Today was the main reason for my trip this weekend, designing a new “Red” (recreational) course for one of the (ball) golf resorts in the Brainerd Lakes area of Northern Minnesota. It is a lead I have been working on for many months, as a result of a disc golf design presentation I gave at a meeting of the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association in the Fall of 2019. And while we had assumed discs would be flying at that resort by now, the coronavirus had other plans.
That said, I was going to need to use all of my skill and experience in designing this nine-hole course, as we had less than five acres of land to work with. Approximately half the land one needs in order to comfortably (safely) design a course for players of all abilities to enjoy.
I must have walked that land 5-6 separate times today (after spending hours before this trip talking with the property’s decision-maker and studying satellite imagery). Mostly alone, but once with the decision-maker (after I was confident that I had the very-best plan for using the land that was possible). Seeing what new things I might see after my previous walks. Which helped a lot, as I ended up determining a better way to add challenge to Holes 4, 5 and 9 by the time it was all said and done.
In course design circles, we always say that the top three priorities specific to effective course design are:
With such a limited land area to work with, it forced me to make nearly all of the holes very short. Under 200 feet. But I told the decision-maker that I am unwilling to push things out much further than that, as then you would introduce all sorts of safety issues (discs hitting people, discs hitting vehicles, etc.). So, I already know the course will be one that skilled, experienced players will shred on their reviews. “It’s too easy! Who designed this putter-only yawner?” [sigh] But the property, the decision-maker, doesn’t want a course that Open/Advanced players would need to work to get a par 27 over nine holes! They want a course that moms/dads and younger kids who have limited experience with the sport can have fun. Have a couple of chances at a deuce or ace, and (important) will not find themselves dodging cars and hitting walkers/joggers in areas adjacent to the course.
A nine-hole course that measures in at only 1,605 feet is SHORT! But the more I talked with the decision-maker at the property? The more I felt good about where we arrived with the design. Hole 2 has trees guarding the right edge of that fairway that will make it nearly impossible to get anywhere close to the Hole 6 basket (satellite image in the map is years old). Hole 5 has trees on both side of the fairway near the tee that will prevent RHBH/LHFH tee shots from getting high enough to land anywhere near that road. Hole 7 concerns me a bit, as we don’t want discs landing on that main drive in/out of the property! But that is the main reason it is also the shortest hole on the course (135 feet). With just enough “evil” in the design (mandos off the tee between two trees, on both Holes 8 and 9) that will keep players honest (while also keeping things just a bit more safe for players, particularly on the Hole 8 tee).
Hole 4 will be my favorite hole on this course. While only 200 feet in length, it’ll play closer to 240-250 feet as you need to throw uphill. And when you get close to the basket? The fairway will have just enough of a hook/turn to the right where if you don’t place your tee shot in a particular landing zone, you’ll have a challenge trying to make your deuce. I told the decision maker that I would expect to shoot an 18-20 on this course…but that younger kids and less-experienced players would probably shoot in the high 20s to low/mid 30s. A friendly “beginner” course that won’t scare or frustrate players as many are introduced to the sport of disc golf for the first time.
I had a bit of daylight left after being satisfied that the design I had come up with was solid, so I hussled another ~15-20 miles North to sneak in the last public course in the area that I had yet to play, Pequot Lakes Baptist Church. It honestly wasn’t what I expected! It was better than I thought it would be. Not perfect (what course is?), but a nice mix of long and short holes on very flat terrain. Hole 5 was SHORT, Hole 9 was LONG! 🙂 But that variety made it fun. I managed a -5 (23), and an estimated round rating of 960.
I’ll sleep on that recreational course design one more night, before walking it again in the morning and thinking of anything I might have missed today. I am pretty confident we are solid, however. Particularly after walking the land with the decision-maker and hearing how happy he was after I showed him every proposed tee area, fairway and basket location.
Magic Number = 323 (1,677 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.
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 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.