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.
My Personal Favorite
13 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: I've witnessed this course slowly develop over the last year and have come to the solid conclusion that it is easily my favorite course in Charlotte. While it doesn't cater well to the novice disc golfer, the course is abundant with elevation and variety. Over time, course maintenance has done a great job of making it possible to find a wild disc now. (I've lost a couple here) I've played every course in the area, and each one has a little something different to offer. But RL Smith has this feeling of a BIG course that works you and then offers a sweet little shorty hole here and there to give you a break and reel you back in. At the least, I can count 6 holes that could be considered signature at any other course, which makes RL such a nice and challenging round. The recent additions of benches, bridges, and fresh tees has made this course a knockout!
Cons: - The course could use a few more trash cans considering that you don't run into any facilities during the round. If you're like me though, you should be packing out what you bring in anyways.
- There's no easy way to take a break at the turn. Since the transition between 9 and 10 is back in the heart of the woods, there's no straightforward or quick path to grab anything from your vehicle. It's wise to pack everything you'll need for the round before the 1st tee.
Other Thoughts: Bring plenty of water, because this one can be a workout! I think you'll agree though, that it's well worth the effort. After all, I got into disc to get a little exercise anyways. The recent updates and additions to the course have really tied everything together here. I would have awarded 4.5 stars with consideration to the lack of facilities at the turn, but I don't ever find myself stopping at the turn of other courses anyways. This may be important to the ladies of DG, but considering some of the outdated low ratings that this course still has, I feel the need to help the average.
Overall though, if you're coming to Charlotte and only have time for a course or two, try and make it to RL Smith.
Dog owners: Best course in town for them to tag along in my opinion. Just be sure to give them a good tick check after you're done.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful.
The Hits Keep on Coming
24 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: A beast lurks in the shadows of quiet RL Smith Park. A wooded monster that twists and turns every which way, up and down steep hills and studded with boulders. Stay on the fairway or become prey to its many minions of briers, creeks, and valleys.
Okay, enough of that. It's a tough, mini Nevin cross-bred with Stumpy Creek kind of course, which, if you like your DG rump handed to you by the rough, grizzled hands of nature, you should be excited about now. It's meaner than a bag full of rattlesnakes, not b/c it's downright hard or unfair (definitely not unfair) but b/c it teases you into thinking that you might have a good round. There aren't really any holes that an Intermediate ranked player shouldn't be able to hit the line he wants but it'll wear you down with the elevation and heaven forbid long disc retrieval efforts that are bound to happen.
Most of these holes are squarely in the woods, playing along creeks and gulleys, ridges and hills. The first 4 holes play in and out of the trees, fun holes where elevation (mostly throwing downhill) comes into play big time. Then it's into the trees for some classic Charlotte golf, a little flatter but plenty of terrain and line variety to make you think out each shot carefully. The easiest or shorter holes even have a little spice to them, typical of Stan courses, in the form of elevated baskets (natural, no poles this time) or perched upon picturesque boulders. Oh yeah, this is the kind of nature we disc golfers pine for, big time.
Not many holes really favor the big arm golfer in the classic sense, noodle arms are welcome b/c it favors a precision game. As long as you can throw downhill, the longer holes aren't much of a problem. All the holes have very defined fairways that will become even more so with use. Great variety, and I believe some legit par 4's might be here.
The course is easy to navigate thanks to all the orange tape denoting the paths.
Cons: Well, it's new. So the tees are natural, only present thanks to pink flags in the ground. The transitions from tee to basket on some holes, especially the first 4 or so, are pretty steep and rough with just little goat paths weaving through the tremendous amount of weeds, tall grass and briers accompanying these holes. There's still some fallen branches that need to be tossed aside and some baskets could use some nearby saplings cut away to create more of a putting green.
The rough can be extremely so, if you toss your disc in the brier filled mess on holes 1-4 you can almost kiss it goodbye. I hope they clear a bit of this out, if anything just to give you less areas to look for your disc.
There's a painfully long walk from hole 12-13. Also, 18 doesn't really dump you near the parking lot either.
Other Thoughts: My rating will only go up as this course matures. It's a definite contender for 4 disc category. It's Stumpy meets Nevin, a Reedy Creek on 'roid rage, a Barber Park except designed well. A lot of the holes around the creek remind me of Barber Park's back 9 except better scenery and better hole variety.
Hole 18 is one of the best finishing holes in the state. Holes 9 and 12 have gorgeous pin placements (rocky outcrops). Hole 9 will probably have a mando, it's meant to be played kind of like a long fishhook, but you can cut half of the fairway out by tossing a thumber through a window in the treeline on the left. If I could putt I would have 3'd it rather easily.
Another quality course in the Queen City, you've got to be kidding me.
24 of 25 people found this review helpful.
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