Surprised. Confused. Excited! A little annoyed? 🙂 That is how I am feeling tonight, after being completely blindsided and haunted by the thought: “Did I just play the best course in the State of Minnesota?”

I needed to head over to Winona, Minnesota tonight to pick up my oldest daughter from the Amtrak Station, so she can spend Thanksgiving with our family. So before leaving home, I thought I would check to see what courses had recently appeared in my unplayed courses map in UDisc. And if I could hurry? There were three new courses I could quickly add to my courses played collection.

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 1 tee at Marcusen Recreational Disc Golf in Austin, MN.

The first course on my way to Winona almost felt like “cheating.” 🙂 A six-hole, 1,064-foot course in Austin, Minnesota named Marcusen Recreational Disc Golf. A pretty straightforward little course, minus one nearly impossible hole for a LHBH player to deuce? I ended up shooting a -5 (13) for an estimated round rating of 937, even in a ferocious 22 MPH sustained wind. The course might eventually be expanded to include as many as eighteen holes! But for now, it is a quick ten-minute round for folks who are motivated to be in and out of there in as little time as is possible.

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View of the Course Map and Welcome Sign at Driftless Disc Golf Course at Gamehaven Park in Rochester, Minnesota.

After that quick warm-up round, it was on to Rochester, to check out Driftless – 9 and Driftless – 18. Two courses recently designed by Cale Leiviska, I was thinking it would simply be a chance to wear my arm out throwing LONG holes intended for professional players. “Good” designs, but nothing special. But Driftless – 18 completely and utterly knocked my socks off.

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 2 tee at Driftless DGC – 18 in Rochester, Minnesota.

The course starts out with a beautiful, well-manicured hole that will challenge even the best players to put something better than a four on the card. And on the heels of Hole 1? You are met with a tight, technical tee shot with quite a drop in elevation. I thought to myself: “That doesn’t remind me of Cale’s previous course designs at all!” Cale is a good course designer, don’t get me wrong! But most of the holes he designs either feel as though they are designed for “big arms,” or the holes that REC/INT/ADV players can reach off the tee can feel a bit “gimmicky.” Or have safety issues, including conflicts with other adjacent private property or other park amenities.

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 9 tee at Driftless DGC – 18 in Rochester, Minnesota.

Driftless – 18 has three “top of the world” tee shots that players love SO much! The course also has a couple of holes with steep uphill shots. There is an excellent, appropriate mix of both long and short holes. Chances to reach back and throw it as far as you are able, with other holes requiring pinpoint precision off the tee to have any hope of deuce or par.

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 12 tee at Driftless DGC – 18 in Rochester, Minnesota.

The more I played the course, the more I thought: “Wow. EXCELLENT job, Cale!” Much, MUCH more variety and quality than I have seen on all but a very few courses in the Upper Midwest (much less Minnesota). And even though there were a few 700-900 foot monsters? There were enough tee shots under 300 feet to give “distance-challenged” players such as myself a fair shot to get the box on a few holes. 🙂

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 15 tee at Driftless DGC – 18 in Rochester, Minnesota.

If I had any negatives that I might cite on this course, they would be:

  1. Throwing at and/or too close to too many fences. Some of the fences on the course were there for player safety! But other fences were there to keep players from trespassing on private property. And on a day like today, with 22+ MPH sustained winds (and wind gusts over 30 MPH)? Even throwing a “safety” off the tee was still a bit of a Hail Mary as to whether I would wind up on the right side of those fences.
  2. The course is designed to be much more friendly, easier to attack, by RHBH/LHFH players. As a left-handed player with no forehand to speak of (due to injury)? There were at least five holes where I had little to no chance to do anything other than lay up and settle for my 3-4. While RHBH players are able to attack those circles/chains much more aggressively. Facing far fewer consequences of missing their landing zones off the tee.
Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 17 tee at Driftless DGC – 18 in Rochester, Minnesota.

I managed to shoot a +4 (64) off the Main/Long tees, which to me? In that wind? Felt like a 1000+ rated round! disagrees, estimating the actual round rating at a meager 899. 🙂 But I would have liked to see many Advanced players shoot much better than a 64 today…as you could throw the most overstable plastic in your bag and STILL wind up a few dozen yards left/right/short of your intended target. But my performance didn’t matter. The important point is that Minnesota MIGHT have a new #1 course for players to enjoy. Chain’s Edge in Oglivie is still my favorite complex in the State to play! Blue Ribbon Pines is Blue Ribbon Pines (awesome). Bethel University, my alma mater? AMAZING. Cedar Creek East, Central and West is an amazing 54-hole complex in Fairmont! But Driftless – 18? Might just be our new #1 in the State of Minnesota. Excellent, EXCELLENT job, Cale!

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 4 tee at Driftless DGC – 9 in Rochester, Minnesota.

Daylight was burning fast, but I still needed to sneak in one more course (Driftless DGC – 9) before continuing on to Winona! So without celebrating my newfound love of Driftless DGC – 18 too much more, I hustled over to sneak in nine more holes. The nine-hole course at the complex was solid. Good. But any course was going to seem average/ordinary compared to what I had just experienced. And even though it only measured 2,353 feet? I struggled my way to a -1 (26) and an estimated round rating of 869. Again, I think DGCR was being way too harsh on me, not factoring in the “hurricane-force winds!” 😀 But the only number that counts is the +1 in my courses played collection. So I left Driftless a very happy man.

That makes 25 new courses played in November so far, all played in the Upper Midwest, and all played without any snow! I am thanking my lucky stars for a beautiful November. But here’s to hoping the wind dies down by the next time I am able to play.

Magic Number = 105 (1,895 Courses Played)

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

Driftless in Minnesota - Tonn's Travels

Derek 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’s (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.