to the course design.
  2. Come up with a course design that is both safe and fun for players and adjacent land users to enjoy.
  3. Determine creative ways to introduce hazards/challenge to the course, besides mere wind, hole length, and water hazards.

I got about the work of working with the landowner to help identify the optimal placement and shape of the future holding pond…using detailed topographical maps and pounding blue stakes in the ground to help form the boundary of the pond. What we came up with will cover roughly 4-5 acres of land…with several “fingers” or “inlets” that will be used to bring water into play on several of the course’s holes.

Once we knew what that holding pond would look like, I got to work identifying ideal tee and basket locations while the property owner took care of other “To Dos” on the property. He was really hoping for a course that would have more than 18 holes…as I’ve told him several times that the more holes that are available to play? The further people are willing to drive to come and play said courses. Though he and I both agreed that we would absolutely not sacrifice course safety or challenge in the process.  If he wound up with an 18-hole course?  Even a 12-hole course? That would need to be okay…as 12-18 good/great holes is better than 24-36 boring, unsafe holes.

One of the interesting things about this property is that it is effectively a blank canvas.  That, and the owner will be investing heavily into creating a holding pond, and is willing to keep that equipment/contractor around an “extra” few days to build the land into something that will maximize its potential for a disc golf course. With that in mind? This will be the first course I’ve done, probably one of the first courses I know of in the world, to implement a new hazard/bunker concept I’ve been dying to try. Envision something like a sand trap on a ball golf course, only much deeper…in order to prevent disc golfers who land in said hazards to be able to make a normal shot from their chest/waist to get out of said hazards.  And this new course will incorporate roughly two dozen of said hazards throughout the round…forcing players to decide if they can carry them off the tee.  Or if they will be accurate enough on their tee and approach shots to safely avoid them as they attack the baskets.

After spending all morning and a good portion of the afternoon designing, tweaking, re-tweaking, re-re-tweaking tee and basket positions (this was my second time physically walking the property with the course design in mind), I presented a 21-hole course design for the owner to evaluate. He seemed very pleased with the end results, as the short holes have “teeth,” via players having to deal with water or those hazards I was describing above, while there are 3-4 holes that will keep the big arms happy, measuring-in at 500-600+ feet in length. Now I just need to work with him to make sure they get the best baskets they can afford for the property, as well as installing great tee surfaces, tee signage, etc. With the course likely to open in 2020.

Designing my first Disc Golf Course in Wisconsin - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 22 tee at Vallarta-Ast DGC in Deforest, Wisconsin.


I was wet and cold after working in the rain for several hours. But the rain started to let up a bit later in the afternoon, and I had enough time and daylight to try and get at least one new course added to my Course Collection. So I decided I would play a course that has been on my To Play List for the past few years: Vallarta-Ast in Deforest, Wisconsin. It is a tough course to play while “passing through” the Madison, Wisconsin area, as it has 27 holes. So today was the perfect opportunity to play it. And it was a lot of fun! Playing in the trees, some grassy mounds as hazards that I will also be incorporating into the course design I’ve been working on, plus a funky “island green” on Hole 22 that was a bit like Stonehenge.  🙂 I played the course really well for being wet, cold and tired…to the tune of a -6 (75) off the shorts over 27 holes, and an estimated round rating of 994. A good finish to my being on the clock for the day. Then it was off to my cousin’s to enjoy a delicious dinner at Vintage Brewing Company in Sauk Prairie.

Magic Number = 493 (1,507 Courses Played)

About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re out “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Derek Tonn Profile PictureDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA, the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.