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Choosing the Best Disc Golf Course Designer for your Project

Once you’ve provided the course location, nothing will impact the player experience more than the course design. The following guide will help land owners and park supervisors choose the appropriate designer to develop safe, challenging and
enjoyable courses for their community.

Disc Golf has come a long way since the first permanent course was installed in 1975. As disc technology, park operations experience, and player expectations have advanced through the years, the art and science of course design has also evolved. Land owners and park supervisors should take steps to insure that they are installing courses designed in a manner that reflects those advancements.

Because there are no formal certifications or state licensing programs for course designers, it is important to consider whether or not a specific course designer has the qualifications and experience to design and develop a course that will meet the needs of your community. Following are some of the more important factors / questions to consider before selecting a designer for your project.

  • References – Try a web search to either find experienced designers who might be available to work in your area or simply to see if potential designers in your area have a website. Contact those who hired the designer. Talk with target manufacturers who may have worked with designers in your area. Contact people listed as contacts of courses listed in the PDGA Course Directory located near you.
  • Specific Experience for your Project – Does the designer have experience with your type of course development project?
  • Course Design Resume – The designer should provide a list of courses developed indicating their level of design involvement with each project. All but a few course designers have other full or part-time employment and have honed their design skills over the years working part-time on several regional courses.
  • PDGA Course Development Guidelines – Designer openly supports designing disc golf courses following the PDGA guidelines.
  • Some Course Designer resources – The Disc Golf Course Designer group has members worldwide who have a wide range of experience and expertise. Disc golf target manufacturers can be a helpful course designer resource as well:
  • Training & Education – Has the designer studied under and/or worked with more experienced designers to learn the craft? Does designer have much experience with landscaping or partners who can assist with property development issues?
  • Technological Expertise – Does designer own and use state-of-the-art equipment and processes such as laser rangefinders for distance measurement, GPS system if mapping the base site is needed, or topographical software and related graphics programs to produce professional maps and scorecards?
  • Years as a PDGA Member – Indicates the designer has more likely been exposed to and possibly participated in the evolution of the current PDGA course development guidelines.

Design expectations and requirements have advanced to the point where land stewards run the risk of making a poor choice by placing inexperienced local player volunteers in charge of their course design. Some local pros feel they can design courses even without relevant design experience. These volunteers should definitely be encouraged to work with a hired professional designer to provide design feedback and especially to test each draft of a course layout as it evolves. Safety and liability concerns for your course layout in addition to lack of design experience are important reasons to avoid placing local players, scouts, or high school students in charge of the project. Scouts are a great resource for building course amenities like tee signs, benches and information boards, just not doing the course design.

Actual design fees range from 10-20% of the true total cost of a course development project. The true total cost includes the estimated labor cost of local volunteers and public workers, who are usually involved in building Park & Recreation courses, even if their wages aren’t specifically considered part of the project cost by the supervising authority. If the designer’s quote is more than 20% of the project cost, it’s usually because they will have additional costs such as non-local travel expenses, or they are quoting additional services not part of the basic design such as more comprehensive site mapping, supervising or actually performing tree clearing, or providing business operations training.

Good luck with your course project