7 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: (Rating of 4 is based on how it's playing right now, a solid 3.5, with a .5 bump for the steady progress in development.)
I've been playing this course for some time and it just keeps getting better. I agree with other reviewers that one of it's best features is the land itself, but it's also how the designers have used it to create some really great golf. Each hole is unique and the full 18 requires a broad range of shot making from drive to putt: right/left/straight, uphill/downhill/cross slope, low/high ceiling, water hazards, etc. Its laid out well so there's no criss crossing fairways or long walks between holes (there is one slight walk back from 16 to 17) and play begins and ends right at the parking lot.
While most of the holes are in the woods and were frustratingly wooded when all 18 were first put in, they've been cleared out gradually for more open fairways. Now there's more playable area and some fantastic shot lines. The holes which do involve field shots--1,5,8,17,18--are also being opened up, giving more relief from the trees. Some of the baskets/tees/fairways which used to play too close together have been worked out. Another great feature, which helps give the course variety, is a stretch of holes on the back nine--12,13,14,15--which play along and over a really nice creek. These holes have a ways to go in overall maintenance, but each plays the creek a little differently and include some of my favorites on the course.
Recently all remaining baskets and tees were installed. The choice of wood chip for the tees is debateable, but it does fit the character of the course. If they harden over time and are raked and leveled regularly they should be fine. I actually don't mind this variable as part of the challenge and uniqueness of the course.
Another thing I've come to appreciate (especially with the heat this summer) is that because Darnestown is mostly in the woods and plays along water for a long stretch, it's the perfect hot weather course.
Cons: Little short: Overall course distance is on the short side. Looks like there may be a few holes which can be lengthened, but otherwise it will always rely on obstacles and terrain to provide difficulty.
Gnats: Much like Seneca can have a lot of gnats. I've played at all different times and in the late spring and summer months you can expect them, so plan accordingly. In the fall, winter and early spring it's typically not an issue.
Natural wood chip tees: These were definitely unstable when recently installed. Hopefully they'll tighten up. Some tees are shorter then regulation length, but it looks like there is room for these to be lengthened.
Lacks signage: I've played the course enough that I don't need signage, but this would definitely be lacking for the first time player.
Private club: During the middle of the day in the summer months the tennis and swim club can be crowded. And while I've played at these times without any issue, it still feels a little uncomfortable. Not sure what the situation is for the parking lot gate exactly and parking along the road seems less than ideal for the neighborhood, but again no problems so far.
Other Thoughts: Not only is Darnestown a nice compliment to other great courses in the area such as Seneca, Patapsco and Rockburn, but if progress continues as it has in its first few years, it could be grouped with these for some of the best disc golf in the DC Metro area.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
11 Helpful / 0 Not
Beautiful, serene; work in progress
Pros: This course is a tricky one to rate, because there are so many things to love about it, but also so many things that could be improved.
The best elements of this course is its beauty. The stretch of land has great hills, a nice creek, glorious old trees stretching up into the sky, and lots of wildlife. And from the road, its hard to even guess the course is there -- with the exception of 18s basket, the rest of the course is completely hidden in the woods, though its in the middle of some of the nicest homes/manors in the D.C.-area.
Every hole has trees -- most holes have lots of trees. However, these are old, tall trees with minimal undergrowth (and fallen trees/branches are very well cleared by whoever maintains the course), so finding discs is easy.
Holes range from ~200' to ~450', but many play longer than their distances because of elevation. The 200' hole, for instance, probably plays closer to 350' because of sharp elevation. There is a good mix of throws required, though this is definitely a course that favors backhand shots. Even the shape/gaps in the left-to-right hooking fairways tend to be lines that play better for a backhand anhyzer than for a forehand hyzer. This is not a bad thing -- just an observation. I am a forehand-dominant player, and yet threw backhands off the box on at least 2/3 of the holes.
The elevation is one of the things that really works well for this course. Most holes involve some amount of elevation change or involve throwing over elevation change. I love varying terrain, and this has some of the best land I've ever played on.
I saw one reviewer who was frustrated with the fact that many of the baskets are on hills or have "fast greens" that can cause rollaways. I actually consider this is huge PLUS for this course. Yes, there are a lot of fast greens, but none of them seemed unfair. I've played much faster greens on some of the top courses in the country, like Renaissance Park, and fast greens -- when fair -- make you a better player. It requires you not just to throw your disc, but to think about approach speed, landing angle, and even what kind of plastic to use to minimize skips/bounces/kicks/roll-aways. Fast, fair greens make you a better player. I consider the fast greens one of the best parts about this course -- it helps separate a good approach from a great approach.
I've only played through this course once, but I threw several teeshots on most holes, trying out different lines and approaches, and I consider all the holes to be fair. There are well carved fairways and some interesting lines that you don't see on most courses. Some are particularly memorable and unusual. Hole 12 is a slight downhill, almost straight, ~300', with the stream to the left. The R-to-L hill slope and the shape of the gap off the teebox makes it almost impossible to throw a backhand shot to the pin; most RHBHs will fade left into/across the creek. The best shot is a slight forehand anhyzer or helix -- a touch shot with a neutral fairway driver. This is a shot few players have, but everyone should learn. And on this particular hole, it's the best option off the box. I AM THRILLED at some of the unusual hole designs that make this a very unusual training course.
The other pro I need to mention is that this course (for now) has virtually no traffic. My wife and I were out there on a Sunday, midday, and while the pool was full and their were people on the tennis courts, there were no other players on the disc golf course. It is an undiscovered gem. Right now, this has an immense FUN factor. Great shots, great holes, and no one else out there. I know of no better course in the D.C. area to practice and improve your game.
Cons: Several of the cons right now are due to the newness of the course. I think 6 of the baskets are still missing. Instead, plastic buckets are hung on PVC pipe at roughly basket level. This isn't ideal, but it does simulate putting pretty well. It's a much better solution than I've seen at most in-progress courses. I think this will be taken care of soon.
Signage is minimal -- marker drawings on short pieces of PVC stuck in the ground. This wasn't a big deal -- it kept with the minimalist aesthetic of the course, and playing through the first time, without a map, we had no trouble finding any of the tees or baskets. The PVC marker drawings did what they needed to do. Better signage would be nice, but is not needed. If the course is obvious, even in the growth of early summer to someone who has never played the course, then it is as good as it has to be. My only worry is that the short sticks of PVC may not last, getting vandalized or knocked over. But for now, they work just fine.
It would have been nice to have at least one "field" hole. I don't think this course really has the land for it, but I always want one hole per course to really just rip it. The closest this comes is on the back, ~13/14, there are a couple of holes that have wider fairways and higher ceilings on some really cool shots by the creek. These are awesome holes, but I still miss non having one "rip-it" hole.
The bugs are bad here. Yes, it is early summer and we've been having rain, but it was so bad that my wife had to quit playing a few holes in, covered in bites (yes, we had bug spray). I wasn't particularly bothered, but if you're someone who attracts bugs, be careful. Lots of mosquitoes and ants, in particular.
A lack of par-4 holes. I am someone who loves a mix of holes, and this course didn't have any true par-4 holes. There appeared to be enough land in places for some of the holes to be stretched out to make this possible. I'm not sure if this will eventually be in the plans, but if there were some longer, PRO pin positions (maybe they can use the PVC/bucket combo for this after they get the other six baskets?!?!?) it would add a whole extra dimension to the course. Half a dozen pro placements (buckets) for some longer holes would take this course up another notch.
Other Thoughts: One thing that should be noted: teepads are dirt, and aren't always level. This isn't a big deal to me -- I don't mind rough teepads as long as they aren't mudpits. But I know this will matter to some people -- I included it here, because it is neither a pro, nor a con in my book. These tees were fine to play on and did not detract from the course. If anything, I like them better here because it helped the course feel very natural. Concrete teeboxes would actually detract from the course, making it feel too intrusive on the land. I also think this course has potential to be refined and improved over time, so I encourage the designers to keep the teeboxes very simple and easy to change, if needed, in the future.
Overall, I found this one of the most enjoyable courses -- one of the most FUN courses -- that I've played in a long time. The enjoyment value is definitely higher than my more objective rating of this course. I would expect that with some work, this could move up to being a 4-star course. But in the meantime, I would highly, highly recommend it.
If you're coming in from out of town, I think the best outdoorsy day you could plan in the D.C. area would be: hike the Billy Goat Trails on the MD side of Great Falls Park (only a few miles from this course), then come to Darnestown to get in a fun warm-up 18, then grab lunch (head straight up Germantown Road a few miles and you'll have a shopping center with dozens of quick-food options, e.g. Elevation Burger, Chick-Fil-A, Five Guys, Moby Dick's Kabobs, ), and then head to Seneca, just a few miles away, for 27 holes of the best disc golf in the country.
Darnestown fills a missing niche in the D.C.-area disc golf scene. It's a course I'll be returning to as often as possible. Hope to see you there.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
There Will Be Punishment
Pros: Good technical course has a nice combination of length and obstacles to avoid. Good variety of hole layouts that will force you to use all your throws. Guys who maintain it do a very nice job and are friendly to visitors. Shady with nice baskets (now on all 18 holes). The holes along the creek are particularly fun. This is a course that punishes mistakes and forces you to really think about where you want that first shot to land.
Cons: Natural tee pads outlines by 3x3s can be very uneven but now have wood chips that help greatly. No run up potential. Insects can be bad; ground growth can be bad. The biggest con for me is that many of the baskets are located on slopes (or near slopes) that punish good shots. Number #3 is a good example where you can think you parked your throw only to find that it has rolled down a big hill into a creek so that your next shot is longer than the previous one. Navigation is a bit tough on your first trip (more so finding the baskets than the tee areas).
Other Thoughts: My opinion on this course changes every time I play it. Sometimes I think I will never come back even though it is the course closest to my house. Other times I think "what a great challenging course this is". The "unfairness" of the basket placement has been somewhat improved since the baskets were installed. Number 3 has has a 4 foot diameter circle around it that is flatter so parking your drive or approach shot, it will actually stay there. It is still sometimes better to intentionally miss the fairway and stick your disc in a bush rather than risking roll away. It worked to my advantage yesterday on 18 where I put my shot into the cedars where it dropped out for a 15-foot putt. Many of the teepads are right next to the previous basket which makes navigation easy but has the obvious problem. On your first trip, make sure you scout out the first basket (it is near the largest tree that you can see from the pad) and you will see that a RHBH flight path goes right over #2's tee pad. Not a problem in general as this is lightly played but you should be aware. I have aced #2 here even though it isn't my favorite hole. Hole #10 is the hardest (and best hole) in my opinion. My latest round was typical: a 2, twelve 3s, two 4s, and three 5s.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Fun and Challenging
Pros: Good use of elevation and natural obstacles.
Heavily wooded, requiring creative shot making ability.
Very challenging. It's just as difficult as Seneca Creek and other nearby courses but doesn't have the same reputation.
Beautiful piece of property; fun design; love the creek on the back nine; still pretty rugged; course flows well from each basket to the next tee pad.
Never over crowded. There are surprisingly few golfers out.
Course is well maintained.
The course now has 18 DiscCatchers; the last of the buckets were replaced early in the summer.
Cons: Downhill drives are rare.
Not a lot of ace shots.
First time out could be confusing....I don't even look at the signage anymore. First tee pad is between the road and the tennis courts, shoot down in to the woods.
Bugs can be thick in the summer. DEET is highly recommended.
Other Thoughts: This is a one of the best courses in the DC area. Lots of fun, rugged and challenging, it's definitely worth the drive out to Darnestown to see the course. If you haven't been out in the past 6 months, you should certainly come back out to see the changes and improvements made. That said, if you don't like playing in the woods or you prefer a leisurely stroll with your disc golf, you may not find Darnestown as exciting as I do.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Tennis ball graveyard
Pros: With lots of elevation changes and some water to avoid this mostly wooded course offers a lot of variety and challenge to any level of golfer. There are a few open holes, a few short holes and many holes that make you think on what shot to use.
Tee signs at each hole, with plenty of "next tee" signs through out to help with navigation.
Since its mostly played in the woods, very shady, which helps for hot summer days. Little to no non disc golf traffic.
Located in a nice neighborhood, with well maintained grounds, in a secluded part of the property.
Cons: Only 9 baskets right now, with nine buckets for the other 9. Buckets will wear and need replacing eventually.
Since it's in the woods, lots and lots of leaves on the ground. This will make losing discs in the fall a problem, and keep the ground on the moist side.
Some of the inclines are very steep. Going to/from tee #7 is the steepest, and may become hazardous in wet conditions.
Crossing the creek at tee #15 is a little difficult, since it is just a tad to wide to jump across safely without getting wet.
Other Thoughts: There are very few open holes, so accuracy is crucial. Very beautiful and scenic, it reminds me a little of Sceneca, I see a lot of potential here as the course matures and more people play it.
This is a private club, so I do feel like I'm trespassing, since I don't belong to the club or pay dues, but I'm respectful of the course and the club.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Where Tennis Balls Go To Die
The combination of the: variety of distance (220'-460'), changes in elevation (flat, up, down, up-n-over, across), width of throwing lanes (pretty open to pretty tight, with various shades in-between), and degree of turns (about half rights, some fairly sharp, equal mix of subtle lefts or straight) creates a very challenging and varied course. Signs (PVC pipe) at each tee telling you the tee number, distance, and general standard flight path (important because many shots are blind); signs (again, pipe) at each basket giving you directions to the next tee.
Short, natural, somewhat uneven tees. Between the many blind shots, the large amount of leaves and deadfall, and steep slopes, the chance of losing a disc is high. Some very steep walking in parts - down to and up from #7 comes to mind. Probably not a good play when wet - in addition to the steep slope, some of the holes play near a creek, and/or in the run-off areas of the slope. The creek crossing is a bit of a stretch at #13, and too long for my stride at #15! Half the targets are baskets, half are buckets; most are numbered correctly, although I think the basket for #10 still has a '6' on it. The most visible target may not be the actual target for the hole - scout ahead, and, for the most part, the drawing at the tee is correct. Some tees are way too close to a basket and/or a throwing lane - if someone had been at tee #5, I would have nailed them in the back of the head with my meant-to-turn-but-went-straight-drive on #4.
Course plays into, out of, and mostly through a wooded slope that separates the D'town swim club from a creek that runs along the side and back of the club's property. You can tell someone is trying to make this course as playable as possible (signs at tees, baskets, other directional signs, re-numbering of baskets and objects), despite the overall roughness of the course (many downed trees, branches, dead leaves, steep, somewhat eroded muddy slopes at places). A few very challenging target positions, i.e. near creek, at top of steep slope, etc..
Favourite holes: #10. Choice of two uphill throwing lanes the first ~150'. You then have about 250' across a left-to-right slope, then another 50' down into a dip and the blind basket. Creek holes #12-#15: #12, about 300', slightly downhill, right-to-left slope, basket to left - near creek! #13 has you throwing through a "picture frame" (two vertical trees with the branches of a huge downed tree between them) about 150', with the basket on the other side of the creek, in a little peninsula that juts out; Easiest hole on the course (220' straight, no objects) at #14, then #15 - choose either the narrow throwing lane straight head, steep hill to left, trees on right, or throw down the running creek, trying to turn left at the best place; from there, a hard left approach to the basket up a narrowing gully.
Tee #1 is next to the tennis court fence/near the entrance. Tee #7 is next to the creek. Tee #8 is not immediately adjacent to its tee sign. To find tee #17, after finishing #16, re-trace your steps about 125' down #16's fairway, and look right.
Not recommended for beginners or anyone that has difficulty walking up and down steep slopes. If you're fairly confident in your navigational and disc-finding abilities, give it a go - otherwise, try to play with a guide/spotter your first time there!
This course is, indeed, a diamond in the rough. Rating it just upon the variety and challenge of the holes, I'd probably put it between 3.5-4.0, but the tees, some flow issues, and general rawness of the course lowers it a couple of notches. If you like challenging, technical courses, this course is for you.
Update 1/1/11: Three buckets replaced by baskets, so now 12/6 baskets/buckets. A few, new bright orange arrow mandos added. Bucket #14 moved about 100' further away. Basket #9 moved to the bottom of the ridge. Most fairways have had leaves and branches removed - looking good!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: 18 holes with clear tee pads. PVC pipes at pads acted as tee signs with hole info and a sketch of the flight path.
You will probably have the course all to yourself the entire time.
Course starts out nice and has a few nice holes. Hole 13 would be a great hole if it had a basket at the end instead of the bucket target. Hole 15 was another nice hole, 353 footer that crosses a creek. Hole 18 was interesting with 2 large trees up front and a row of smaller trees protecting the basket, but both baskets had the wrong numbers on them.
eduit: Many baskets are still numbered wrong, but somewhere on the basket the correct number is handwritten, also there are a lot more baskets.
Cons: Half baskets half buckets on pvc pipes for targets. (edit as of May 1st there are still some buckets, but numerous baskets were added)
This course was probably a spectacular 9 hole course, but when it was expanded to 18 it lost a little in the transition.
Course is confusing to navigate. (edit, navigation issues have been greatly improved, but a map is still your best bet)
The baskets have old numbers so you will look for basket 10, but basket 10 has 6 on it. The buckets need someone to come by with a sharpie and number them.
The course uses drop offs after the basket, which is normally an awesome challenge requiring you to decide to lay up or go for it, but this course over uses this technique cheapening the effect.
Other Thoughts: I was told I could not play because I was not a member, finally a manager said as long as I had my own discs I could play anytime.
With new signage and 9 more baskets this course could rank up near Rockburn and Seneca. There is alot of potential here.
The first 9 should be either baskets or buckets and the next 9 should be the other so you can choose to play 9 instead of switching target types every few throws.
Edit: This review was written before all 18 baskets were in place. This course is now one of the 10 in the state of Maryland
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 0 Not
The Demon at Darnestown
Pros: Shot selection. Nice elevation change and topographical variety with mix of field shots, wooded hill and creek-side fairways. Good balance of distance and difficulty.
Cons: Can be buggy. Plays into adjacent fairways in a few spots. Nine holes still only suspended bucket. No course map.
Other Thoughts: Though the course is under construction, it has obvious potential. Recent developments include PVC Tee and Next Tee signs and some thinning of the more heavily wooded fairways. With a little more work on the tee pads and baskets for the full 18, this course will be a great round. It's worth the trip as it is.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: Now 18 holes. PLEASE RESPECT THE CLUB AND THE CLUB MEMBERS. THIS IS A PRIVATE COURSE BUT IF GOLFERS RESPECT THE COURSE AND THE CLUB IT WILL REMAIN OPEN TO PLAY. This course is really beginning to play into what it's potential is. We have cleared all of the holes at least once this season making the fairways clearly seen and you can see multiple fairways as you walk the course. This is a challenging course that offers a wide variety of shots and has some picturesque shots along the creek that are beautiful but tough. With 4 more baskets coming next week and the promise of funding for the additional 6 in the spring of 2011 this course will soon be a premiere course in the DC area. Come back often as we work on the course weekly and you will see changes every time you are out, we are working to fix the deficiencies of the course.
Cons: It can be wet but drains very well and dries out within a day or two. Gnats are plenty! There are only 2 of us working the course with very little funding so it takes time for changes to happen but we are making progress on what needs to be fixed. The course is in better condition then ever!
Other Thoughts: We are disc golf lovers and appreciate all feedback so if you come out and play please review it so we can continue improving the course. As always respect the course and leave it better then when you got there. Someone stole #18 and for a course with no public funding it is hard to come up with $400 to replace baskets so please be mindful of the countless hours that we have put into the course as you play it. ENJOY!
3 of 6 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
felt like my home course
Pros: ***Update*** Course now has all 18 Baskets.
Well manicured technical woods course with a scenic stream running through it.
Fantastic elevation changes and shot variety.
Next tee signs and lined fairways make navigation easier.
Challenging with out extreme length.
Cons: No course map/sign available at the course(maybe at the club house haven't checked). Print Map from Files.
Bathrooms are part of swim club.
Other Thoughts: I really liked this course. You can tell someone has put some time into this course. It is located in the woods surrounding the swim and tennis club. The first tee is on the left next to the tennis court as you pull into the parking lot. There are a couple rules signs but no course map. The club may have maps and rental discs but call about that.
The flow I thought was quite nice and easy to follow. The tees are mulch and were lined with 4x4s on three sides and should be marked with a peice of PVC that has the hole # and distance. There are big white lawn ad signs as next tee signs and some more PVC pointing you in the right direction and the 4x4s were fairly easy to spot. The average hole on this course is about 300 ft, and there is a good chance you will be putting at some kinda angle which makes this course fun and challenging. There is little to no risk of losing a disc in the stream but with the hills, leaves and length of a couple holes and you could lose sight and miss place a disc. The fairways are very well kept and defined for a woods course and uses downed wood to line most of the course and paths to help navigate(a feature I like alot). Hole 13 has had a giant tree fall on the fairway but is still playable and make the hole really interesting and fun.
Hole 1 Throws kinda at Tee 2, there are a few trees blocking the tee but could be an issue as you can't see the 2nd tee when teeing off the 1st.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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