A disc golf course is a disc golf course, right? No - not really - there are thick ones and open ones, long ones and short ones, flat ones and hilly ones, easy ones and tough. Apologies to Dr. Suess (I am a parent, obviously) - but, my what a lot of kinds of disc golf courses there are. As the editor of the PDGA Course Directory, I see many of these differences in the text that I edit every day. This summer I came up with the idea of listing an exciting subset of courses - The Disc Golf Adventure ones. The notion came to me during a lucky trip to the Pacific Northwest.
The road we were on had run up right alongside the river for about 4 miles when we saw the huge ship heading upstream. A long way from SeaTac Airport and even farther from Burbank, CA earlier that day. The green vistas, the water, the sun now brightly examining the marks of moisture's hold on this section of the world - four players heading west along the northern bank - the Washington side - of that RIVER - the Columbia.
Later in the day.....
The ferns came up to my waist and the light that made it through the canopy seemed richer from its journey through foliage. Our guide Bob points out the basket down the fairway - immense, primordial red cedars line the right. "Up that hill - to the left, peeking out behind that tree. See it?" My brother John, sets and then puts some SNAP into his sidearm “great shot!, wahoo! yeah!" rings out from us all -the lucky ones.
Was it just that we were lucky that trip? We had cooked up the idea, and now were actually pulling it off. Four dads with permission and most of a long weekend were on a road trip - playing 4 disc golf courses before heading back to Seattle for a poker tourney. Wahoo! Dads risking it!
The day was beautiful, the company good and the sense of adventure heightened by unknown courses, but even with the right chemistry for a bona fide Disc Golf Adventure - we needed the right course to play. Serendipity - plain old good luck - headed us towards Skamakawa, WA. Circumstances had conspired to add the Lucky Mud course onto our list - the hotel room we had booked for the following night in Portland was not available that night so the intriguing Lucky Mud and its Bed and Breakfast experience got added to the play list. Lucky Mud - lucky us for landing there and lucky you if you manage to plan and pull off a fun trip to some special disc golf adventure course.
The checklist for a Disc Golf Adventure (based on my limited experience) might include: some good friends, willing spouses and families, and a weekend plus an extra day. Pick a locale, an adventure course (some are listed here) and a few other courses in the area, print course maps if they are available online, check with the course contacts (many of these courses are private and/or seasonal - details are up at the Course Directory at PDGA.com), then GO! Good luck!
The criteria? Here is an excerpt from the email I sent out to collect adventure courses. Hey Folks - I am putting together a short list of Disc Golf Adventure courses for an article. Courses that have some combination of the following criteria will have a better chance of making the list; great natural beauty, not particularly easy, within a 2 hour drive of a fair sized city, a feeling of adventure in going there and playing the course, a good rating, near a great small town, lodging or camping right there. Please email me courses that you feel are warranted and a brief description of why you think they belong on the short list of Disc Golf Adventure courses. Hey - is it subjective? Of course! Convince me that your choices belong.
Disc Golf Adventure Courses with reviews by various contributors (alphabetical by state)
Coyote Point DGC, Ventura, California
On a stunning piece of land alongside Lake Casitas is the most attractive course in So Cal. Challenging and exciting. Did they make the best use of the beautiful area available for the course? Go play and you be the judge. Good camping right alongside the course. Love this course! $10/car entry fee. Cliff Towne
Sunrise DGC @ Mountain High North, Wrightwood, California
Extreme elevation change and challenge on a great property. Beautiful ski area, mountain top course within easy reach of the LA metro region. The design uses the hills and trees superbly. You will hike - so wear the proper footwear. Table Mountain Campground adjacent. Love it up here! Can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the flat land in the summer. Disc golf course closed in the winter. Cliff Towne
10-3 @ CB, Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado
Spectacular - over 2.2 miles in length. Starts with a 400' downhill shot from an elevation of 10,300'. Breath taking views as it winds its way up and down the slopes of Mt. Crested Butte. Good variety and the rough will eat your disc. Chris Brown
Beaver Meadow DGC and Sundance Trail Ranch DGC, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
http://www.pdga.com/course-details?id=3085 and http://www.pdga.com/course-details?id=2529
Beaver Meadow - After walking the course with me, my daughter said "That was the best disc golf course ever." She could be right. Up and back down the mountain, but not too much - encountering tight wooded holes, hidden baskets, and big downhill bombs. At the bottom there is a pond to contend with. Everything about it is awesome. I am a more complete person for having teed off over a pond and witnessing a trout jump under the flight path. JD Andrews
Sundance Trail - There is not one single impression to take from this course other than awe. It is long with a little bit of everything. Open and tight drives, open and tight approach shots, many elevation changes, including a small mountain and a pond. Well marked - the trails to the next tee box are groomed and the baskets have neon flag poles on top. You may see horses and some other dude ranch guests with climbing gear, but you are pretty much alone, it's awesome! The people running the show talked about playing there in the winter, which sounds great to me.
Red Feather Lakes (pop. 525) might be the best disc golf town in Colorado with these two amazing courses. Dude ranch golf is just as fun as ski resort disc golf. God bless summer time in the Rockies! JD Andrews
Colorado Mountain College, Glenwood Springs, CO
I love this course, I wish I could bottle it and drink it. It has everything you want in a Colorado hike and a disc golf course. The natural beauty makes this one of the most picturesque courses in Colorado. The smell of fresh pine leads you into the woods, but have no fear, the course is well marked - you will not get lost. Granite, sage, pine, and mountain views abound. Benches made out of old snowboards, nice touch. JD Andrews
Thunderhead DGC, Steamboat Springs, CO
Awesome - I give it a 4.5 out of five It doesn't have the ponds that Beaver Meadows has but it has memorable holes throughout, plus an awesome downhill bomb to finish. In the middle of nowhere, yet its a great destination town, every picture you take will be beautiful and it's hard. You will sweat like you ran a 10k. JD Andrews
The Magnolia Disc Golf Course @ The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, Florida
A tough, tight, technical challenge with a bit of elevation, huge pines and magnolias. 7,000' blue and 5,500' - both at par 63. In a fantastic 700 acre music park on the Suwannee River about 1 hour from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Gainesville. The park has RV sites, cabins, primitive camping, a country store, a cafe, a wedding chapel (marry your Valkyrie!), golf cart rentals, horseback riding, canoe rentals, and hosts 5 major music festivals and many smaller music events each year. A unique disc golf destination experience “ beautiful and relaxing with lots to do for the whole family. Also the site of Juliana Korver's La Vie en Rose - A ladies only PDGA A-tier event February 14-15, 2009 Denny Ritner
PDGA International Disc Golf Center, Appling, GA
Steady Ed Headrick Memorial DGC, WR Jackson Memorial DGC, Jim Warner Memorial DGC
The PDGA International Disc Golf Center opened in 2007 and is must for every disc golfer! Home of the PDGA, Disc Golf Hall of Fame, Ed Headrick Memorial Museum, full service pro shop, clubhouse, training center, putting greens and much more. RV and primitive camping available at the park.
Steady Ed Headrick Memorial DGC - On the banks of Thurmond Lake, outside beautiful Augusta, GA. This is the International Disc Golf Centers' first course. The amenities at the center are amazing, the staff friendly, and the surroundings beautiful. The course is in a dense pine forest; bringing beautiful rock formations, creeks, and ravines into play. Jason Allind
WR Jackson Memorial DGC - This course tops the "best" list for me - the first time I played the course it seemed like a fantasy. A true gold level course, every hole keeps you on your toes. There is a gorgeous ravine with three par 3 holes in a row that has been named "Turkey Gulch" or the "Bermuda Triangle" by locals - your score can go either way in there. WR Jackson DGC has beautiful long and wide fairways, tough pin positions, and rustic views. The courses at the IDGC are still developing - getting better and better! Jason Allind
Jim Warner Memorial DGC - The targets on this new course were just installed in mid November, 2008 and the course is now playable. The course will continue to be developed with tee pads and signage in preparation for the grand opening at the Disc Golf Hall of Fame Classic SuperTour Event on May 30-31, 2009. Brian Graham
Idlewild, Burlington, Kentucky
A spectacular course in a beautiful setting, Many of the best elements of the game of golf have been incorporated. Challenges every aspect of a player's game. Power is helpful here, but must be used wisely and accurately. The par 4's and 5's are true golf holes “ they require strategic planning and execution as well as power. Many of the holes are candidates for a "Disc Golf's Greatest Holes" book. A round here will challenge a player's ability to throw with power, hit lines, shape shots, strategize, scramble, handle adversity, and test their physical and mental stamina. http:://www.IdlewildDiscGolf.com Denny Ritner
Maple Hill DGC, Leicester, Massachusetts
The best. Seriously - the best place to play disc golf in the world. An amazing piece of property (a working Christmas tree farm “ closed Thanksgiving to New Years). Each hole is spectacular “ variety, water, great signs and tees. I thought I had played some nice courses, but this is the ONE. Chris Deitzel
Leviathan, Ludington, Michigan
I LOVE EVERY SINGLE HOLE ON THE LEVIATHAN! Rustic, but a great, fair pro challenge, with well thought out risk vs. reward opportunities and generous landing areas for well-executed shots. Creative uses of the topography. Whoever designed this either truly understands disc golf or got really lucky 18 times in a row. There may be a bit of an over-emphasis on straight shots but I happen to like that. Like 86 World Champ Johnny Sias once said, A man aught to be able to throw a Frisbee straight. The lone problem is the phenomenal concentration of mosquitoes. Up here in the north, there aren't enough reptiles to eat them, and I'm certainly not going to do it. The Leviathan easily slides into my top 10 favorite courses. Gregg Hosfeld
Flip City Disc Golf Park, Shelby, Michigan
Located on private property, Flip City has everything - 24 holes, scenic, challenging, not too long, rock lined fairways and paths, rock gardens, easy to follow without a map, plenty of shade and concrete tees. I have played over 220 courses and Flip City easily makes my top 10! Dave Prue
Sipapu,Vadito, New Mexico
Towering views and fun “ up and down ski hills with big elevation. The holes are in and around, up and down the ski runs. A bunch of hills, some water (the Rio Pueblo), and many trees. A store, a restaurant and lodging. Closed in the winter. Cliff Towne
Fontana Village Resort DGC, Fontana Dam, North Carolina
The remote natural location in the Nantahala Forest of western North Carolina, near the Great Smoky Mountains, has plenty of great vistas of mountains and trees. The course has; Elevation Galore!, good tee signs, good rubber tees, double chain baskets, a creek, and good length variety (1@ 138', 5 @ 200'-299', 7 @ 300'-399', and 5 @ 400'-499'). Golf carts are available, except in the winter. The layout has 4 woods/ 6 open and 8 mixed foliage (I would have preferred more woods holes). At 468' with a 40' elevation drop, #14 is my favorite. 5/round or $10/day. Olorin
Whistler's Bend, Roseburg, Oregon
Great mix of types of holes, beginning with tightly wooded yet fair woods holes of mostly short lengths, then a bunch of 400-500' tougher holes through more open area, a few baskets on the edge of a cliff leading down to a river. Then you go up a massively steep tight hole to tee off from one of the highest points above a basket ever. Great land for disc golf. Concrete tees. Not too tough to scare people away. Hard but not impossible to navigate without a map. One of the best courses in the world. Possibly the best land for a course ever, best views. Just needs better markings. Ben Calhoun
Moraine State Park, Portersville, Pennsylvania
It is challenging (designed from gold tees) round after round. You really have to dig down deep to play a round at par. Every hole requires well executed shots. If you fail to stay in the fairway you will most likely end up with a bogey or worse. The fairways are fair, and the golf is great. I find myself saying "What a beautiful place" just about every round I play there. Chris Deitzel
Base Camp Adventure Lodge DGC, Moab, Utah
After a not-for-the-faint-of-heart journey over the Hoorah Pass, disc golfers descend to the Base Camp property where they can play a course with not a single tree of significance. Running over and through a marvelous red rock landscape high above the twisting Colorado River, Base Camp will give an unusual experience. Amazing slot canyons, smooth stone slabs, sudden drop-offs all await. Baskets perched on million year old boulders and tees under eroded overhangs add to the adventure. Privately owned - call in advance, and have a 4x4 available to get there. Cold in the winter and beastly hot in the summer - spring and fall are the best playing seasons. Jon Lyksett
The Sugarbush Resort, Warren, Vermont
Two super courses at one of the Northeast's premier ski mountains. The Base Course is on ski trails and through woods at the base of the mountain. The Peak Course requires a chairlift ride up the mountain. Most of the holes are cross-hill or downhill with significant elevation changes. Sugarbush hosted a PDGA NT event in 2007 and an A-Tier in 2008. It is a destination resort at a gorgeous ski village in the beautiful Mad River Valley. Shops, pubs, restaurants, lodging, and a health club right next to the courses makes it convenient and fun for disc golfers and their families. Dan Doyle
Crystal Mountain DGC, Crystal Mountain, Washington
Ski area course set up in the summer at a neat resort near Mt. Rainier. A beautiful area! If the restaurant is open at the top of the mountain “ consider splurging and doing a weekend dinner ride up the lift. The course starts at the base “ traverses, climbs and then some big down hills back to the super bar “ The Snorting Elk. Resort manager Dee is a player (the events they run are great) and the whole area is really lovely “ lakes and peaks and Mt. Rainier “ wow. Cliff Towne
Lucky Mud DGC, Skamokawa, Washington
Up a beautiful valley above the Columbia River. Super hosts run a great B & B. The course has it all - elevation, beauty, challenge, both open and primordial forest holes. Some courses sit on memorably lovely pieces of land - this is one of them. Cliff Towne
Mt. Telemark, Cable, Wisconsin
24 hole mountain course. Front nine at the base of the ski hill with plenty of elevation. Then it climbs and traverses up through amazing views to the peak. 150' pines line the fairways. The term mountain is a stretch in the Midwest, but the more gradual elevation makes for great disc golf. No crazy lost discs or a chairlift ride to play. The first tee is right outside the beautiful 25,000 sq. foot lodge (2 bars and 2 restaurants, Indoor/outdoor pools, hot tubs, sauna and exercise areas). There are 40 resorts within 30 minutes, world class canoeing and the US Fishing Hall of Fame is down the road. Tim Gill
Justin Trails, Sparta, Wisconsin
Two 18-hole courses. The Classic course is about a mile in length. Expect a mix of open fairways, tightly wooded shots along the notorious Bambi Lane and dramatic elevation changes. The Big Brother course opens with a 1050' shot. Over 3 miles long, it will test the mettle of the toughest players. You'll find blind shots, enormous downhills, amazing vistas, many risk- reward scenarios, an incredible finish, and a day of golf you will never forget. Open during daylight hours year round. Fee; $5/person/day. The Lodge has an indoor bathroom and snacks, soda/water machine outdoors. Spend the night in one of our cabins or suites. If camping is your pleasure, there is a beautiful, well-maintained campground just 4 miles away. http://www.justintrails.com/ Justin Trails
Golf Island Disc Park, Pender Island, British Columbia, Canada
Take a ferry from Vancouver out to beautiful Pender Island along the BC coast. The course has magnificent scenery and was a famous early (1982) object course “ the "roots of disc golf. The 27 hole course winds its way over and around a rocky hill just to the north of Magic Lake. The venue of the course, with its many trees and bumpy landscape, makes for an exciting game. http://www.discgolfisland.com/ Brian Hoeniger
Discgolf Terminalen, SkellefteÃ¥, VÃ¤sterbotten, Sweden
Jesper Lundmark's home course is near the arctic circle. Long and technical, with 24 hours of daylight for a few weeks each year, & black flies. Home of the Scandinavian Open (a 2008 PDGA Major). Brian Hoeniger
Jaskolka, Marczow, Poland
A new 10,000'+ course on a horse farm in SW Poland. Brian Hoeniger
Written by Cliff Towne, Editor - PDGA Course Directory