Course rating disclaimer or "Why I rate them the way I do"
I wanted to add this disclaimer about my course reviews as we all have a unique lens when rating courses and I like to know the story behind the rater. While the site has "objective" standards with which to rate courses, I do not adhere rigidly to these.
Things I DO look for when rating a course: My main interests are in the actual design of the holes and the course in general rather than how many benches are there, what types of baskets it has, or how easy navigation is. Don't get me wrong, most of these will factor into my rating somewhat and I will definitely try to make note of things like these, but they are not my primary interest.
One thing that I particularly look for in a course is one that can capture my imagination over time. I like courses which gradually reveal themselves over time as you play more and more rounds. I enjoy finding the nuances and quirks that aren't apparent at first and figuring out the probability of birdying with one route/throw versus another. However, it seems like courses which succeed in this area tend to have certain shared characteristics which will bias my ratings. One is that these courses tend to look similar in terms of geography: they are usually moderately to heavily wooded and/or have moderate to large elevation changes and/or have varied terrain (rocks, shrubs, mix of slow grass, fast bald areas) rather than consistent grass or dirt. The second is that many of these courses tend to have par 4 or par 5 holes. Its not that you can't learn something new about a par 3 hole but often there are more long-term discoveries possible on a par 4 or 5 hole (because you are throwing more shots and because you have to think about multiple potential placements off your drive rather than just as close to the basket as possible). That said, a par 5 hole 1200' hole in an open field will probably not interest me nearly as much as a short par 3 with a slanted multispeed green, multiple routes, and a danger area.
Atmosphere - I definitely will consider the atmosphere of playing in a place when deciding on a rating. A place like Paw Paw, WV would probably get a very high rating even if the courses weren't spectacular (which they are!). Maybe it's an awesome group of local golfers, a quiet peaceful walk through a forest, or a course with historical roots - all of these experiences will likely add to my appraisal.
Land usage versus potential - Not using a plot of land to its potential is a huge pet peeve of mine. This often goes along with the "number of holes" whine-fest which is coming later on in this novel I've written, but it can also be just a plain lack of planning or knowledge of course design. The course in Aberdeen Washington really stands out to illustrate this point. Yes, there are some nice holes out here but there appears to be no foresight about the course other than the last basket is here so there should be a tee close by. This tends to create a course with lots of "filler" holes and one or two pretty good holes. The land at this park is ideal for disc golf but the holes rarely realize this potential.
Sugarcoating - I'm not going to sugarcoat my reviews; I'll put in the con's and problems as I see them. At the same time, I do understand the work that goes into creating a course and some of the extraneous factors that can ruin a great design. There are some courses which I just won't review because I don't want to badmouth them but all the courses I do review will get the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Skill-level - While I tend to most enjoy courses that are designed to challenge my skill level the most, I try to keep an eye out for holes which will be a good challenge for newer players or holes which are geared towards our elite players. Valla-Arta Ast near Madison, WI is a great course which is designed for the super pro (when its in long positions) but at the same time is pretty boring for the average gold or silver level player who can't consistently break 450'-500' on their drives. I'd still rate this course highly because it appears to be well thought out, but I'll try to note that it wasn't suited for my skill level.
I've said a few of these earlier, but I DON'T care that much about the following things when rating a course:
Nasty rough - My thought is that nasty rough is often needed to sufficiently punish bad shots if that is what the hole calls for. I don't particularly enjoy playing on 10ft wide fairways with blackberries on both sides either, but I don't mind throwing controlled shorter shots to avoid danger at a course like Giles Run in Virginia when the time calls for it. Unless the rough is a solid wall of thorns and worked into the course where it is unavoidable or unfair, I'm probably going to be just fine with getting poked a few times or losing a disc every once in a while.
Long walks between holes - This only bothers me if there appears to be another way to route the course or if the holes just aren't worth it. A great example I guess is the Whispering Falls course in Pennsylvania which has a long walk between two sections of the course. In this case, the holes were all "worth it" and I can't think of a way that the walk could be rerouted. A walk like this won't factor into my rating whatsoever. On the other hand, if there is a longer walk between holes that just aren't working or weren't planned out, it's definitely going to be a negative factor in my rating.
Number of holes - There are sooo many not so good 18 hole courses which could have been great 12, 9, 15, etc. hole courses. A course IMO doesn't need 18 holes exactly, there should be as many or as few holes to make the holes or the course the best it can be. Nockamixon is one of my absolute favorite courses on the list which only has 14 holes - superb design and having "only" 14 holes doesn't detract a bit from the course. Some courses would have broken great holes in half to reach the "magic number" - doing this will usually take serious points away from my rating.
A little bit of luck - I don't mind courses with a little bit of luck involved. As I said earlier, I enjoy seeing which route results in a higher probability of "luck" or trying to find the "lesser of the evils" route on a really wooded fairway. Some people think that a perfectly thrown shot should always result in a birdie - I don't mind having it result in a birdie 7/10 times; just so long as well thrown shots result in a higher % of birdies than random chucks or random rollers! A course like Iron Hill in Delaware fits this category nicely. Many holes have trees in the fairway on the drive but there are definitely pockets and angles which will yield better scoring over the long term and I think the course is all the better for it.
Righty/lefty holes - This is something I will try to make note of in my course reviews but not necessarily something that will detract from the overall rating. I think that everyone needs to learn shots that finish both right and left. There are no righty/lefty holes, just holes where you have to throw a shot that may not be as strong as your "go-to". It is nice to have a course with some balance to the number of shots that favor each hand but it's only going to factor in to the rating if the imbalance is very large. This came up in a recent review of Terrace Creek in Washington with a couple of holes that are frustrating because they are single-sided. I still think they are great holes but require the thrower to have pretty long range forehand/backhand shots already developed.
Benches, baskets, fabulous tee signs - These are all really cool things to have on your course but I'm probably not going to add stars for them. Perhaps when I get older, I'll revise my opinion on benches but in the meantime, I'm more interested in the holes than the amenities. Thinking about baskets, courses like Lake Stevens or Sedro Woolley in Washington only benefit from the quirky baskets that they employ. Lake Stevens because the baskets greatly add to the challenge and thought process at what would otherwise be a very short, easy course and Sedro because those art baskets are unique and challenging. On the other hand, Mach I's aren't fun to putt on but they have little to do with the making of a great hole in my opinion.
Thats all for now!
Unlisted courses I've played (includes temp tourney courses, private courses, mini courses):
Temp tourney courses
- Squilchuck State Park (Flippen Ze Disc II)
- Lincoln Rock State Park (Flippen Ze Disc II)
- Woodland Park, Seattle, WA (PretzelBowl II & III)
- Seward Park, Seattle, WA (PretzelBowl IV)
- Rockford Park #1 Short, Wilmington, DE (H3C10)
- Rockford Park #2 Long, Wilmington, DE (H3C10)
- Legion Park Darkside, Cedar Rapids, IA (Legion of Doom)
- Camden North Course, Milan, IA (Camden Doubles)
- Deming West Course, Terre Haute, IN (Fall Classic)
- Jefferson Manor, Alexandria, VA (PretzelBowl I)
- South Run Park, Fairfax, VA (DGCNV Tag Champs)
- Olin Park, Madison, WI (MADC Finale)
- Toboggan, Kensington, MI (Am Nationals)
- Tall Chief Golf Course (Mystery Quads)
- Lakeview Golf Course, Vancouver, WA (SLOSH)
- Major DGC, WA (Private)
- The Peaks, PA (Private)
- Cedar Arms, Shelton, WA (Private)
- Codorus, Hanover, PA (Perm)
- Beaver State Fling, Estacada, OR (Temp)
- Rosedale Down Under, KC Worlds, KC, MO (Temp)
- Timber Ridge, KZoo Worlds, Kalamazoo, MI (Temp)
- Grange Mini, Spotsy, VA (Perm)
- Valla-arta Ast, Madison, WI (Temp)
- Rockford Park, Wilmington, DE (Temp)
States with recorded aces:
IL, IA, WI, MI, IN, PA, VA, MD, TX, WA, OR, ID, KY, CA