Big Creek State Park
- Sweet location! Set in the small town of Mayberry...er, Polk City on Saylorville Lake, this course is small enough to stay on the down-low (read: not busy) but close enough to the amenities so you can grab a quick bite, a pack of smokes, or some fashionable adult beverages within a few minutes. No traffic noise either provides a really secluded feel for those wanting to contemplate the mysteries of the universe during a quiet, solitary round - or makes the Five Finger Death Punch playlist on your $20 Bluetooth speaker sound like a IMAX theater sub-woofer.
- Good equipment. The Mach 3 baskets catch well and the concrete teepads are grippy even in the mud and rain and snow and sleet for which Iowa winters are so well known. (Okay...maybe they're not so grippy in snow and sleet, but solid footing is always a plus no matter what the weather.)
- Awesome layout! Set in a large park in well-established woodlands, this is a pretty technical course. It offers both tight lines and open lanes with enough kick to give your accuracy and your power a run for their money. The alternate tees give both beginners and advanced players an opportunity to enjoy this course without either being overwhelmed or giving enough of a challenge. They keep the fairways mowed pretty regular in the summertime too, which is unusual for a state park so far off the beaten path.
- Well rounded! If you're wondering whether or not your upshots and short game can hang with the big dogs, Big Creek will tell you that story. A tough, mostly par 3 course (there are only four par 4 holes), you're going to need a deft touch and a metric butt-load of accuracy to tame this bad boy. Some of the fairways are fairly tight so errant shots often end up buried in the woods, while the subtle elevation changes on these tight fairways can cause off-the-mark shots to roll long enough to turn a birdie attempt into a double par bogie. However, like an ISIS initiation, a few bombs ARE required. The technicalities aren't limited to mid-range upshots; your drivers on many holes need to be deadly accurate too if you're truly aiming to play under par. In short, if you're one of those who's questioning whether or not you should move up from Rec to Intermediate or Intermediate to Pro, Big Creek can provide your answer: If you can par this course consistently or your scores on this course are improving exponentially, you're ready for the next level.
- Easy navigation. Defined fairways off the tee gave enough of an idea of where you were throwing to keep you on track and the paths to the next hole are worn down to the point that it's almost impossible to get lost on almost every hole.
- Beautiful! A very scenic park that is not only clean, but picturesque. Seriously, Ansel Adams missed out when he didn't paint this back 9.
- No gridlock! There is usually ZERO traffic on the course. There might be a few cars in the parking lot, but the course is large enough and spread out enough that the chances or running into anyone and waiting is slim. Great atmosphere all around.
- Signage. There are tee signs on every tee (both long and short), but they're pedestrian to the point that they're almost useless. Thankfully, the natural flow of the course makes up for that and allows for relatively common-sensical navigation, but you may find yourself walking up the fairway on a few holes in deciding which disc to throw because the signs don't paint an accurate picture of the actual pin locations when throwing blind.
- Trash receptacles. There are VERY few. If you plan on eating or drinking, please be prepared to take your trash with you.
- Poison Ivy. It's a woody course, so some nasty foliage is to be expected; however, it's not just vanilla woods and your standard, run-of-the-mill bushes; it's straight up atmospheric Armageddon. The thorns, bugs, spider webs, and the God-forsaken ivy are something straight out of a Harry Potter movie. Got into some ivy last summer and I was swoll up like a blood tick at fat camp for about three weeks. The Dark Forest takes no prisoners. I can't recommend highly enough wearing long pants and Amazon-grade, 98% DEET if your accuracy leaves something to be desired.
- No topless Hooters girls frolicking along the #8 fairway.
Big Creek is a relatively older course, but it has aged REALLY well and has earned a place in the Top Five of courses in the greater Des Moines area. It may not be one of the longest, loveliest (I call it "The Leanist") courses around the Iowa state capital, but it certainly gives Ewing, Grandview, and Walnut Ridge a run for their money. Sure, it's not perfect, but I've yet to run into a course that is. Bottom line: there isn't much NOT to recommend about Big Creek, so if you find yourself near Des Moines and want to give your game a run through the gauntlet, you could do a LOT worse. Big Creek is worth the trip out of your way.
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