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Maple Hill is a private, par 60, 8,215 ft course from the Golds that has an epic combination of lakes, woods, elevation & old stone walls playing as OB, to challenge even the most skilled disc golfers in the world. But, do not be deterred, as it also offers multiple tees and pin placements (Red, Whites & Blues) that are always available to make the course playable for all skill levels, with the red course playing as a par 57, at only 5,007 ft. Doubling as a tree farm, the fairways are either heavily wooded with tall growth, lined with water or forcing a water carry, or lined with Christmas trees, which causes the fairways to vary slightly from year to year. There is danger on nearly every hole. You start by throwing over a huge pond on the first hole and finish the round approaching a small island green, possibly in front of a huge crowd betting on whether you will land the green or not. The course is as much mentally challenging as it is physically and can erode the composure of even the most seasoned golfers. The famed Vibram Open is played here every year, so there is ample footage available for you to get a feel for the shots before venturing out, which I highly recommend. The course is pay-to-play and has a nice pro shop on site. They are also great about diving for and returning plastic that accidentally gets thrown in the water on the 7 holes where the hazard is a real threat. On that note, I’d suggest bringing a few discs you don’t mind leaving without. 😉
Blue Ribbon Pines is a beautiful private, well-manicured and challenging par 88, 27-hole track, with seven par 4’s, measuring a total of 9,999 ft, with mostly flat, wooded holes. It compensates for its lack of elevation with elevated tees, baskets, a hanging basket and three ponds to navigate. The fairways are immaculate, with great signage and a great overall flow and mix of holes. There is a pro shop on site and even a little tiki bar in the middle of the course serving drinks and snacks that is accessible from several holes. The course features the top disc golfers from all over the world each year, by hosting the Minnesota Majestic, and after you play it, you’ll understand why they keep coming back. The owner is extremely passionate about his course and is constantly making improvements and adding new features. The famous Hole 4 features a long, narrow corridor of pines, measuring nearly 450ft, but is no more than 20ft wide for most of the fairway. It is one of my favorites and likely plays as the hardest hole on the course, and is visually one of the coolest looking holes in the country. This course is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the drive and the greens fee, but be sure to bring your bug spray in the summer, because the mosquitoes could carry you away during certain times of the year. 🙂
DeLaveaga is an extremely unique and technical 27-hole, par 87, measuring 9,100 ft with only a few open holes. Most holes are tightly, wooded, with plenty of elevation change and obstacles forcing you to throw with precision. No two holes are alike and the course is great training ground to improve your skills, as it requires nearly every shot in the book, as well as angle control on the finish to avoid being “DeLa’d”, a term locals adopted to describe the tragic roll-aways that are bound to occur on this course. Many of its fairways are lined with steep, poison oak-covered canyons on at least one side. Combine that with fairways and greens that have hard-packed dirt and exposed roots from years of play and erosion and you create a perfect recipe for disaster….lost discs and itchy, oozing skin lesions await throws that don’t land perfectly. But, don’t worry, you can typically get through a casual round unscathed, especially when the pins are set short….”she” usually only likes to show her teeth during important tournaments. 🙂 Be sure to give the lady a good rub on hole 17 for some good luck. Dela has a really special vibe, with a dedicated group of friendly locals and volunteers that keep the course in shape, a small pro shop onsite and it only costs a couple bucks to park. Dela hosts the Master’s Cup National Tour each year, attracting all the top pros to physically and mentally battle the agony of inevitable roll-aways and unpredictable outcomes. It also features one of the best finishing holes in the country, “Top of the World”, a 546ft extreme downhill shot, that offers an amazing view over the city of Santa Cruz out into the ocean. This course should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Blue Mountain is one of the great gems of the Northwest, totaling 6,903 ft., this par 60, includes drastic elevation changes, challenging shots and breathtaking views around every corner. It features a variety of shots, including some epic downhill lines as well as some extreme woods, difficult uphill and short, extremely technical shots. The course is just a few miles off the I-90 and is owned by the forest service, so it’s free to play and park. Park in the upper lot and start on hole 3 or 13 to avoid an extra hill climb, and stay alert on the course for moose, who make appearances occasionally. Also, make sure to bring some flippy discs, because the higher elevation is going to make your normal bag a lot more stable than usual. Locals call the sport “folf” (not frolf or disc golf) and are typically friendly and laid-back, so join with a group of regulars and you’ll feel right at home. Each year, the course hosts the country’s top players at the Zootown Open, where organizers put on a great show with great players packs, a massive raffle and a huge pro payout, ensuring everyone enjoys themselves. Hole 4 is my favorite hole, an eagle-able 630 ft par 4, featuring a steep downhill, finishing to the left, with available lines on the right and left and huge pines in the middle knocking down errant shots. After a nice workout on the course, hit up one of the many natural hot springs in the area for a good soak, then finish the day downtown with a cold brew. You will not be disappointed!
Iron Hill is one of the most challenging courses in disc golf and that’s exactly why I like it. This par 72, 10,255ft course only has four par 3s from the golds and plays through thick woods, with some moderate elevation changes and few areas where OB comes into play. The course does include multiple tees and baskets (Reds play as a par 58, at 5240 ft) that make it more fun and accessible to newer players, but the lines are still very tight and directed, letting you know when you miss your intended trajectory. The course requires you to throw the line it gives you, even if you don’t have that line in your arsenal, or else you concede to laying up to an area where you can throw your preferred line. More so than most courses, you constantly have to make vital decisions, calculating your moves, constantly weighing the risk/reward with your skill set at that moment. Playing mostly par 4’s and par 5’s also requires that you string together several successful shots in order to birdie, and on some holes (like hole 17–practically a par 6) it takes perfection just to score par. A shot-shapers paradise, Iron Hill can leave you shell-shocked or inspired. Being slightly off from the tee will leave you ticking off trees into deep woods with little choice but to pitch out and take your medicine. It’s often more desirable to be off by several feet, rather than only a few inches with a course this wooded and even the best players in the world have the potential to shoot drastically different scores from day to day. The course demands unwavering focus on every shot, accuracy off the tee and from the fairways, a huge diversity of shot selection, as well as mental resiliency, solid visualization and sustained confidence from less-than-desirable lies. This course will host a PDGA National Tour for the first time in 2018 and is guaranteed to be an exciting show, with the potential for dramatic score swings and the possible emergence of a dark horse champion.
“The Beast” at Brazos Park East has an excellent combination of holes to test the full spectrum of a player’s skill set. This par 67, 8,000ft course, has nearly every variant in disc golf: wind, water, OB, slight elevation changes and tight woods, and most importantly, manages to combine the elements in a way that is challenging, but not impossible. Half of the course is played in the open, which tends to be windy in Texas, with OB roads, sidewalks and water hazards, This style plays to the strengths of power players and spin putters and requires those players to make decisions to take risks for birdies and eagles, or not, depending on their confidence with the required shot and the wind speed and direction. Finesse players are likely to play much safer, conceding to mostly pars with only a few birdies when the opportunity presents itself. To the contrary, the other half of the course is played through extremely tight woods where very little wind can penetrate, and a finesse player will have an advantage while a power player is more likely to conceded to pars. This sets the stage for exciting competition and gives both style of players periods within a single round where they have an obvious advantage and an obvious disadvantage. The resulting champions must execute several styles of play and be versatile and wise enough to be aggressive at times, but also strategically reserved at other times. The Waco Charity Open Pro Tour event will be hosted here in the Spring of 2018 and is sure to be a thriller, so tune in!
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