Over the years, I’ve created ten disc golf course designs across Southern Minnesota and Southeastern South Dakota (eight entirely solo, and two others with a bit of help). Mostly what folks might consider to be Red or White designs, focused on casual/recreational play. Giving beginners and players who are just a few years into their disc golf journey places to play that will hone particular skills and work accuracy, work their mid-range/approach games. Forcing players to learn how to be able to make their discs follow particular flight paths, versus merely playing “bomb’s away” with the biggest, fastest drivers they can find…where missing one’s optimal flight path off the tee by 50-75+ feet, left or right, inflicts little to no damage on one’s scorecard.
Designing those ten courses, and playing another 1,300+ courses over the years? I’ve thought I have encountered just about every type of course imaginable! That said, I was approached earlier this year by a land owner in Wisconsin, asking if I could help design and install an eighteen hole course on some land they are hoping to develop (along with a brewery and event center). The one caveat? There is not one single tree on the entire property!
Using the tree canopy to force hyzers, anhyzers, and faster “low ceiling” shots off the tee is central to my course design experience! So having ~35+ acres without one single tree to work with is a new one for me! But the more I thought about it, the more the challenge has excited me. The more I realized that it will FINALLY be my chance to implement a “bunker” concept, like sand traps in golf, that will present a substantial challenge to players whose discs find their way into said features.
There are (or at least will be) some cool features to work with on the property! A several acre holding pond, shaped/constructed to my design specifications, will be a critical feature of the course! That, and some gently rolling hills will provide some interesting elevated tee and basket positions. But the “stars of the show” will be those bunkers. And if they turn out how I envision them, I think it will become a feature that many course designers adopt in the future.
As part of my on-site research for the course design work this weekend, I also promised the property owner that I would play the five closest courses to their location. All five courses were new to me, and included:
The middle school course presented probably the most similar experience to the holes we will be able to create at this new property. Gently rolling hills, with few/no trees to contend with. That said, this new course will have a tremendous amount of water that comes into play on numerous holes. Keeping players extremely honest off the tee, specific to accuracy.
Magic Number = 628 (1,372 Courses Played)
How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.
Derek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.
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