Hidden Treasure: Tonn's Travels
A view of what I believe is Hole 9 in St. Peter, Minnesota, USA. No tee pads or signage can yet be found at the property, but after walking the land and evaluating the design of the course, this seemed to be its finishing hole.

This past Saturday, while heading to St. Peter, Minnesota to watch my oldest daughter compete in a One Act Play competition that would determine whether our school’s theater group would be heading to the State competition, I told my wife that I was going to bring my disc golf backpack with me… “just in case.”  There is a “course that does not exist” in St. Peter at the Minnesota Security Hospital.  A property that houses some of Minnesota’s most violent criminals with mental health issues.  A course that certainly does exist!  It’s just that the State of Minnesota has all of the various course directories pretend it does not exist.  Which always creates confusion among people passing through, who don’t know the rules but can plainly see disc golf baskets on the property as they pass by.  I would rather property owners list said courses in the directories and then tell people that absolutely no one other than staff and patients at the property may play!  That would be more honest, while also having the directories clearly telling players that they are prohibited from using the property.  But that is another discussion for another time.

As we pulled into the new St. Peter high school, so new that Google Maps and Bing Maps only shows the property pre-construction, I spotted a familiar yellow band above some chains and a catcher off in the distance.  Then two.  I decided to investigate after our team’s performance…and, to my delight?  I found nine baskets North of the new school, sprinkled in among ball fields and holding ponds.  A new course in St. Peter that few/no people yet know about.  That I promptly added to DGCourseReview and UDisc.

While out on the course collecting trail, I think my favorite experience is stumbling across new courses that all but a very few individuals do not know exist. And on these cold, COLD Winter days here in Minnesota?  I find myself spending a little time each day using Google to look for any information about towns that seem large enough to support a disc golf course, but where no information is yet known.  My favorite memory from doing this research was using Google Street View to virtually drive past a few parks in towns down in Iowa, only to stumble across the following image in Onawa, Iowa:

The view in Google Street View that one of Google
The view in Google Street View that one of Google’s vehicles captured of Gaukel Park a few years ago.

I felt like Indiana Jones, stumbling across an Egyptian tomb or Mayan temple that the world had forgotten about thousands of years ago! Another yellow band with chains and a catcher in the background…with what looked like a tee sign between the basket and the road.  In the weeks that followed, as I was passing through Onawa during a trip for work, I confirmed the existence of a nine-hole course in Onawa, adding as much information and photos as I could to DGCourseReview.com and UDisc.   A secret no more, that course information is now available for the world to see.

Hidden Treasure: Tonn's Travels
Can you spot the basket from US Highway 14 in Lake Preston, South Dakota?

Of course, sometimes when I am out traveling, I stumble across courses no one (outside of the immediate area) knows about, purely via dumb luck.  For example, Lake Preston Park in Lake Preston, South Dakota.  I happened to be passing through town, on my way to De Smet, South Dakota to check out a course I had never played, when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what appeared to be a basket through a fence and a few trees at a small community park.  I think I actually shouted “BASKET!” (scaring the person riding in the car with me, ha!), threw on my turn signal and I hit the brakes. And upon turning into the parking area for the park?  There was a nine hole course that I had no idea existed.  No information on any course directory, and no information on the City’s website.  But there it was.

I had a similar experience along Interstate 80 in Nebraska, driving toward home after a trip out West.  I happened to look to my right (South) into what looked like a park or camp property Southwest of Maxwell, and could have sworn I saw a basket under some trees.  After I got home, I learned that the property was a religious camp. And after calling them to try and get to the bottom of the mystery?  Staff did confirm the existence of a nine-hole course on their property, and invited me down to check things out the next time I happened to be passing through. Super nice people working at Maranatha Camp and Retreat Center. And less than a year later, I spent about 90 minutes on-site, talking with staff and playing their course.

The moral of this story? Always keep your discs with you while you travel, and keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when you’re going to discover new places to play disc golf that few/none of us know about.

Oh yes, and via St. Peter’s new course?  My new Magic Number is 744 (1,256 courses played).

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. And 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 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.

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