Solid Routing and Variety
7 Helpful / 3 Not
Other Thoughts: The course is in a district level park of about 150 acres and conforms to the prevailing park design ethos for this municipality. As is typical for area courses, RL Smith is sited in slightly sub-climax canopy on rolling piedmont landform. Course also features play around the shallow-wide Paw creek, water catchment areas and sewer/water right of way cutouts. The park features more than enough area for additional expansions and improvements to the course in future.
Course is situated on the park's north side and is almost completely sequestered from other park activities, circling in a roughly counter clockwise fashion. It does not feature returning 9's, however, equipment, signage and amenities are all above average, especially the benches, which are more extensive and ornate than typically observed. Mandos are well marked and 'next tee' signs are plentiful. Way finding is not an issue and is quite unobtrusive, although there are a few longish transitions on the backside. Some might have minor complaints, for example, 'there's no trashcan on EVERY hole' or 'the tee-pads aren't all uniformly wide/long enough', but these complaints may safely be ignored as 'nit-picking'. For the most part, the canopy blunts play-affecting winds. This park also features two excellent fields; one is quite large enough for all but the biggest of arms to air out any conceivable shot, and is thus very suitable for field events use and practice.
Average hole length for the 18 is slightly less than 300', but 9 holes range between 225' and 275', which means that scoring well here will depend on something other than pure power AND that scoring chances are abundant for most levels. There are substantial elevation changes and/or slopes on nearly every hole and green, at times approaching a 15% grade (#2's green being a standout example). Course also features heavy penal rough in most areas; scrambling and recovery chances can be limited for even mildly errant shots. Ob areas feature prominently (with a capital 'P') here, mainly around the 9 Paw creek holes. It should also be noted that more than half of the holes are either blind or semi-blind. All of this indicates that RL Smith may be characterized as a 'locals' course, where intimate knowledge of this track will yield an advantage of at least a few strokes during a round. It should also be noted that the average hole length on the front exceeds that on the back by nearly 100', which means that as the round goes on, the 'need' to score becomes more pressing.
Stable counter spin shot shapes enjoy a significant advantage at RL Smith, especially when approaching the greens, as only 3 of the 18 show a DECIDED receptivity to clock spin approaches. This advantage is sometimes compounded overall by fairway shapes, which on paper appear fairly balanced overall. For example, both dual fairway holes are eminently drivable, have similar width/geometry fairways but both feature greens more receptive to stable counter-spin approaches. Another example is #7, a tough 'straight' driving hole, whose landing zone sets up perfectly for a counter spin fade shape and then a run for the birdie or an 'easy' three to its sharply elevated green. To drive #7 green with a clock spin shot, either a frozen rope or a controlled flex shot must be employed, both of which should be more difficult to execute than a simple stable fade. This counter-spin advantage is only moderately mitigated by o.b. areas which punish poor fade control of same, as there are plenty of areas where poor clock fade control is punished just as harshly, perhaps even more so. That being said, I feel both spins are needed to score well here, not just for scrambling, but also to deal with many of the tee shot's tight geometries.
RL Smith DGC gets very high marks for variety, dexterous use of elevations and the ambition/dedication required to tackle such a hilly problematic site, but is flawed regarding balance and fairness. Some players may also feel the course too short, but I would advise patience for these players. Also of note is the variability of fairway width over the course as a whole, which gives a more naturalized and mature feel to the course despite it's relative youth; this is the result of prudent observation and land use by the course designers.
Of particular interest are three holes:
#2 is a virtual carbon copy of #16 long at Stumpy Creek (with the addition of the mando). It's interesting for the tough geometry of the tee shot (a high uphill stable counter spin fade), combined with a slope that receives the fading opposite spin best. Hole is also noteworthy as the geometry and elevation on this hole are primarily the result of grading for other park activities, since grading practices are fairly universal, this type of hole may in future become as iconic as the 'tube shot' or 'split fairway' types. Despite its length (230') it's a tough pin for either spin, especially with the frequent prevailing headwinds.
#9 is a right-to-left fairway with a decreasing radius (or so-called 'fish hook') with a mandatory to protect cutting the corner. It finishes with (what might be evolving into a ubiquitous trope) an elevated rock outcropping green. Already a rare hole design in a disc golf hole, this 'fish hook' is really quite well done and is probably one of the course's toughest.
#17 is a near perfect translation of the Redan hole concept from ball golf (albeit without the extensive obs) into disc golf, and thus deserves special mention for drawing on historical precendent.
Rhythmically speaking, the course is somewhat staccato and abrupt, but in its favor is each hole's decidedly different look, which leaves little room for monotony. Despite a letdown of intensity on the back 9, RL Smith's routing is superb, with a front 9 as good as any in this length range and considerably better than most. RL Smith is a uniquely tough driving course, considering its length, especially on the back 9 where minor errors and 'rub of the green' macs may be heavily penalized. On every hole, all 3 aspects of your drive (angle, speed and direction) need to be 'on' for a close putt, and even then the heavily sloped greens may deny your reward. This cannot be said of many tracks, even ones as tightly wooded as this one. As far as a design school, RL Smith would fall mostly into the strategic one with an extra helping of the penal, which fits nicely with the prevailing local design ethos. You'll have to decide for yourself if it's fun or not.
7 of 10 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 18 Not
Pros: Nice view and it was a Avery hard challenge for a beginner player. Nice river view thru out the park
Cons: Long walk in between each hole made it take a long time to change between holes
Other Thoughts: Hole 1 looks scarier then it really is
0 of 18 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 5 Not
Pros: Layout - This course has a lot of good things going for it. Numero Uno is an unprecedented amount of elevation change and natural features throughout the course. It sets this course apart from the majority of other courses within Charlotte because the grades here can be very steep and this courses uses it to the fullest.
The greens here might be the riskiest greens I've ever seen and for this reason you need to be on top of every drive/approach and think about how it will land and your positioning. There's baskets where you play up a steep hill, there's huge drop offs behind some, there's some that have creek in play and some positioned in rock outcroppings.
Even the fairways here are slanted and running downhill towards peril so every shot has to be meticuously considered.
The width of the fairways here are for the most part very fair and allow you ample room to execute the shot. There's no super long holes other than a few par 4's but many holes play long because they are so technical and use elevation.
Most of the course is a shorter technical style golf but there is a good mixture in shot types you'll need to get through and score low.
A few holes offer multiple routes to the basket which is always nice to see. I like it when courses give you options to weigh and create risk/reward for each option.
More than one signature hole out here; you'll walk up to some tees and just say wow.
Equipment - Brand new baskets, good signage as well as directional arrows pointing you towards the next tee. New concrete tee pads and some awesome benches... and a deck. Yeah the deck is cool. Trashcans in parts of the course as well with restrooms in the parking lot.
Atmosphere - It's a beautiful park with some very unique features such as the rocks and the creek. Very seculded and keeps away from the rest of the park.
Cons: Layout - I've got some issues with this course that can hopefully be rectified if seen fit by the designers. My biggest pet peeve is that many of the holes have to many overhanging limbs in the fairways; while they're wide enough you don't have enough vertical space to execute a solid shot on many holes.
There's a lot of places where you're being forced to throw pretty far considering the difficulty of the shot while keeping the disc very low which is a problem because it's much harder to work a disc on low lines and you have to add more spin. This causes the disc to hit the ground more unpredictably in some cases and with the rollaway fairways/greens and OB lurking it creates a lot of luck factor throughout the course.
There were many times where a solid shot produced an unlucky bounce that rolled really far away or even OB. I think more airspace should be cleared so you can more manageablly control how your disc is landing and where it's being placed on this tricky course.
There's also some areas that to me just seem a bit to overbearing with the tricky greens, it's almost as if it gets played out when every green you're worried about a rollaway. There's just some holes that without the elevation change would be boring shots. Some holes just don't seperate themselves from the pack and I think that takes away from the course overall.
You're never really given a chance to air anything here and I like to see courses mix it up a bit more.
The course has a few awkward transitions and one long walk.
Equipment - Danger Danger Will Robinson!!! I don't think I've ever felt less safe walking down some fairways, transitions and even while putting than here. They have took some steps to make navigating the landscape safer but more needs to be done because there are many safety hazards here.
The teepads are in some cases just to small for a course that just went in, especially for a course in a city with the reputation of Charlotte.
Atmosphere - Some of the course plays down sewer lines which can be an eyesore and smell bad. More of the briars and immediate rough needs to be cleared out more.
Other Thoughts: I like this course, it's a different feel from most of Charlotte and that helps it set itself apart. I think most of the design elements have been done very well and now some more steps to take care of the little things will make this course better.
This course just needs some love and play, plain and simple. Though if you want to check out some amazing elevation changes and picturesque holes hit this place up.
One of the best finishing holes in disc golf, it's not that hard but it's pretty awesome.
14 of 19 people found this review helpful.
Its Cool, its cool, its flukey
8 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: Great scenery, great use of elevation. Signature holes like #18. I also really like holes 2 and 3 with the significant elevation changes. Baskets placed near the large rocks on 9 and 12 just makes me smile because it is so original and creative.
Course directors and volunteers have done awesome work to make the course asthetically pleasing. The benches are the best!
Cons: Alot of roll aways near the baskets. In particular hole 7. It would be very helpful to have an area near the basket that is flat that could be aimed at during an approach shot to the green. I have seen so many bad roll aways on this hole that end up in the creek even though the shot orginally landed 5 feet from the pole. I understand disc golf can be flukey but R.L really exploits bad rolls and even more punishment from OB. (maybe just a part of hilly courses)
Other Thoughts: This course will wear you out from the tricky terrain. In tournament play their are some long back ups at holes 4, 5, and 7.
Its a great course to practice and a must see for out of towners
8 of 12 people found this review helpful.
Great Course feels incomplete.
7 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: Use of elevation is what makes this course. I cannot think of a hole where it does not come into play.
Crazy Fast and rocky greens make going for it a risky choice in many cases and laying up is the right choice.
It feels like there is a good balance of left, right, straight on the course.
Hole 12 while short is definatly a signature hole with a cool tee and cool green. And hole 3 is one of my favorite shots in charlotte.
It finishes strong with a good hole 18.
Newly instaled goat trails and bridges are welcome additions on several holes
Cons: Several holes go through a sewer right away which means there are metal poles sticking up in the center of several fairways which is an eyesore in my opinion and doesnt make for a pleasant smell some days.
Some of the OB seems punative in my opinion and takes away from the fun of the course.
There are several drag piles near fairways or baskets(the one close to the basket on 13 sticks out in my mind.)
Not all of the benches have been installed on every hole.
Some of the transitions are still very rough and need stairs or better ways to get up and down the hills.
There are trees leaning low into the airways on several holes
No way to replenish water as you get back into the course because it is a long hike.
The one major issue that could face this course in the future is erosion control. Several holes will have problems in the future if this is not dealt with(which I know it will be)
Other Thoughts: R.L. Smith is a great course and I want to give it a 4 based on what I know it will be. Several of the projects which I thought really took away from the course have been taken care of and I know that the others will be eventually but right now I still feel that the issues keep me from rating this one higher. It is definatly worth a stop if you are in charlotte cause it is probably one of the most unique courses as far as terrain goes in the area.
I will likely rate it higher once many of the negatives are fixed (specifiacally saftey issues).
7 of 8 people found this review helpful.
Did That Just Happen?
6 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: Sits in a nice park that also has a big playground and nice big soccer fields. There has been a lot of work put into this course to make sure the hills are not too difficult to navigate. The course makes great use of the terrain making you throw up and down hill a lot. There are plenty of tight gaps to hit and lots of OB to make things challenging. There are a lot of challenging baskets as well that will make you work for every stroke. There is a good mix of long and short as well as up and down hill. Lots of nice benches and new bridges to get over the stream. Nice new baskets and consistent tee pads are great. Nice new tee signs are very helpful. Be sure to look for arrows to show you where to go next.
Cons: This is not a course that will be fun for newer players. There are a couple of places where you could get crossed up on where you are supposed to go. There is a long walk back to the parking lot from hole 18's basket. Excessively marked OB makes this course less fun. I really did not like the tee pad on hole 12, no matter how cool it looks when you walk up to it. These are really all small things but cause the rating to go down, especially when you think about all the other great courses in the area.
Other Thoughts: A good round can go very bad here on one hole with the way a disc could just start rolling down hills from some of the baskets. While the baskets all look really cool sitting up on their hills and rock and what not, it can get very frustrating when you easy layup decides to roll away as if you ran at it. This only happened to me once during my tune up round for Worlds 2012 here, but it made me think twice about going for a lot of putts. This is just not my favorite of the courses that I will be playing, even though it does feel the most like the mountain courses back home that I am used to. This is a great course, but without the history of some of the other courses in the area I would put this in a close second group of courses to play in the Charlotte area.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Great use of elevation with interesting shots that are uncommon to the area make this a fun one indeed.
If elevation is your thing, and it should be considering your love for aerodynamics (cheers), this is a great park to get you feeling the ace runs, and looking for errant throws if you get off track. With that being said, it is a 5004 ft. course that is a newby so far. But, it ranks high on the fun meter because of the pin positions being mixed (elevated and way lower than your tee pad), and good use of nature (rocks and creeks). Some fairways are getting widened and will soon be forehand and backhand routes to the pins, nice touch shots abound. Signature holes are actually hard to pinpoint, because there are a few gems that make the course notable. As far as difficulty, it is advanced, but having a lot of ace potential for decent arms. Big field gets crowded with walkers some nights, but is an amazing driving range when it is empty, best I have seen in town by a long shot, three tiers and huge.Yes.
Cons: It is new and the rough is crazy at times, lost disc potential is very elevated. One of many things that will be manageable with time, no big issue for a new course, just be warned and keep your disc in bounds or pay the piper, as usual here in Charlotte.
Other Thoughts: I like the hike in this place personally, it feels very far away from town, and it is not. That by its self merits everyone to play this course out on Little Rock Rd. that is local and needs a break from the norm. Bring lots of water and snacks even though it is a short course by measurement, it is a hilly hike in this blazing heat wave as of late. As always take your time and let others play through to really enjoy what it is all about, see you on the tee.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: this brand new addition to the charlotte area is a real beauty.lots of elevation, has a mountain course feel to it. the creek that comes into play on several holes is used to create more challenging landing zones. there are a couple of bridges that were added recently to help navigate your way through the course.easy to follow and new tee signs have been installed. they are temporary, but still very helpful.
Cons: the first 4 holes... i like the shots, but having to throw down a hill back up then back down then walk back up to throw agian. is tiresome right out of the gate. once you get into the woods it flows nicely
Other Thoughts: this course still needs some work, foot traffic and some weedeating are needed on the first 4 holes. this course will keep getting better over time. my rating will improve when concrete gets poured. the course is kind of a mix between renny and reedy.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
13 Helpful / 0 Not
Hikin' in the Citaaaay!
Pros: We wanted it and we got it. A course in Charlotte with tons of elevation. Robert L. Smith Park DGC boasts uniquely technical ups and downs, lefts and rights. Still rough around the edges as this is still a newer course, and this review will be updated accordingly.
RLS is equipped with yellow DISCathers, double layered chains and deep baskets. Tee pads are currently natural with average footing. Current tee signs appear to be temporary at each tee featuring hole, length, par and map. Map of holes aren't exactly accurate or to scale, but will steer you in the right direction. Tee signs are white and tee box marked by flags, all of which is easily seen. Garbage cans spread out over the course, recently put into place by the Charlotte Disc Golf Club.
Course is secluded to its own portion of the park, maybe a trail walker or two, but otherwise the course is in a disc golf only area.
Navigation isn't a huge issue here, but can get a little confusing around 3 and 4. "Next tee" signs and orange tape mark hole transitions and pathways are beating in. To get to hole 1 from the parking lot, follow the fence past the bathrooms and playground, tee pad on right.
Although shorter in length, it makes up for it in technicallity. There's something humbling about playing a hole that seems well within your driving distance but because of well used elevation and some twists and turns, alot of them aren't easily reached from the tee. In other words, your 2nd shot will be the deciding factor on most holes. The elevation along the course creates some very unique lines and picturesque sights. There is nothing repititious about the course either. Some OB with a creek in play on a few holes.
Very clean bathrooms, pavilion, playground and soccor fields.
Cons: These cons are likely to exist throughout the life of the course;
A few of the holes run along a sewer right-of-way. Raised manholes take away from the beauty of the course, along with the smell of sewage bellowing from the vent pipes. Not bad unless the breeze is blowing directly to you from the vents.
As the airport is nearby, the sound of planes overhead is a constant. Both the sewer and air traffic take away from the woodsy, natural feel.
Most of these cons will disappear or get better over time.
-No concrete tee pads
-Extremely dense woods/rough
-Long transitions between holes
-Difficult to find the course if you don't know where you're looking
-Losing a disc is a possibility, especially when playing alone
-No benches yet, not asking for every hole or anything, but a few sit down breaks are necessary, especially since most of the transitions have you walking uphill
Other Thoughts: RL Smith is a hike. Wear appropriate footwear. Alot of steep elevation will take alot out of you, but is worth the uphill and especially the downhill shots.
The fun factor at RL Smith is medium to high. Bring every shot you can hold in your bag, if you don't use them off the tee you will certainly use them for a creative upshot or need them for outs from the thick rough.
In relation to other local courses, RL Smith feels like a very short Renny as far as basket placement, use of elevation and layout. A hole or two resemble The Scrapyard and Reedy Creek. Difficulty will be just a hair tougher than Reedy once broken in.
I imagine there will be a few long tee pads added to the layout. I believe there are currently two long tees, and plenty of space to add more.
If you haven't checked it out already, its definately worth the trip. This is a great course to play in the same day as Renny or the Nest, <15 minutes to either from Smith. Or just play a couple rounds here.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful.
It's like playing a mountain course, but in Charlotte
15 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: There isn't another course in Charlotte like Robert L. Smith. I didn't know a course within the city limits could offer so much elevation. It has a feel of being in the foothills or mountains.
- Unless you choose to ignore the prior sentence, Smith's strongest feature is its use of elevation. Most holes are either up- or downhill; very few flat holes.
- Along with the elevation, Smith's other signature is its tough, natural, wooded feel. Most layouts are tight (4, 5, 6, I could go on), have thick, good-luck-finding-your-disc rough (hello #3), or some combination of the two. Course also makes good use of other natural elements, such as holes on/behind rocks (#9, 12) & a creek (#5, 18).
- Some awesome risk/reward holes. Suppose #2 or 3 didn't have any rough. They'd be giving up lots of 2s. Suddenly you add rough, and it makes the holes a ton harder. So, you can approach with the aggressive mentality, and go for it, bringing in a 2 or a 4 (or a lost disc) into the equation. Or you play it safe, and take your 3. On other holes, you have the risk of going long (#8, 11), or deep into the wood (#4, 10, #14) if you don't keep your shots down.
- Course offers some unique hole layouts compared to other area courses. #5
- Course is very isolated, which is rare for a lot of Charlotte-area courses. There's not a lot at the park, and add to that, being out in the woods, gives you a pretty decent out in nature feel. If it weren't for the flight path overhead, you'd really think you were away from Charlotte. #5 & 7 are the two best holes on the course, and two of the better holes anywhere around. #5 is the longest hole on the course (519 feet), and starts out with a drive down a narrow fairway, slight dogleg right to a mid-range to long second shot to an uphill basket. If you keep it in the fairway, you'll have your par. #7 begs is a relatively straight hole (348 feet) with a big creek to the right, to an uphill basket to the left. The basket is on a small, raised piece of land, so you need to be accurate to land up there for the easy putt.
Cons: A lot of these cons will be eliminated once the course ages, and more work is being done. It's unrealistic to expect the course to be perfect only weeks after the baskets are installed. That said:
- There are navigation and safety issues throughout. Flags mark the tee areas. If it weren't for someone else playing when I arrived, I would have missed #1, and started on #3. Also, a lot of blind tee shots, which can cause problems. For a stretch, I just threw Roc off the tee, just to make sure I was in the fairway. I'd figure out where the basket was afterwards.
- Several holes are going to need steps installed soon, or there's real risk for injury. Walking down the hills on #3 & 18 was treacherous at best. Both are steep, and the footing is poor. Several other spots needed better defined walking areas, or steps as well.
- Some people aren't going to be fans of the design of the course. What it lacks in length, it makes up for with obstacles - thick rough, trees, etc. It essentially neutralizes the big arms, by putting all the emphasis on accuracy. A couple holes seemed to have extreme doglegs trying to add to the challenge: #2 seemed to be the most extreme.
- High lost disc potential. I'm hoping the rough on some holes will be thinned out in due time, especially on #3. It does get frustrating when you're searching for a disc on #3, and can only see it when you're on top of it. To make things worse, once I found my disc, I had a reasonable birdie putt: about 30 feet away. You shouldn't be that close to the basket, and have to spend time searching for a disc.
- There are some long walks between some holes, as well as from #18 back to the parking lot. Also, there's a lack of amenities at the park, so come prepared.
Other Thoughts: This course is quickly becoming one of my favorites in Charlotte. IMO, it's the best new course in town since Nevin, better than the other crop of new courses that have been built within the past 18 months.
- Despite some frustrations (thick rough on some holes, blind tee shots, etc), I thought this course was great. It had elements of Glenn Hilton (in Hickory) Highland Hills (North Wilkesboro) & Warriors Path (Kingsport, TN), plus some typical Charlotte course toughness thrown in. #16 especially reminded of the new #18 at Hilton. Instead of having to drive at least an hour to play those, this one is right in Charlotte.
- The front nine was much more difficult than the back nine. The front had longer, and more unforgiving, holes (total length: front=2837; back=2167). I felt I was scrambling to save par on most holes on the front, whereas I could be somewhat aggressive and have some birdie chances on the back.
- Most of the issues with the course will be reduced with more time & work: paths/rough will be cleared better, more benches/trashcans, teepads & signs, steps will be installed. I'm basing my rating on the assumption these problems will be gone within the next several months. If not, I'll have to bump down my rating.
- It's great seeing a course on the west side of town. After playing here, you're only 15 minutes from a bunch of other courses (Renny, Hornets Nest, Nevin & Sugaw), so you have some good options for a nice 1-2 punch.
- This is another must play for Charlotte. Just know what you're getting yourself into before checking it out.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful.
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