While needing to travel up to the Minneapolis St. Paul metro today for work, I found enough time to be able to play a relatively new course at Nelson Park in Long Lake, Minnesota. By far the closest fully open and playable course to my home that I had yet to play. An extremely short course (1,698 feet over nine holes), with little information about said course having yet been added to UDisc, DGCourseReview or PDGA, I was expecting to likely yawn my way to an 18 or 19 on the card. However, upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised (and honestly, more than a little nervous) to see that water came into play along seven of the fairways. Not to mention having water inside the circle on over half the holes.
As you’ll see in the above photo, even though the holes on this course are short? The rough is unforgiving. And within five or ten feet of said tall weeds? Lurks small ponds and a lake. A recreational two-some was playing ahead of me, and from Hole 2 to Hole 5 alone, one of them lost two discs in the weeds/water, while finding a third disc with no name on it. They said they just heard about the course’s existence, and that it was their first time playing it. They were having enough fun, despite losing plastic in water and weeds taller than they were, that they decided to play a second round.
Minus the incredibly tall rough, it reminded me of playing a much shorter version of The Links of Springfield in my home town (the first course I ever designed, with the help of Chuck Kennedy and Steve West). Incredibly easy to par! But par is boring to most players…who want their ace runs and deuces. And running chains or trying to park one’s tee shot, with that much water and other OB/hazards lurking, is a recipe for going home with a much lighter bag. I thought about offering a little advice to those two players, telling them to worry more about being smart/safe than running chains. But I know many people don’t like to receive unsolicited advice on the course, so I kept my mouth shut and simply helped them look for a few of the discs they were throwing off the fairway.
Hole 6 was the scariest of the holes at Nelson Park (photo above). Deep rough and water lurking on both the left and right sides of a fairway less than approximately twenty feet wide, with the ten-meter circle around the basket being more water and tall weeds than grass. I decided to live to fight another day…throwing my tee shot to the mouth of the dogleg right, so I could park the approach and drop-in for par. But with a hole that is only 192 feet long? Well, let’s just say that there will be dozens of discs that meet a watery grave on that hole…as ego and/or testosterone will keep many/most players from laying up and playing it smart.
As a course design, I thought this was an incredibly interesting, smart use of a small park footprint. And for a course that only averages 189 feet per hole? I think they’ve done everything possible to provide challenge to players of all levels. I think it is a course design that will frustrate beginners and advanced players alike, for the simple reason of losing plastic if you miss the fairway by 7-8 feet…even landing tee shots inside the circle around the basket! But as a place to learn both accuracy and self-control on the course? I thought it was fun. One of the more fun SUPER-short courses I’ve played…as most nine-hole courses under 2,200-2,300 feet allow you to yawn or sleep-walk your way to a score of 18-21. I managed to shoot a 23, playing it extra-cautious in the wind! Posted pars on this course were ridiculous (three par 4s and one par 5…sigh). But other than Holes 8 and 9? There really were no gimmies on the course, with severe punishment for missing your lines and landing zones off the tee.
Magic Number = 625 (1,375 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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