About Disc Golf
Hello and welcome. I'm no expert disc golfer. In fact I play the amateur tees when available, but I enjoy the game immensely, here in Clearwater, and when I travel. It is a catalyst for exploration. It is an ally against entrophy. In case you're uncertain, disc golf is an activity that involves tossing a frisbee-like (we do not call them frisbees) "low-profile" disc into a stationary waist-high basket with suspended chains (see picture).
Most courses have 18 "pole holes", some smaller ones have only nine and even more rarely some have 27. I'm talking world-wide now. When you first start out, you generally try to match the number of strokes on the tee signs (the better courses have them, they usually indicate which hole, how far, and preferred flight path). Once you've become a "regular", pro or not, you play all holes at par 3. Here's an aerial view of our main courses.
How to Throw
Disc golf is like ball golf and bowling. For the first throw (the "drive"), you're going for distance over accuracy. Throwers generally take a two or more step windup approach to tee's edge (as in bowling), and use the arm like a sling. The release is generally flat, with a spin if possible. Wrist and release timing is critical. Once the disc is thrown, you mark it where it lays and throw from there (like golf). Unlike golf, however, you have the luxury of putting one foot where the disc was, and moving the rest of your body left or right, so getting around a tree is not nearly as difficult. The second throw (the "upshot") requires that you close most of the remaining distance to the basket, so that the third (and hopefully final) shot is, at most, a 10-12 foot "putt". And the chain when the disc hits -- "CHING!" -- a wonderful sound.
Disc golf is good exercise through twisting, walking and bending (try to remember to use the knees). What golf does in yards, disc golf does in feet, at a fraction of the cost in half the time. Most disc golf courses are in municipal parks, which are free, and discs run from 2 for $5 used to $8-$11 new. Disc golf provides a good respite from daily routine, and facilitates interpersonal relations; it's more fun shared. I have visited and played some excellent parks across this great nation of ours.
(l to r) 10-time World Champ Ken Climo, your's truly
Notable recent event: My first eagle (that's a hole in one)!! Hole 16 at Sarasota's Water Tower Park November 2001. Through the dense trees, I threw with an awkward twist, managed a loop and a turn and... CHING! What a fine feeling. Not to mention the two stroke gain!
Since then I have sunk two other aces, this time with witnesses. Hole 2 at Tocabaga Course in Maximo Park, and Hole 14 at NE Coachman! I hear you're supposed to get the disk signed by all the witnesses and retire it, but I don't stand on that ceremony.
Critiques on Disc Golf Courses (in the U.S. and Canada)
I base the following observations on a narrow gap of time when I visited, and hold these descriptions out to be no more than a personal catalog that may help you determine a wise course of action, pun intended. I'll try to give approximate dates of my visits. Obviously if things have worsened or improved since then, I can't know that, but would like to. Updates are appreciated.
My arbitrary rating system:
- Well-taken care of. Top notch park and facilities. Has strong club presence (indicating good course maintenance) and probably elevation changes. Highly recommended.
- Very enjoyable and user friendly. Might be missing a couple desirable components (rest rooms, water, tee pads, signage, hills). Still strongly recommended.
- Average course. Nothin' wrong with that. Like they say, "a bad day throwing is better than a good day at work". They must not have my job.
- Not as rewarding as most, but still has some subtle charm or redeeming quality that makes it worthwhile.
- There might have had some concerns about personal safety. Baskets missing or vandalized. Barely a discernable club presence.
To see a special page on all of our local courses click here:
NOTABLE NORTH AMERICAN COURSES
Rundle Park, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(Played Feb '06) It was sheer optimism that led me to pack a driver and a putter in my suitcase for my trip to Edmonton. It really wasn't as cold as I was braced for, so by Wednesday, with the sun out and a clear sky, I left work to throw at what looked to be the most promising course in the area. As I approached the parking lot (it was waaay in the back), I lucked out onto a couple players finishing up a hole near where I parked. They were mid-course, but without hesitation invited me to tag along and show me the ropes. There was some snow on the ground, moreso than near where I was working, but it was manageable and with the elevation changes and the comeraderie, I was in bliss! We had a lot in common, it appeared, and they gave me a taste of the local culture. Nice.
Some of the holes play along the river's (that would be the Saskachawan River) edge, although it's quite far away and down below. Nice view! Baskets were good. Not all of the holes are in play, reportedly because some of the homeowners at the park's periphery didn't like the proximity to the disc golfers. That's a shame. But there are at least 14 holes, and I played all of them round back to the parking lot where I started. I guess they parked elsewhere but I had gone full circle, it was getting late and I was thirsty. Plus by then there weren't a lot of parkgoers, and I was feeling a little vulnerable. It was probably just me.
I hope I have an opportunity to come back here and play this course in the summer, I'm sure it'd be nicer when it's green and warm.
Dunellon Airport, Dunellon, FL
[Oct '04 - THIS COURSE HAS BEEN CLOSED] I'll leave my little critique on this page for a while for sentimental reasons, but alas, this property has fallen into private hands. Apparently we need another attractive condominium complex!
(Played Dec '02) I hadn't been to a new course in quite a while. This was a pleasant surprise. It was clean, well-marked and empty, but I was there late on a Thursday.
Most of the first half of this challenging and versatile course was in the woods, with nicely framed paths and usually some indication of where the next tee could be found. I got there late, so it was a good thing most of the back nine is out in the open. Well-maintained, challenging, my favorite part is that there are three tees. One (and this is unusual) was a par-4, a par-3 (pretty much equivalent to our pro tees), and an amateur pad (or post). I always take it easy the first time out, so I gravitated to the am pads, but some of them were too close, more like women's tees (kidding -- sorta). You could play this course three different times, three different ways, and each time would be enjoyable.
There are no facilities, and it's right by busy Hwy 484, but that really doesn't impact throws. Generally, there is nothing but fields surrounding the "park", so it seems secluded in spite of the traffic. Just the other day, I bumped into a couple of fellas playing Coachman Park in Clearwater who were from Dunellon. It was obvious they had a lot of pride in their course. And I didn't blame them.
Acorn Park, St. Paul MN
(Played Mar '97, Apr '01) Another winter trip (I'm hardcore -- well, I'm there anyway...), this course had snow, but warmed up into the 50s the day I went out, so it was a very positive experience! It was easy locating the next hole by following the footsteps, would have been tougher in the summertime. Great course, good elevation changes, challenges and distance shots. Very nice area. A couple other groups were out this unlikely day.
Returning years later for a separate customer I managed to work less than a mile from this park, so I went there twice that week. Still challenging, still goopy with melting snow. Still fun.
La Mirada Regional Park, La Mirada CA
(Played summer '96) Home course for the PDGA? I can believe that. I did not see the office/store that's supposed to be there, but the course was definitely world class. Pretty easy to follow, and very busy. Not so easy to find, I was driving from Hollywood, and it's pretty far off the freeway. I lost a disc in a tree there. It broke my heart.
George Ward Park, Birmingham, AL
(Played Aug '98 & Apr '00) In the very southwest part of the city, there's this excellent park nestled between highway and homes. It was a challenge to find, but was well worth it. You don't think of Birmingham as mountainous, but this park has some serious topography! There is a visible league presence, and the equipment is kept up.
North Valley Park, South St. Paul, MN
(Played April '01) Getting around in this park in the late winter was challenging, to say the least. I was lucky enough to have my cousin Dave with me for this weekend game. There was still a lot of snow on the ground and roads, often with ice and pools of water beneath (the ground's too frozen to soak it up this early on).
When we pulled in (around noon) the place looked deserted. A pile of snow kept us from driving all the way to the lot. A group showed up while we ate our White Castles, and gave us some idea about where to start. We slipped and slid our way down to the course and got underway. As we worked our way through the holes, more and more people showed up. Anyone we encountered was pleasant if not friendly, and willing to help us find the next tee, or basket or both. Lots of excellent elevation changes, some VERY challenging holes, and some thankful amateur tees.
For those who haven't thrown disc in the snow, it's a blessing and a curse. For obvious reasons you want to steer away from using a white disc, but by observing the trodden snow, it becomes easy to find the next tee, which of course is sometimes difficult for a visitor. This course gets confusing in the middle for a newcomer, it appears we missed 10 (saw it later), though we don't know how. And hole 15 is ludicrous, if not outright annoying. It must have been 800 feet, over an outrageous water hazard (and deep deep snow banks).
I would like to revisit this course in the warmer, dryer weather. It was easy to find, and very enjoyable, beyond the shortcomings mentioned, and I recommend.
Sioux Passage Park, Florissant, MO (St. Louis)
It was January '96. After a week of training in southern Illinois, I stayed the weekend in downtown St. Louis, and was joined by my cousin Dave, who drove over from Indiana.
There had been a blizzard earlier in the week, and snow was still everywhere. Dave (pictured above) and I tried to play Birch Park first, but, believe it or not, there was a tournament so it was closed to non-participants. We then headed up to Sioux Passage (after some shrimp pizza) and played there. Hilly terrain, well-laid out and challenging, it was great fun. Thank goodness it warmed up to 50° or so for the day. World-class 18 hole course, I recommend highly.
Elver Park, Madison WI
(Played summer '97) I played it twice during the week, it was summertime. This was a challenging and well-maintained course, so I expect it is still. To my understanding, in wintertime the disc golf area is used for cross-country skiing. That should indicate the elevation changes that are in store for the disc golfer during the rest of the year. And I remember the mosquitoes were the size of small cars, so bring some Off!
Good course, fun, busy. A very nice park southwest of downtown.
Lions Club/Univ of WI extension, Baraboo, WI
(Played Jun '01) Baraboo is a small modern town north of Madison, and just a few minutes south of the Wisconsin Dells -- a summer resort community. I was there for nearly a week, so I ended up playing three times! It is quite interesting, occasionally busy, but not too crowded with lots of deep woods (don't throw dark discs). The first five holes start up in the hills in the thick forest, the closest thing to pinball I've ever thrown. Then it alternates with some good open field shots. It's fun and challenging, and in spite of the difficulties I birdied several.
The other players there were courteous and accomodating. They helped me get started and let me play through. The tee pads are -- get this -- cattle mats. I guess it's something they use when cows need to walk on concrete. They are quasi-rubber and not slippery. In the summer in Wisconsin it can rain any time, so obviously there is mud involved if you time it wrong. But what can you do? Stay on the grass as much as possible.
The course is easy to find, just north of town (West Baraboo) and a few blocks east of Hwy 12 on the UW extension campus. At the top of a low hill it affords a great view of Baraboo valley and the bluffs to the south. User-friendly (tees and holes are well-marked) with good to excellent signage. I give it a "two thumbs up".
Update: One of my students, Ron, now frequents this course with his friends. It always gives me pleasure to turn someone on to this subtle madness.
Z Boaz Park, Fort Worth, TX
This park was a little difficult to find coming from town (as opposed to coming from the interstate, as described on the web). I had to do some extra hiking and started at hole three, but they all come full circle, don't they?
This course has a creek running through it that at times has shots across chasms. Serious stuff, especially if you muff. I had one of those blessed days where I didn't. In fact, I birdied the very difficult hole -- seven, I believe -- where I was up the hill shooting atop the tree line. Awesome!
The course was not too busy for a September afternoon, though I did see a few others as the afternoon wore on. Very challenging, with very few nods to amateurs, which I certainly am. I managed. I started smelling the dead boar about half-way through, and stumbled right upon it eventually. Phew, couldn't someone have moved that away?! I can also see this course being tremendously treacherous during the rainy season, you cross water nearly a half dozen times. But it was challenging and quite enjoyable. Nice surrounding area. I give it a "thumbs up".
Chicago, Milwaukee, Sarasota, Virginia Beach, St. Louis, San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, Washngton DC area, Indianapolis ...all have nice courses, I will cover these later.
John ready to play
Lee on hole 2
Ken on hole 8
The tree at left has since
fallen over and is IN THE WAY!"
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