Planets aligned today for me to cross a few more unplayed courses off my To Play List. My wife and youngest daughter wanted to head to Mankato, Minnesota for the day (though they ultimately ended up not going). The weather was GORGEOUS! I was mostly caught up with work. And while I was less than excited about spending nearly six hours behind the wheel? I had a cluster of six courses that had crept on to my UDIsc Unplayed Courses Map that I could devote my full attention to today.
After about two hours in the car, I made it to my first course on the day: Byron Middle School. A mix of wide-open long and short holes, I managed to card a -4 (25), and an estimated round rating of 983. The course wasn’t QUITE as long as advertised…as when someone created the map for the course in UDisc, they ended up making Hole 4 quite a bit longer than it actually is! However, the nine-hole course was still well over 3,000 feet. Which for a middle school? Was plenty of distance for those kids to try and contend with.
After playing at the middle school, it was on to visit my one private course on the day: Armbruster DGC just North of Rochester, MN. Mark Armbruster, the owner of the property and course, is a very nice guy! His course listing (in both UDisc and DGCourseReview.com) asks that players interested in playing his course text him prior to showing up to play. Mark likes to make sure there won’t be any issues with too many players on the property at the same time. So I texted him on Saturday, to make sure it was okay to be there.
When I arrived this morning, I could tell what a labor of love his course is! The money he has spent on seven baskets (for nine holes), as well as nice tee surfaces for people to throw from. I ended up shooting a -2 (26), for an estimated round rating of 923. But Mark said that was a pretty good score, especially since Hole 9 is almost impossible to get a 2, much less a 3 (and I wasn’t taking ANY chances of hitting his truck and trailer, which was parked on the left side of the fairway near the basket).
After leaving Mark’s property, it was on to what was supposed to be the highlight of my trip today: Heartland Country Club in Lewiston, Minnesota. A course designed by Cale Leiviska, it had received rave reviews by locals and other players in the region for its effective use of land and shot variety. But when I arrived, paid my $10 to play the course (steep fees for rural Minnesota), and proceeded to play my round, I found:
– two blind shots over 8-9+ feet tall corn? I know the corn wasn’t there when Cale likely designed those holes, but STILL! You design for what can/will be there…not what is there.
– a couple of holes where cars driving into the golf course and cars parked in their parking lot can come directly into play. Only if players throw bad tee shots…but 99.9% of players playing disc golf are not “Cale Leiviska.”
– 1-2 holes where you are throwing your discs parallel to golf holes, where little white balls flying fast enough to send you to the hospital are flying within 25-30 yards of you (if golfers make GOOD shots…what if they miss the fairway?). That would hit you before you ever hear the “FORE!” Assuming golfers would even see you, as on one of those holes, you are hidden from the golf tee by a tree.
I felt very unsafe on Hole 9, as there were golfers hitting golf balls at me (not at ME…but in my immediate direction). And when two of them put their golf balls in the fairway, those golf balls landed about 65-75 feet from me. Considering all of the people who had rated the course as a 4.5 or 5.0 (out of 5.0)? I felt highly disappointed. The staff in the clubhouse was tremendous! Very friendly and helpful. And the golf course is a beautiful piece of property. But the disc golf course? Was nothing special. And I came away feeling that those 4.5-5.0 ratings had more to do with people who are fans of Cale than people who are fans of the course.
I ended up shooting a -6 (50), for an estimated round rating of 928. But it wasn’t the experience I had hoped to have. As a full one-third of the holes on the course introduced some type(s) of safety issues for either players, people driving in/out of the property, or people parked in the property’s parking lot. That, and I took a very hard fall on Hole 6, trying to get down the hill to the right of the path, as I couldn’t see a couple-foot hole in the tall grass. I laid there for several seconds, around the “yard sale” of discs that went everywhere from inside my backpack, with a couple of golfers wondering if I was going to get up. I was more embarrassed than hurt…though as a player who has struggled with injuries the past two years, I wasn’t thrilled to be that close to a serious injury! Not the designer’s fault! But already being underwhelmed by the design, that didn’t help my opinion of the course from the standpoint of safety.
After being trapped at the country club for an extra 20+ minutes when a train decided to block all vehicular traffic from getting in/out of the property, I finally made my way over to The Crossings Center on the other side of Lewiston, to play Eagle Trail Disc Golf Course. A short twelve-hole course, if I lived in Lewiston, this is the course (of the two) where I would play most of my rounds. It wasn’t anything extraordinary! But it was fun, with a variety of technical shots. And it was FREE, compared to a $10 per day fee over at Heartland. And for us tightwads? Free hits the spot. 😛 I managed to shoot a -9 (27) for an estimated round rating of 997 too, though I left at least two more deuces out on that course that I should have had.
After leaving Lewiston, it was on to Rollingstone, Minnesota, to check out a short six-hole course in their City Park. It was not at all what I expected to find there, after seeing a few photos of the park as i was researching things pre-trip. A super short, tight set of six holes that require you to throw at or over other park amenities, I can envision many (MANY) instances where at least a portion of the course would not be playable. Holes such as Hole 4 (above), where you are throwing between the two outfield fences on two ballfields. And I didn’t even try to make a good tee shot on Hole 5, as I didn’t want to risk hitting a mom and her couple of kids in an adjacent tennis/pickle ball court. I ended up shooting a -5 (13), for an estimated round rating of 945. But I left Rollingstone feeling disappointed with that course design as well.
After Rollingstone, it was on to my last course of the day: Prairie Island Campground in Winona, Minnesota. I had tried to play this course two times in the past, but it was flooded on both occasions. The third time’s the charm, I guess! 🙂 And if I am completely honest? This was my favorite course played on the day. I didn’t like how a few of the holes on the front half of the course, as well as Hole 15, come perilously close to camping stalls. They even mention that Holes 1-2 and 15 are closed to disc golfers when the campground is busy! But I was lucky in being able to play all fifteen holes today…shooting a solid -5 (40).
My two best shots of the day came on this course too. On Hole 9, there were 4-5 people using the basket to practice their putting. So after I finally got their attention and they let me tee off on the hole, I ended up throwing a beautiful S-Curve that came to a stop about eight feet right of the basket. A few of those players got quiet after that, and as I walked up to drop in my deuce, one of them said: “Nice shot.” I also came SO close to acing Hole 15 (above)! I went left of the tree, over the building, and my disc came to a rest 2-3 feet right of the basket. I also had a “gallery” for that shot as well! It’s always nice to shoot well when other people are watching.
So that was my day. Six more new courses added to my course collection. I’m in a little more pain than I expected to be, but it was worth it…removing six more baskets from my Unplayed Courses Map in UDisc! 🙂
Magic Number = 188 (1,812 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.