- WARM UP HOLES. I started to think that the first three holes - which are basically just open fields with a little elevation - were lethargic afterthoughts placed by lazy designers, but I've reconsidered. They're actually great holes on which to loosen up your arm before you need every bit of speed and accuracy to tame the rest of the course. I think they're not so much afterthoughts as they are preparation. They certainly can lead you to a false sense of security if you've never played the course before and don't know what you're getting yourself into.
- AMENITIES. Plenty of parking, pavilions with restrooms at the start, grippy concrete teepads, and great ChainStar baskets. And with little happening in sleepy Warren County since the first basket was installed in 1999, local officials have seen fit to make this a championship length course and maintain it extremely well over the past 16 years. They keep the intended fairways mowed pretty regular, which is an unexpected nicety considering the enormity of the course.
- ATMOSPHERE. Set right outside the small town of Indianola, Iowa, the massive expanse of land on which Pickard Park DGC sits is backstopped by corn fields and ball fields...and not much else. The most you'll hear while playing a round will be the relaxing sounds of nature and the occasional combine or two. If you're looking for a quiet, peaceful bit of exercise (and you *will* get your heart rate up here) to pontificate the majesty of Mother Nature, Pickard is a great place to get your zen on.
- HUGE COURSE. Do NOT bring a newbie or a girlfriend you've convinced to just "try out the game" to Pickard. It's massive and it will break them. To give you an idea of how long it is, if you've ever played W. R. Jackson at the IDGC, Pickard is only about a hole and a half shorter than that - and with just as many changes in elevation. But if you've been stuck with a local pitch-and-putt and are looking for a course that will really challenge your distance, look no further than Pickard. This bad boy is a monster.
- A TRUE CHALLENGE. Of course, longer doesn't necessarily mean better (that's not what SHE said) and Pickard isn't a one-trick pony. This course will test not only your arm but your accuracy. Allow me to elaborate:
* PIN PLACEMENT. Designers placed a premium on tee location and hole placement, utilizing the elevation and natural vegetation to create some very precarious lines. Allow me to give you a few examples:
- Hole #4 runs along a slant, with a deep forest to the right. It's a natural lefty/flick hole, but it's dangerous. You have to make it over the hill, but it finishes downhill to a pin you can't see from the tee and the pin sits about 25 feet from the pond. Long shots are wet, to leave it short leaves a risky upshot, and playing the skip off the hill to the left of the tee makes the possible downhill roll into the pond sketchy.
- Hole #5...see foliage comments below.
- Hole #8 is a long, downhill shot. It's pretty and very much a hole most golfers love to play. However, the wind up here (see below) as well as the foliage (ditto) and the creek on the right make disc selection a priority. If you turn the disc over too much you're in the shiz, if you big arms go long you're in the creek. I've ended up in it a few times and I can tell you it's tough. Of course, that probably had more to do with my erratic form and inconsistent release than a flaw in the hole, and that IS what she said.
- Hole #10. This par 5 starts throwing uphill LONG through a grouping of trees that aren't shy about putting the kibosh on your drive. Make it to the middle of the fairway and you're looking at another LONG downhill shot over a creek to the pin with bushes and briars a la #8 to the right.
- Hole #11. Par 3 downhill shot. Another fun one, but blind from the long tee. The pin sits on a menacing slant that can cause drives to roll like a phat blunt all the way to 12's teebox, leaving you a 150 foot uphill upshot to save par.
- Hole #14. The prettiest hole on the course, in my opinion. Really gorgeous, especially in the fall. But like smoking hot supermodel, she can be a real bitch. From the long tee it's a semi-dogleg right into the fairway. If you hit your mark you'll have a 250-foot shot that has to make it downhill, over a creek, and through a tunnel of hanging trees to be set up for a birdie. The fact that the Amazon is to the left AND right of you only adds anxiety to your shot.
* FOLIAGE. There's a variety in play on every hole - and while not sparse, it's not pervasive either. Trees block many of the natural lines and you'll have to choose carefully on your plan of attack to keep the disc on your intended line. Bushes are also on the table and throw a monkey wrench of their own. For example, on hole 5 you start from an elevated tee and have a BLIND drive from behind some thick bushes. If you're feeling froggy and want to go for the deuce, you have to put enough on it to carry the pond - but lay off enough to make sure you don't turn the disc over too much (see the wind comments below) -- to an LZ approximately 20 feet from the water. It's perilous for those who value their plastic. And that's not all: Pickard comes with some Carolina crazy, too. She has some really thick woodlands, and while not in play on most holes, when present should be avoided if at all possible. Like an ex-girlfriend of mine, she sports undergrowth of Biblical proportions and isn't shy about punishing errant shots that grip-lock their way into their territory. If you land in that mess you'll be lucky to escape with a bogie and (like with my ex) possibly a rash.
* BREEZY. Because the park is surrounded by open corn fields, winds that would put the gusts of the Texas plains to shame often wreak havoc on your flight path. Couple this with the dangers of blind tee shots over bushes that need to carry water without fading hard or turning over into an Amazon-type forest and you've got veritable life-decisions to make with every throw.
I know I'm probably not painting these "pros" in a very flattering light, but if you want a fun, adrenaline-filled round, Pickard will deliver in spades.
- FEW BENCHES. Considering the length of this course I would've thought that there'd be more. If memory serves there are five total throughout the course (on 1, 7, 10, 11, and 14). Bring your stool.
- VERY FEW TRASH CANS. You'll need water and probably a snack or two if you want to finish this course without your metabolism and hydration level crashing, but with few garbage receptacles you'll need to take all yours with you. This course deserves to be kept clean.
- 1.5 BATHROOMS. One in the pavilion at the start of the course, and a half of one (a port-o-john) on #11. Normally this wouldn't show up on my radar as such a big deal as my rounds are typically a sausage-fest and we can pee in the woods. However, the last time I played Pickard the previous night's Zombie Burger (with fried onions and jalapenos...de-LISH!) decided to disagree with me and around hole 7 my bunghole was going to DEFCON 2. The bubble-guts were killing me for four holes until I saw the port-o-john on 11. Made a mad-dash to the leaning, decrepit outhouse that looked like it belonged on the set of a Walking Dead episode just in time to save my shorts from being flooded before my winking sphincter did its best impression of the Bellagio. Point is: They could use a few more.
- NAVIGATION. Course virgins should play with a guide or print a map before they hit the course. While Pickard has decent flow to it, some holes can be pretty confusing due to the expanse of the course.
- STRAIGHT THROUGH 18. For all the land available for this course, you'd think they could've found a way to have holes 1 and 10 start and holes 9 and 18 finish in the same spot. As it stands, once you finish 9 you're on the exact opposite side of the acreage that is Pickard Park, leaving you with a VERY long trek back to your car if you only wanted to play nine holes...or didn't figure out a way to make nine holes out of what's available. Just seems like this could've been planned a bit better.
- No topless Hooters girls frolicking along the #8 fairway.
I feel like I need to explain why I gave it a 3 instead of the 4 others have given it. I must admit that Pickard Park is one of the highest rated courses in the state for a reason and it has most certainly earned it. It's got all the ingredients: It's beautiful, it's well maintained, and any disc golfer who says they aren't challenged by it has extremely flammable pants. However, I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who *wants* to be better, but isn't. Yet. Because I'm an intermediate player (at best) - someone who's inconsistent, chooses discs (and ex-girlfriends) poorly, and has bad form - this course is frustrating. The foliage, the wind, and my own inability to play the game "properly" makes Pickard just a little less enjoyable than the other Des Moines courses because it's so harshly punishing of less-than perfect play.
I don't mean to say it's a bad course; it's not...it's an outstanding course. Nor am I saying that "less than perfect playing" *shouldn't* be punished; it should. I'm saying that because of my current ability *I* just don't have as much FUN playing it as I do Big Creek, Ewing, Walnut Ridge and Grandview, and that's the name of the game. It's not a course that we middle-of-the road Intermediate players should use as a barometer for our abilities because this course will roll your confidence out like wholesale carpet. Pickard is tough for pros. Not saying anybody below pro level shouldn't play it....they should! If you're an amateur with poise, a mean snap, and a respectable putting game who thinks they can hang with the big dogs, give 'er a run. Pickard takes all-comers. But you've been warned: Don't be surprised if Pickard takes a few chunks out of your ego's taint and you leave with a light bag and a DNF on your card.
In short (too late), Pickard is for really good players who want to test themselves. It will. It's a great place to test your mettle against a truly top-shelf course. Intermediate players will undoubtedly have fun and will love to play it from time to time, but it most likely won't be one they'll want to tackle on the regular. Nevertheless, regardless of your skill level, if you're passing through the Iowa state capitol you owe it to yourself to give it a run. Pickard is definitely a "bucket list" course.
This course is great for beginner and advanced player. Two set of tee boxes provides younger players the ability to throw
some "pars" while the "big arms" get a workout as well.
Nice mix of open and technical shots as well as a few "mile long" holes. Number 18 will test your arm and the basket sits near the lake.
I recommend playing this course!
This is one of our local courses that we play a couple of times a month. We always play from the long tees and it's the longest course in the central Iowa area. This was one of the courses used in the Worlds a few years ago.
Aside from being a LONG course, it has some great elevation changes, some wooded areas, and the pins are usually at least partially protected. While most could call it a "grip it and rip it" course, it's much more than that. You will use every shot in your bag as you work this course. If you place your disc well, you get rewarded, and if you don't, it's not always quick and easy to get out.
The only real cons on this course is that it doesn't always drain real well, and if it's rained recently, you will find wet areas in places you wouldn't think it would. The other negative is that the rough is very unforgiving. It is deep, tall Iowa field grass that swallows discs pretty easily. There really aren't many tight holes, but that rough is very rough.
Fun course. Well laid out. Each hole has it's own challenges. If you are in the DSM area, it's definately worth driving 15 miles south and playing this course. Definately a world class course!
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