Solid Routing and Variety
10 Helpful / 4 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.
10 of 14 people found this review helpful.
A must play if in Charlotte!!
4 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: Course is fairly easy to navigate.
Tee pads and signs at every hole. Benches and trash cans at most holes.
This course unlike some others in the Charlotte area is not as crowded.
Course is secluded from the rest of the park.
Course provides a variety of holes (open, wooded, uphill, downhill, water, etc.). Variety of shots needed to score well.
Some holes will allow you to take various lines to get to the basket and the tee pads even accommodate for that.
Cons: Once you start your round, there are no exits if you are short on time and only planned to play 9 holes or so. Course design kind of forces you to play the whole round.
No chances to bomb a drive in an open field.
A couple of the early holes (#1, #3, and #4) have horrible underbrush.
Hole #9's mando is strange IMO.
Probability of losing discs is high due to water and high brush in some places. (I've found 4 out there this year alone.)
This will probably work itself out over time but there are some areas on the course where steps or a bridge here and there would be helpful.
Have seen several snakes out there so watch out!
Other Thoughts: Be sure to carry bug spray.
My opinion the signature holes for this course are #13 and #18.
This course is quite a hike and can be tiresome due to the constant elevation changes; however the back 9 is much shorter than the front.
If in Charlotte, along with Renny, Hornets' Nest, and many others....this one is a must play. You won't regret it.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Deep in the Woods
6 Helpful / 10 Not
Pros: There are some solid holes here. In particular some of the holes that utilize elevation changes like the steeply uphill 2. Or the holes that parallel creeks like 5. There's a ton of variation. Most of the hole give different looks and require different shots.
There's also a lot of challenge, like the gap you have to hit off the tee on 8. And there are some memorable holes, like 12, where the tee backs up to an edge, and the pin is located in a rock garden.
Cons: Buuut, there's a lot here that isn't great, and in in an area like Charlotte, there are several courses that are much better than this one.
First, some of the holes feature some of the worst underbrush I've ever seen. I'm all for risk/reward, but on holes like 1, the risk is way too high for a minimal reward. In several locations, the deep woods is just unnecessarily deep.
Perhaps there are seasons where it is not as bad, but RL Smith is home to the worst bugs I have ever experienced on a course. I don't care how good the design is, I'm simply not enjoying it if mosquitoes are constantly flying directly into my eyeballs. (because everywhere else is coated with bugspray.) There is definitely a point where the amount of spider webs and skeeters on the fairways has to weigh in.
Some of these factors could be made up for if the holes were on the caliber of Nevin, Hornets Nest or Renny. But they just aren't. There's good holes and decent holes, but no signature holes.
Other Thoughts: If I was a Charlotte native, I'd give it another shot. But as a visitor. there are just too many other options, to try this one again.
6 of 16 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 13 Not
Pros: great course that starts out at the top of the soccer fields and quickly moves into the heavily wooded forest by the end of hole 4. Lots of water in play here, but the nice clear fairways give plenty of room to avoid water as well as trees. The course ends with an awesome #18 tee box sitting on top of a large hill with the basket sitting straight ahead across a gully on another large hill.
Cons: There is not much bad to be said about this course. Just watch out for some tight OB restrictions and play the mandos.
Other Thoughts: RL smith is heavily wooded with a lot of water surrounding, making it a desired place for snakes to be lurking. Within the past four days alone, we have spotting three snakes. I also had a close run in with a copperhead on hole 5 last summer when i picked up my disc to find it coiled up beneath it. So be careful.
2 of 15 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.
15 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.
15 of 20 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: You should know that I like strenuous hikes, scenic courses, and ace runs. This course has all of that.
Also, this is my favorite course in the winter but it can be too thick and bugsy in the summer.
The course itself - the holes have it all (except for wide open field throws, however there is a huge field you can throw in before/after your round if you like). There are straight holes, hard lefts and rights. There are holes like #3 that present three separate paths toward the basket. You can throw right, left, or straight at it. There are plenty of holes with water in play, and plenty of holes where you can just sit back and look at the stream without having to worry about it (12's tee pad). You start out with three hilly holes, but there are level holes and holes with some elevation at the beginning (4) or end (5). There are a few longer holes (5). Many of the holes are aceable, but there are no gimmes. Also, lots of strategy as an errant throw can roll or skip into the water or down a hill. There are OBs and at least one mando. Some folks hate that but you don't have to count the OBs, sometimes I just ignore them. The rough will hurt your score enough. However, you can usually find your way out of the rough, it's not as terrible as some courses.
I also like how different this course is summer/winter. It's a steamy jungle hike in the summer (which I like), but it's much easier with the foliage down in the winter. The streams iced over is a pretty good sight too.
Amenities - very impressive. It starts with the tee pad on hole one. Built into the side of a hill, with a nice path down to the basket. Stairs and switchbacks in a lot of places. Benches almost everywhere. A few trash cans (which really ought to be enough. Please carry your empty forty bottle two holes til the next trash can). Many reviewers have rightfully raved about the party deck on 12 and the "v" tee pad. Very cool. And there is a bathroom with water fountains at the start/finish. The tee signs are very helpful.
Keep your eye out for the next-tee signs. They're on just about every hole. They can come in handy because sometimes you backtrack. Have your buddy grab your disc out of the basket, so you don't have to climb the hill just to walk right back down it.
Very close to I-85 and I-485. Great if you're passing through town. Very close to the whitewater center, a great place for a post-round beer.
Not usually very many people nearby. Mostly very secluded and nature-y. Close to the airport so it can be fun watching planes glide overhead.
Cons: None for me.
Other Thoughts: This is a five-star for me, but maybe a one-star for some people. If you have problems with balance or stamina, this may not be the course for you. If you get discouraged by woodsy holes, if you dislike copperheads or yellowjackets, beware. I've heard people say this is in a bad area but I've never seen stragglers on the course. No long open bombs and I don't think there's a single par five. At least one long walk to the next hole (in fact that long walk criss-crosses another transition). And it can definitely get slick during/after a rain. After hole #3, you're deep in the woods (there's no halfway spillout to the parking lot like they have at Hornets Nest). Bring water, even in the winter. I've seen all of these dock people's reviews of other courses, so beware if this affects you.
Best place to take a leak - obvious answer is hole 12 but I'd say anywhere on Hole 7, with that stream to the right of the fairway, all very scenic.
7 of 11 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 4 Not
A must play in Charlotte
Pros: This is my first review, and my experience at RL smith was so phenomenal I created an account just to write this.
From the tee pad on hole one its easy to see that this course is going to offer a different experience from other courses in Charlotte. Off the Tee Box you follow your drive down a goat path into the woods and really have to work to come away with par.
Making great use of the land you'll play up and down this same hill on the next two holes, what a warm up!
Next its into the woods, where your going to spend the next 15 holes. I imagine this is going to be a welcome reprieve from the carolina sun come summer.
Despite being all wooded holes, the holes verried enough to not feel repetitive. Using a creek as a OB provides beauty and also a challenge. Also featured is a large rock formation.
For such a new course , the amount of work put in is amazing. Awesome ceder benches are frequently well appreciated.
I loved playing this the first time, and felt like a kid in the candy store. Really transports you from the hustle and bustle of the city to a nice walk in the woods.
Cons: Its a little hard to find the first teebox, but really not that big of a deal.
Other Thoughts: I really considered a 4.5 rating, but went with a 5 because its displaced my previous two favorite courses. ( Renny and Hudson Mills )
This course deserves to be recognized as one of the best, if not the best, of the Charlotte metros courses.
12 of 16 people found this review helpful.
13 Helpful / 2 Not
Great Disc Golf!!
Pros: What a well designed course! This course was one of the most enjoyable rounds of true Disc golf I have played in a very long time. It has a mix of everything and as a Lefty, I loved that all the punishement for errant or early releases was not on the right side. Hole 4 has to be my favorite. It is an extremely tough par 3. Water and OB all along the right, and a basket that is surrounded. a well placed drive will most likely earn a par. going for the bird is as risky as it gets, and will prob get you 2 strokes on a lot of people. The use of the property was perfect, you feel completely separated from the rest of the park and that is my favorite kind of DG. It almost has the private course feel. I really could go on and on about this course. Holes 17 and 18 are also amazing. Again, as a lefty I love 17, I can rip my drive and usually get up over the creek. 18 is just gorgeous. I want to empty my bag everytime I get on that teebox.
Cons: None really. you are isolated, so make sure to bring anything you want to have with you. Water,backup discs, towels, maybe a banana for the leg cramps. this course is a workout.
Other Thoughts: I am always down to play a round at R.L. the little extras that the club put in really make it special. Some of the coolest benches and teeboxes I have seen. the gallery area on the back 9, for the short uphill drive to the boulder is EPIC! If you are going to Charlotte, Do not miss the opportunity to play this course.
13 of 15 people found this review helpful.
9 Helpful / 3 Not
I have a new favorite... Beg/Interm. Review
Pros: + Baskets always seemed to be placed just out of range, in a corner, next to treacherous water, on top of some rocks, around a dogleg - just fantastic placement
+ Very challenging hole layouts almost always with elevation change
+ Lots of elevation makes for good exercise and fun between-hole hikes; not overly hilly, but definitely worth noting that good shoes are a must
+ ROCKS! Boulders, rocky streams, and rocks on the greens made some holes seem hardcore.
+ Woodwork! Come on, who doesn't love seeing hard work and great care being put into the layout of a disc golf course? Tons of bridges, stairs, and very nice benches
+ WATER! Streams everywhere, which made shaping safe, but long lines even more crucial.
+ Awesome paths to follow, but not so worn down like Reedy
+ Fantastic maps at each hole really helped
+ Great tees
+ Great baskets
+ Practice basket
+ Big fields to practice distance drives
Cons: - Some rough areas were very rough
- Water can be great fun, but it SUCKS when your disc drops down and it's murky in some spots, so is your disc in there or not? Only one way to really find out...
Other Thoughts: Overall, I had an amazing time here. I had a pretty great round, too. Getting that perfectly shaped line lead to some very very satisfying birdies (#2, 6, and 18). The water kept me on my toes. It was never too deep where I felt I couldn't hop in if it was necessary (and it wasn't necessary even for beginners), but it seriously made me think about each individual throw more so than any other course I've ever played (no hole was out of my intermediate skill range). It was just a gorgeous forest, too. The course designers deserve awards for this one. A lot of care must have been taken when designing and building it to preserve the integrity of the streams, trees, roots, and rock structures. And the woodwork! Great benches, very solid bridges (and lots and lots of them!), and some very nicely crafted stairs. Thank you. If Charlotte DGC has any hand in keeping it in such great shape, I also have to say thank you. Also, thank you for the maps. This course has two great maps on DGCR.
In the past two days in Charlotte I've played four really good courses; not Nest, Renny, or Nevin yet, but this has been my favorite so far. I actually think this is my favorite course I've ever played. It truly deserves 5/5 discs.
**Update** After playing Nevin, Nest, and Renny I have to say that this was definitely my favorite course. The elevation changes, streams, and woodwork stick out most in my mind, but I also liked its location and level of difficulty. It wasn't as difficult as those popular challenging courses, but to throw well I needed to consider my discs and shape some very fun long and short lines. More advanced players won't feel challenged to the max, but I still think the location and layout make it a must play course in Charlotte for any skill level.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful.
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