Today I once again had the honor of playing a disc golf course that does not exist.  Or rather, two of the three major disc golf course directories ( and DGCourseReview) say that said course is either extinct or is merely a figment of my imagination.  But since UDisc recently added (back) in Northwest Park DGC in Madison, South Dakota to their directory, a course that was first installed in 2003 but was labeled as “extinct” years ago?  I thought I would make the 100+ mile drive over to Madison and put any confusion about the status of that course to rest.  And, thankfully (so as to not completely waste seven gallons of gas and four hours of my life), I was rewarded with a very short, recreational course to add to my course collection.

Playing Courses that Do Not Exist: Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 1 tee at Northwest Park DGC in Madison, South Dakota.

All but one or two holes are essentially par twos, well-under 200 feet in length.  But there were just enough trees and a touch of water (and a place that looked like prime habitat for ticks) that it kept me honest on the tee.  Carded a 20, which I thought was okay.  Two rock solid tee shots on Holes 4 and 7 should get most good players a score of 18 on this short course!  But since my name is not “McBeth” or “Lizotte?”  A 20 was solid.

I’ve played probably 40-50+ courses over the years that “do not exist.” They absolutely DO exist, of course!  But either nobody has taken the time to add their information to, DGCR or UDisc, or property owners purposefully lie about the course no longer being there.  So as to try and discourage players not affiliated with their property/organization from attempting to play said courses.

I’ve never liked that.  Property owners lying about a course not existing.  When all it takes is one player who has seen or played said course, making one social media post and/or telling a couple friends about seeing baskets on a property to create ten-times the confusion and trouble. I think a much better, more honest approach is to add said courses to the various directories out there.  With said directories then making it painfully obvious as to whether the general public is permitted to visit said property and play the course.

Church or YMCA camps are a common problem in this regard.  People can see baskets from the road as they are driving by a property, or others who have been permitted to play the courses in the past…adding them to the various directories.  Only the church or YMCA camp will later decide they don’t want non-campers or non-employees playing.  But instead of being clear in the directories about who is and is not allowed on the property?  They will simply ask to have the course labeled as “extinct.”  Or have the course record removed altogether.  But in the weeks and months that follow?  More people will see those baskets as they drive by the property.  More people will post/share about playing disc golf on said property.  So more players will visit the property…not knowing that their presence is not desired/allowed unless someone on-site alerts them to that fact.  A hassle, both for landowners/employees, and for players who did not know they weren’t supposed to be playing disc golf on the property.

This was not the case in Northwest Park in Madison!  My guess is a previous version of a course had been pulled from the ground a few years ago…only to have disc golf re-introduced to the park in 2018, with new baskets (very nice DGA baskets, I might add).  But it has been an ongoing problem in all of the major course directories for as long as I have been volunteering to help scrub them for accuracy (around the past decade or so).  I think the solution is to list all courses in all directories, then flag the ones that are not open to the general public with crystal clear instructions and information about permissions attached to their directory listings.  But until that day?  I guess I will just keep playing more “courses that do not exist.”

Magic Number = 636 (1,364 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.