Having played and promoted disc golf for sixteen years, I’ve seen and played a great many courses. When I drive by wooded areas and empty fields, I often drift away and imagine baskets and flight patterns. I see the discs turning over and floating down imaginary fairways and thudding into tree lined obstacles. I’m sure many of you have done the same thing. But what I’ve never seen is a monkey design a disc golf course. To borrow a phrase from one of kids’ favorite movies, Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook. but not everyone should.” Yes, anyone can design a disc golf course, but should they?
I spent two days with Johnny Sias, a three time World Champion and Master Disc Golf Course Designer, traversing an unexplored area of GrandVue Park. We hiked, searched, fell, put flags in the ground, walked more, moved flags, fell even more, staked ‘baskets’, walked , discovered waterfalls (seven to be exact), moved the moved flags, moved baskets, added mandos, removed holes, lengthened holed, shortened holes, found what appears to be a den for some type of animal(s), moved ‘baskets’, added holes, removed holes and concluded with more that 7.5 miles and 170 flights of stairs walked.
Now, anyone can put a disc golf course in a park, open space, or wooded area. But should they? There are many aspects that must be taken into consideration when designing a disc golf course. The first and foremost question one should always ask is, “Is this course or hole safe?” Is the footing secure enough to walk on, will walkers or mountain bikers travel through the fairways, are there blind spots that people might be throwing into and endanger unsuspecting pedestrians are but a few of the basic and most important questions that one should ask when designing a disc golf course.
Another important consideration is if the course will play fair yet challenging and fun at the same time. Many courses are fun but exhibit little challenge while others offer great challenge but aren’t any fun. The key to a truly great disc golf course is the balance of challenge, fairness, and fun.
Putting a tee pad in the ground and a basket on the other end of the property simply does not make for a fun, enjoyable day on the course. There is value in having a trained professional with expertise and knowledge in course design.
Not everyone can design a disc golf course, not even a monkey.
Paul Ashmore , PDGA #20092