Funnest Time You'll Ever Do
11 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Shawshank disc golf course is a truly unique animal: a jail-themed private course that plays in the extensive yard of Steve Dufrane, a forehand and roller wizard who will call you out for carrying too many discs ("I'll kick your a-- with just a Roc and an Aviar"), then promptly spend 15 minutes breaking down your form and giving you insightful advice on how to advance your game. He likes to speak in zen master-esque riddles, and his course reflects this propensity for brief, memorable, hard to solve gems.
Shawshank plays across an array of terrain: thick woods, rows of pines (the "jail"), a prominent hill, broken patches of trees, and three lakes are only some of the obstacles you'll face, all harnessed by Steve to challenge and bewilder your game. There's a lot to like in the land, and it's expertly used. The course leans towards the shorter end of the spectrum, with a few long bombers scattered throughout. It throws a dizzying array of holes at you, such as hole 4's pine thicket "jail," with only the barest of lanes to the basket, hole 21's short uphill shot with a hidden pond (which we discovered the hard way), the winding 282' par 4 "Death Row" in the woods, 18's over-the-lake shot, or the closing hole 23's "Tin Cup" island green, where any shot outside the circle is OB. Cumulatively, these holes stress precision, placement, and shot variety with your midranges and fairways: there are a lot of forehand-friendly holes, and a few spots where a strong roller gives you the best chance for a birdie. I appreciated how much variety Shawshank offered within its predilection for sub-300' holes.
Then there's the atmosphere. Shawshank has a free-wheeling vibe, encouraged by its owner and embodied in its jailhouse theme, unique tee signs, comical hole names, and memorable decor. On site camping is available, and between those passing through and dedicated locals, Shawshank seems to have a passionate and active following relative to its being a private course in an out-of-the-way location. Friendly golfers are on hand to provide some tips for first-time visitors or play a pick-up doubles round. A sense of community and "we're all out here to enjoy the game we love" mentality pervades Shawshank. It's a unique place that'll put a smile on your face. I've never played a course like this before.
Grooming is immaculate by any standard, let alone a private course. The tees are excellent.
Memorable stretches: holes 4-8, which with the exception of 6 all interact with the pine tree "jail" in a variety of creative ways, from 4's scary pinball potential to 5's tunnel shot to 8's big hyzer around the outer edges, and holes 11-15, a tight, intense jaunt through the woods that can make or break your round.
Cons: I loved my day at Shawshank. It's a special course. But it's not without its shortcomings.
I really missed shot shaping at a longer range. I don't have a big arm (~375' max), but still felt constrained by the lack of opportunities to shape lines on this scale. The few longer holes at Shawshank all emphasize straight throws, and don't have a technical challenge proportionate to their distance. If anything, the longer holes tend to be the easier ones, without the nuance or quirks that distinguish many of the shorter ones. Shawshank's prevalent technicality largely focuses on your mid-range game, which is great, but limiting.
Similarly, I missed having some longer par 4s. The holes here are almost exclusively par 3s, and often zero in on a single line or problem that, though often engaging, doesn't allow for the rich possibility that longer, more multiplicitous holes provide. The two par 4s that are on site either force you to throw consecutive straight shots (hole 7) or lay up in tight confines (hole 15), and are lacking this multiplicity. This frequent constraint is actually by design: as Steve puts it, you're in jail at Shawshank, meaning you have to do what you're told or pay the price. While I appreciate the challenges Shawshank obstinately throws at you - they're one of the things that make it unique - I would have liked to have a few more opportunities to exercise autonomy during my round. I guess that's what happens when you pay a visit to jail. As it is, the course squeezes a lot of variety and challenge out of its par 3 format, but lacks the par 4s and 5s that would allow it to top other top tier courses I've played.
Other Thoughts: I had a hard time rating Shawshank. It's one of the funnest courses I've played: the vibe, the people, and the one-of-a-kind challenges here combine to make for a very memorable round. Getting to interact with someone as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as Steve was a unique, unexpected plus. The course is well-designed and immaculately maintained, and at this point in its life bears the fruits of all the hard work that's been put into it. On the flip side, the focus on par 3 golf felt a bit constraining for a top tier course over the course of 23 holes. Shawshank does what it does very well; I just wish it would step outside its comfort zone a bit.
Of course, all this is splitting hairs: no matter how you slice it, Shawshank is well worth a visit!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 2 Not
Shawshank, Huntsville Texas
Pros: Well maintained, well established, well designed. Dogs allowed
Cons: Pay to play. No restrooms
Other Thoughts: A private course owned and maintained by Steve Dufrane. Pay to play $5, for all day access. Go to the house and knock on the door. This course has a good balance of long and short holes, focusing on technical aspects due to excellent course design. Lots of foliage, mature trees mostly, making several tee shots challenge your accuracy instead of distance. There are slight elevation changes throughout the property which adds to the course playability and fun factor. Excellent use of water hazards as well. This course is not exposed to the elements because of all the trees and bushes so wind is not a big factor.
The tee pads are rubber on a wood-framed compacted sand area. The custom tee signs are up to date and have pertinent information about each hole, every hole has a unique name. Benches on most of the tees. Baskets are well marked and visible from the tee areas, except for the blind shots of which there are several. Average hole length is closer to 300 feet than 400 feet. There are also some extra holes being put in bringing in the total hole count around 21, not sure how many total but it is more than 18.
Because of the technical level being so high on this course, I believe advanced and pro players will find this course more to their liking, beginner players may become frustrated or feel some of the fairways are just too hard to negotiate. However every hole has a well established fairway the AVERAGE player can negotiate with the exception of hole 5. Hole 5 has a high F-luck factor if you can"t throw a forehand cut roller, left or right handed off the teepad.
The atmosphere and character of this course will leave you with a good feeling once your done for the day, and if your like me you will look forward going back to play the course again. This course is well above average for all aspects. The property is a bit out of the way so you need to bring all you need for your round as there is nothing at the course to purchase and the closest place to get anything is several miles away. If Steve is there you may be able to buy some discs from him but that's about it.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
18 Helpful / 1 Not
There's Magic in These Woods
Pros: Located on a marvelous private piece of land this course is brimming with personality and variety. Literally no two holes are a like and they all challenge you in very different ways. For anyone used to playing the typical Houston course this one is a different animal all together.
The first thing you'll notice is the property and what a great piece of land it is for a disc golf course. From the hills to the fully mature large trees this course represents east Texas landscaping at its finest. I've never been on a course where so many people would stop and take pictures of holes and the properity.
As for the holes well they will make you pull every shot you have out of your bag and maybe some you didnt know you had. I had never thrown a roller in competitive play until I played this course its just that varied. To me the biggest asset this course has is elevation. Living on the Gulf Coast the biggest hills I see are usually artificial (Terramont) but these changes in elevation are all natural and spectacular. Being able to throw down a 579 foot fairway through trees and watch your disc just "GO" is an awesome feeling.
As far as the standard disc golf amenities, this course has begun to install some really great, elevated, rubber teepads and the tee signs are unique and ecletic. The cages are portable but very solid and allow for multiple variations in course setup.
Finally I would remiss if I didn't mention the family who lives on this course. The Dufrane's are wonderful hosts and if you ever get to participate in one of there tournaments it is a sight to behold. They are a warm, welcoming family and their hospitiality is second to none.
Cons: Their really isn't lot of bad things to say about this course. The lack of teepads on some holes can be tough but the natural ones still do a pretty nice job. Holes 4 and 13 are crap shoots especially with the mandos in play and are more about luck then true skill. Be prepared to lose discs here (i lost both my Buzzz's on 6) as the water hazards are no joke and are unavoidable.
Other Thoughts: After playing this course for the first time my initial reaction was "WOW what a cool course" and since Ive played it twice more that impression has yet to fade. Without a doubt Shawshank is the most unique course Ive ever played. This course has its own personality and manurisms. It will show you love and treat you good one moment but also bite your head off and crap down your throat the next. But in the end you will feel honored to have played it and yearn to experience it again.
18 of 19 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Wonderfully technical course
Pros: This course is a technical course that will challenge even the most seasoned player. All shots are required to even imagine getting par on the entire course. This course challenged my abilities more than any other I have played and should be visited by everyone in the Houston area.
Cons: The only con I can say about this course is that it is not available all the time. This is a private course and its availability is subject to the owner Steve so call ahead and make an appointment.
Other Thoughts: I work part time at one of the prisons here in Huntsville and found the names to be fun and amusing. Shawshank is a course with character which is something of a rarity in disc golf courses.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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