The official design standards for Disc Golf reprinted from the P.D.G.A website.
Disc Golf Course Design Goals
- Satisfy the design requirements of the people and organizations who approve use of the land and fund the equipment for the course.
- Design course to be safe for both players and non-players who may pass near or through the course.
- Design course with the potential for multiple configurations to serve not only beginners but players with advanced skills; consistent with the budget and design needs expressed in Goal A above.
- Design a well balanced course with a wide range of hole lengths and a good mixture of holes requiring controlled left, right and straight throws.
- Utilize elevation changes and available foliage as well as possible. Take care to minimize potential damage to foliage and reduce the chances for erosion.
Course Design Assistance
There are several documents available on the PDGA website to help with course design at: www.pdga.com/cd_start.php There are additional design resources available online, primarily at the websites of basket manufacturers. Contact information for manufacturers of PDGA approved targets can be found at the end of the following document at: www.pdga.com/discs.php Course design has gotten more sophisticated over the years and thereâ€™s nothing like seeking experienced design help from qualified individuals. Experienced designers can be well worth their fees by guiding clients thru the process, recommending cost effective processes and equipment alternatives, and perhaps most important, reducing chances for safety related problems. Consider contacting the PDGA office to locate qualified designers in your area.
Course Design Elements
The first decision is to determine what type of course you would like to develop and whether enough space is available for that type of course. The amount of space available can sometimes depend on whether brush and trees can be removed to create fairways. Ideally, a well balanced course has a mixture of holes that go completely thru the woods, partially thru woods and mostly in the open. Typically, fairways in the woods range from 20-40 feet wide. This usually means that some larger trees sometimes need to be removed to create fair flight paths.
Most new courses are being developed with two sets of tees to better serve the different skill levels of players in the community, even if both sets arenâ€™t installed right away due to budget constraints. Four levels of player skills (Gold, Blue, White and Red) have been defined with design guidelines for each level (see Course Design Guidelines for PDGA Skill Levels & Divisions). Public courses are usually designed with a combination of Blue & Red or White & Red tees to meet the needs of most players. Well developed disc golf markets and private facilities can sometimes justify installing a few of the longest, most challenging courses that include Gold tees for the highest level of players, although it still makes sense to install a set of shorter tees for White or Red level players.
A full length Championship course can require more than one acre per hole depending on foliage density (more trees, less acreage required). However, a small recreational course can sometimes fit 2-3 holes per acre depending on terrain. (Read the document on Acreage Guidelines for more detailed information at www.pdga.com/cd_start.php)
- HOLE COUNT:
Most courses are either 9 or 18 holes. There are several with 12, 24 or 27 holes. Tradition appears to dictate that the number of holes be divisible by 3. It’s better to install a well designed, dual tee 12-hole course than it is to install a cramped, less safe 18-hole course on the same piece of land.
Most courses should have at least one configuration for beginners and casual recreational players that rarely averages more than 250 feet per hole (75 meters). This works out to a maximum of 4500 ft (1350m) for an 18-hole course or 2250 feet (675m) for a 9-holer. The preferred length range is 3600-4300 feet (1080-1290m) for the shortest setup on a typical 18-hole public course. This is an average length of 200-240 feet per hole (60-73m). No hole should be shorter than 120 feet (35m) even on courses for Red level players, but 150 feet (45m) is the “normal” low end limit.
Longer configurations are achieved by installing alternate tees and/or target positions on several holes. Typical 18-hole course setups for amateur White level players range from 4500-6000 feet (1350-1800m). Course setups longer than 6000 feet (1800m) are primarily for better players at the Blue or Gold level, and for tournament play. There is no maximum length allowed for a hole. The longest holes in the world are about 1200 feet (366m). See document: Course Design Guidelines for PDGA Skill Levels & Divisions
- HOLE NOTES:
There should be a preferred flight path to a hole. Ideally, there should be more than one flight path (including rollers) to play several of the holes. There should not be too many obstructions within 30 ft (10m) of each target. An obstruction should not be so imposing that a player can’t at least try to putt by stretching sideways, throwing from a low stance or throwing over the top of or through any obstacles near a target.
No player throwing from the shortest (or only) tee on a hole should ever be “forced” to throw over water that is normally greater than 18″ deep (50cm). Have an alternate flight path (usually to the left) that gives player the option to not cross water. Any normally dry trenches or bodies of water under 18″ deep that are regularly in play should have safe paths down and out to be able to throw and/or retrieve discs safely.
Hard surface tee pads of textured cement or asphalt are preferred. Preferred size is 5 ft wide by at least 12 ft long (1.8x3m). Maximum size is 6 ft wide by 20 ft long with the back end flaring out to 10 feet wide. If you need to conserve materials, make tee pads shorter on short or downhill holes and longer on long holes. For example, a hard surfaced tee pad at the top of a hill on a short hole might only need to be 8 ft long because players will just stand at the front edge of the tee to make their throws.
Non-hard surface tee areas should be even surfaced and not contain protruding rocks or roots. Tee areas should be level from left to right. They should not slope too sharply from front to back. The front edge of tee area must be indicated by the front edge of a tee board buried flush in the ground or by the imaginary line between two stakes that mark the front edge.
Beyond the front of each tee pad should be adequate room for follow-thru so a player doesn’t risk twisting an ankle, falling off a ledge or whacking their arm on a tree or sign. If possible, provide adequate level ground for a runup behind each tee pad, especially on longer holes. Avoid major obstructions that severely block flight path up to 20 feet in front of tee.
On courses with alternate tees on some holes, the tees in the shorter positions should always be better or at least equal in quality to those in longer positions. For example, avoid designs where the long tee pads are cement and short tee pads are grass or dirt.
The tee color for each set of tees should match one of the four recognized player skill levels that set of tees was designed for: Gold, Blue, White or Red. Sometimes thereâ€™s no room for two tees on every hole. Just make sure to mark each tee on single tee holes with both colors.
Course managers are encouraged to move toward these color guidelines when the opportunity presents itself for new installations, redesigns or course upgrades when their current color(s) do not match the PDGA guidelines.
Any well marked object, post or basket can serve as a target. Make sure targets do not have any sharp edges to injure players or damage discs. Locally fabricated targets for sale or to be installed on public land must not violate any basket manufacturer’s patents. Most PDGA sanctioned events require the use of PDGA approved baskets which are listed here: www.pdga.com/discs.php
Install a rules sign prominently before the first tee, plus post a rules sheet on an information board (if there is one). Signs or marker arrows near each target should indicate the direction to next tee (as needed). Signs should indicate Out-of-bounds boundaries and any other areas players should avoid. The shortest tee on each hole should have permanent signs indicating the hole number, length, teeing direction (if needed) and recreational par. Signs on shortest tees should always be equal to or better than those at longer positions on each hole.
Par should be set for each tee/basket position combination on a hole based on the player skill level they were designed for. The document Course Design Guidelines for PDGA Skill Levels & Divisions provides some assistance for determining these values. In addition, the following document: PublicPar.pdf provides a more specific way to determine par based on length and foliage elements of holes for each player skill level. The hole length should be adjusted up or down if it has a significant upslope or downslope based on a 3-to-1 factor (i.e. 30 feet adjustment for every 10 feet elevation change).
So players know what standard has been used for par, it should be indicated on scorecards and tee signs as Blue Par or Red Par, which hopefully matches the tee color(s) used. When less precise estimates are used to determine par, the older method is to use the terms Expert or Pro Par for longer tees and Standard or Amateur Par for shorter tees.
Fairways should not cross one another and should be far enough apart so errant throws aren’t constantly in the wrong fairway. Fairways should not cross or be too close to public streets, sidewalks and other busy areas where non-players congregate. Avoid hazardous areas such as swamps and thorny or poisonous foliage. Tees and targets should be far enough from the targets and fairways of other holes.
The tee for the first hole should be the closest to the regular parking area. The target for the last hole should not be too far from the parking area and relatively close to the first tee. If possible, try to locate at least one other hole in the middle of course near the parking area. Try to minimize the amount of walking between holes (still keeping safety in mind).
- ADA COMPLIANCE:
Sections of most disc golf courses are accessible to many people with a disability. The normal challenges presented by the types of holes intrinsic to the sport plus the sometimes rough terrain utilized for courses make it unrealistic to accommodate everyone everywhere. Efforts should be made to try and provide a legitimate opportunity to play for those with disabilities, even if not all holes can be made accessible. In some cases, a several hole loop on part of the course may provide that opportunity.