Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 12

Note: This is part 12 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.

Chapter 12 – Crash Course Course Design

Now that you’ve been playing disc golf for at least two weeks, let’s take the next inevitable step in your progression as a true disc golfer– let’s talk about designing a course.

Any new addict to the game will inevitably be experience an adrenaline-fueled sense of urgency to build the next great disc golf course. Here is a crash course for you. First of all, let’s talk about the size of the property that you’ll need to build your course. For a quality course, you will need approximately one acre of land per hole. So, that half-acre backyard is good for…well…putting, and possibly a kiddie pool. But, let’s say that you have four acres of property. Realistically, you could put four holes, or possibly five or six, if you keep the distances short and don’t mind some crossing fairways. If you want a competitive eighteen hole course, then you better have access to eighteen acres or more. In fact, some of the better eighteen hole courses are on properties ranging more in the 25-40 acre range. That size will allow you to put in some of the long-bomber holes where players can push their distance limits, as well as featuring some shorter, precision holes.

A course can be built on private property (which most of us lack in that size), or on public lands, in city parks, on existing ball golf courses (that is happening more and more these days), or even in state parks, which is a happy trend in several states. Whatever piece of land becomes your desired future disc golf course, you should keep some other important factors in mind to make it a course that somebody would actually want to play. Take an old alfalfa field as a potential prospect– it might be large enough, but it is most likely barren of the things that actually make disc golf fun, like trees or other natural obstacles, or water hazards, or elevation changes.  No, the livestock doesn’t count as an obstacle.  If you don’t have some natural obstacles, hazards, elevation changes, or a restroom, then who wants to simply chuck discs repeatedly across a wide-open field?

Let’s assume that you have the right sized property, and it happens to have some mature trees, and a little creek flowing through it, and a couple little hills, and at least a porta-potty perched in a discrete corner. Now we can talk about some of the things that prevent it from becoming a “crash course” (that is…a course where discs are crashing into people). See what I did there? If you’re in a public park, then take a look at the other ways in which the park is being used. Are there other sports being played there? Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy that throws a high-speed Katana into the middle of a peewee soccer game. Are there playgrounds or picnic areas? Are there walking paths? These are the kinds of things that MUST be taken into consideration before you start planning your hole layout. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to place your tee boxes right next to any playground, restroom, picnic area, etc. and then place the hole in such a way that you are throwing away from that public area.  I once saw a proposed map for a new disc golf course in a little city park nearby, and the first thing I noticed was that there were at least three of the nine holes that had the basket position right next to a playground. Yeah…watch out kids! Incoming!

So, throw away from public use areas. Also, do not set up your course so that you’re throwing toward nearby tee boxes. Though other players may be more understanding when you crack their head open with your driver, studies have shown that 7 out of 10 players do not prefer it.  I don’t know who those other three guys are.  If your tee box is in an area that might be approached by a disc from another hole, then place that tee box behind a natural obstacle, like a clump of trees. Those trees can act as a barrier to swat down the approaching disc before it injures somebody who is standing at the tee box. Also avoid crossing fairways. This is where two different holes have crisscrossing discs flight paths into the same small piece of land.  You don’t want players picking up their discs to take an upshots in an area where discs are landing from another tee. This should be common sense, but it is also too common in some of the courses I’ve played.

Another consideration is the “flow” of your course. You’ll want to design each tee so that it can be found effortlessly from the previous basket in such a way that a highly cryptic map and satellite GPS guidance systems are not required to figure out where the player must go next. Don’t make it necessary for the player to walk across busy fairways and past holes that are not in sequence. Your course shouldn’t be a puzzle or maze.

Well, those are the basics. So let’s move on to advanced course design. As the course designer (yes, that’s you) practice throwing the proposed holes a few times before your baskets are cemented into the ground. Aside from seeing if the flow is natural and the course it enjoyable to play, you also should take this singular opportunity to design your course in a way that you will always have the advantage over your opponents. Maybe you have a very strong forehand throw? Then most of your holes should favor the forehand! Or maybe you have a real knack for throwing high, hyzer lines over obstacles? Then put all the baskets behind tall obstacles! Ask yourself, what are your strengths? Which are your favorite holes on other courses? These are things you should take into serious consideration on your new course. What is your disc golf nemesis’ Kryptonite? That player that always beats you– they should never be allowed that opportunity on your course!

Now that your course it designed, installed, and stacked in your favor, make sure that you contribute to the maintenance of the new course, whether it is on your own property or not. If everybody does a little bit to keep it groomed, clean, and better than when you came, the new course can continue to serve future generations of disc golfers for years to come. Make it indispensable to your community by playing often, bringing friends, hosting tournaments, and building a sense of appreciation and value around the course!

There…now go and make a new course!

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