Well known for OB... With good reason.
10 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: ***2015 update***
Oh, Blue Lake. What can be said about you that hasn't already been said? Probably nothing. But I'm going to review you anyway. Blue Lake is every bit the course that earned its fame during Worlds. But a lot has already been said about this place (and just about everyone has watched the final round and playoff between McBeth and Wysocki), so I'm just going to get to it:
Equipment - Impeccable. The blue tees are still in great shape. One of them is starting to fall apart, but it still provides a stable base for most run-ups. Almost all of the baskets are still in like new condition. Even the one that had been damaged on my first visit was back in pristine condition. Every hole has a concrete tee, a bench, and a sign for the blue tee. The reds were unmarked and seemed to be added as afterthoughts, but you're playing Blue Lake. Play the blues the first time. Don't bother with reds unless you're playing here regularly and want a change of pace.
Navigation - As I just stated, there is plenty of signage. There is also a kiosk by hole 1 with a full map and thank yous to their sponsors. You'll need this for a couple of the walk-outs, so get a picture.
Design - The designer of this course took everything into account. You have a few short-ish holes on the front nine, and then the holes that make this a world-caliber course kick in. If you're looking for somewhere to air it out, Blue Lake is it. But placement is also more important here than any other course I've played (except Trojan of course). You need every shot that you know at some point on this course, and you just might find yourself throwing one that you don't. I know I did at least with some sort of "get out of trouble" tomahawk/forehand roller that didn't make sense (and somehow worked one time). Besides distance and placement, the player is also required to throw through moderately wooded areas and across creeks and ravines. The wind makes things interesting too. Especially in the winter. This can really affect a lot of drives, approaches and putts as well, and really made me think about my approach differently than I otherwise would have. This coupled with the insane amounts of OB on the course really pushes the player to be creative and to learn their disc's flight in its entirety. This might be maddening at first, but it helps you to improve. I've said it before in other reviews: Any course that forces you to improve as a player is a course worth playing.
Locals - Everyone I've met when visiting Blue Lake has been friendly, whether they're offering advice on the layout of the course or letting you play through. I haven't spent enough time searching for discs to need help, but I bet they'll be helpful with that too if you need it.
Cons: There aren't a ton of real cons to be found here. I found myself questioning why I play disc golf before I even reached hole 9 the first time (and hole 12 the second), but the course can't be faulted for that. Not really. If you had heard me you might have thought that I faulted the course, but that's what golf is all about, right? Swearing in the woods?
Equipment - I have to really stretch for any "equipment" cons. Here goes: The benches are short. Yep. There's your con. Short benches.
Navigation - Without the map I would have gotten lost after a couple of the holes. The teepads are well marked, but the baskets aren't numbered and don't have any tape or signage pointing you to the next tee. The walkouts from 4 to 5 and 16 to 17 were the only ones I had to use the map for.
Design - The OB can be maddening. I don't even want to know how many strokes I lost because a great shot landed 3' OB (and never crossed "fair territory"). I even skipped a perfect upshot 1' before the basket and lost a stroke because OB was right behind it. Is any of this a bad thing? Nope. It makes you better. But man it can ruin your day. So if you're a sensitive disc golfer? Go to Rockwood and throw putter rounds. Blue Lake isn't for you.
While this won't affect my rating, I think it's a con that they shortened hole 7. The hole that ended the playoff at Worlds was a maneater. It broke me down as a person and sent me to therapy the first time I was there. I had to sleep in a different room from my discs because they reminded me of the nightmare that I'd endured. But this time I hit two trees and still managed a drop in par, because they pulled the basket back from that hill and across the drainage pond to make it a shot or two closer to the tee. It also takes away the fear factor of dropping your disc into the little pond on long approaches. Maybe that's why they did it, but that hole was spectacular and my favorite for "signature hole". Now it's just another fairly average long hole. Too bad...
I mentioned the red tees being an afterthought already. That seems to be the case on most good courses that I've played. It makes sense. But I think Blue Lake might bring in a bit more foot traffic if they made it apparent where those red tees even are. I'm fine playing blues, but I know a lot of more casual golfers who won't play this tough of a course without a lighter option (on the same course). Maybe that means they shouldn't be playing there in the first place, but I think they should have the option. Take Bud Pell in Silverdale, WA as a prime example. The blues are awesome. I love that course. I also have friends who would never play there if it weren't for the reds (which are mostly boring). They also love that course. So more people love the course because more people can enjoy it.
Other Thoughts: Blue Lake is not for beginners. It isn't for intermediate players either. Even advanced players are going to throw over par. This is a pro course. As such, it does exactly what it sets out to do. It challenges elite players who are better than you are, and completely mutilates anyone else. You won't find families or "chuckers" playing here. You'll only find serious players or gluttons for punishment (like me).
I've played in the winter and the summer here. The winter was nice because the course was empty and the rough was short, but there's a fierce headwind coming off of the river to deal with. The wind wasn't as much of a factor in the summer, but the rough has grown in (not super thick, but track your disc) and a lot of it has "do not enter" signage around it. There's also very little shade across a couple of stretches, so bring sunblock if you have it.
I'm conflicted about this course. It isn't necessarily fun. It beats you over the head over and over again until you're wondering how much you can get for all of your discs and your bag on Craigslist. But every now and then you hit that perfect drive that lands just fair and follow that up with a long suicide putt right into the chains, and it keeps you coming back. Or, more realistically, you crush a perfect drive that lands just OB, throw your next shot from where your last one crossed into OB (15' from where you threw the first one) and watch the wind take THAT shot OB. Then you throw that suicide putt from the edge of OB and watch the wind rip that into a slough. After all of that, you want to play again because you want to improve. You want to beat this course that just manhandled you. So you come back again. And again. And you walk away a better player (and probably a better person for having survived that abuse).
That last paragraph was written in my initial review. I still stand by what I said. But figured I wanted to share that I shaved 19 strokes off of my score the second time through, and DID smash two of those suicide putts. I also parked a couple of longer upshots and really learned to focus on disc placement AND flight. In other words, Blue Lake made me better. And that's the highest praise I can give to a course and its designer.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 1 Not
Long, did I say really long!
Pros: Championship course. With exception of hole #17 which stunk. Fairways are nice right now. Players that can throw long and tight will do well here. If you are not consistent and curve here and there this course will give you a major challenge...see cons. Couple of bathrooms located throughout course and a few trash receptacles. Very good parking, nice sign at the beginning---take a picture on your cell you might need it to find your way around...it works. Mostly out in a meadow (could get windy) but there are some holes that have stands of small pole type trees that give you a different feel and a different type throw or approach or putt. Most of the trees are big maples/oaks.
Cons: Did I say hole #17 stunk? 17 looks like it's under construction...grass is no were to be seen but there is some poison hemlock (sign posted) on the right in the first 100 feet from the tee pad. It is one of 3 900 foot holes but this one plays longer. If your a beginner and don't mind a large score AND a lot of time looking for your disc in very tall grass (2-3foot) which oh by the way is OB and has signs saying KEEP OUT...which no one pays attention to. If your disc is heading to one of the tall grass areas pay attention to landmarks taller blackberrys or other sticker type weeds) that might help you in your search...it is challenging to say the least. So I guess this isn't a con if you are a major thrower...not a weekender or amateur.
Other Thoughts: I shot an 18 over the first time and then I played a few more holes and started bringing that number down. I'm looking forward to playing here again whenever I'm in Fairview/Portland area. ONE thing that would make this course more open to all would be another set of pads for maybe a 7000 foot course instead of 10500, ouch that's long! I like one review where the player said it reminded him of a ball type golf course...I totally agree. I felt that way right from the start. FORE!
7 of 8 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: - Nice Long Tee Pads
- Bench at every Tee Pad
- Concrete Tee Signs
- Lots of distance
- Tough to par, with links style golf
- Easily one of the best new courses around
- Well mowed and maintained in the spring, summer, fall
Cons: - Tough to par
- Can get muddy in winter
- Cheaters parking at hole #8 cut in on you.
- Lots of OB red stakes, seam unecessary
Other Thoughts: Love this course, very tough, very long, will test every shot in you bag, leaves you feeling terrible about your game. Play the OB's as marked and test your real skill.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 0 Not
Course of the future...
Pros: - Nice, unique signage (all blue)
- Grippy concrete teepads
- Trash cans/recycling every 3-4 holes
- Good baskets
- out of bounds stakes give a nice feel
- LONG (6 par 3s, 9 par 4s, 3 par 5s)
- Good balance between easy/difficult holes
- Excellent use of all park features : woods, water, elevation, and length
Cons: (This is being nit-picky)
- No amateur tees (not designed for it, but will frustrate some)
- No practice basket
- Not the most scenic course
Other Thoughts: When Dave Feldberg and others designed this course, they did it with A-tier tournaments in mind. Between the length (only 6 par 3s), the openness, the designs of the out of bounds stakes, and the swirling wind that comes off the nearby Columbia River in summer, this place might turn into the disc golf equivalent to British open ball golf: instead of guys being 30+ down after 3 rounds, they'll be 10 - 15 down.
The course is pretty much a giant field, with trees surrounding the outside and long grass in the middle. Fairways are mowed down (nice) and red stakes line what is out of bounds. Holes 1 - 12 pretty much follow the outside west - south - east parts of the course (which shifts between wooded and open); Holes 13 - 16 move open grass bomb throwing holes, with some decent elevation (nothing extreme); and holes 17 and 18 are more wooded to finish.
I played in winter, so the long grass that lines the links style holes (usually OB) isn't growing as much, but it has been beat down to the point where I never felt in danger of losing a disc. My playing partner (who was my guide) told me that he had never played there on such a calm day. During the summer, the strong NW wind comes off the Columbia might make some of the more open holes soul crushing.
12 - You have an 80 foot tunnel of trees (15ft wide?) which opens up, then funnels back to a wooded basket.
7 - A thickly wooded par 5, with the road on the right. You have to hit three tunnel shots for distance then an approach to the basket, which is an island surrounded by a moat (there is an easier, closer position). That ties for the hardest hole on the course with....
17 - another long par 5 that's unique to the course in that it was the only hole that carved out the woods. You have to accurately crush a drive down the middle, then have three low ceiling shots to laser through to the basket. Both of these holes are made to destroy the scores of the weak.
I think my favorite part of the course is the transistions from easy to challenging holes. Great mix of unique challenges, but not much that I would consider unfair/ridiculous hard. Keep in mind that have a big arm and it wasn't windy. I'm sure the wind would make this course exhausting.
Even though the length and lack of shorter tee pads will turn off some of the weaker arms, my hope is that the construction of this course inspires others to make similar higher par, long courses in the future. This course is 10,000+ feet long, almost twice the size of most courses I've seen (except Milo). It was a real treat and I will most definitely play it again...
14 of 14 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: *Location - short drive from Portland, great parking.
*Layout - requires every shot you've got, many interesting risk/reward shot opportunities. One of the best thought out course layouts I've seen.
*Difficulty - challenging for all, still accessible to intermediate players.
*Aesthetic - Attractive site with pleasant views, well groomed and maintained
Cons: *Rough - thick brush is one thing, thick brush with thorns... well, it is risk/reward. That said, playing in late fall/winter mitigates this somewhat
*Single Layout - No shorter tee placements for beginners. This is likely by design though.
Other Thoughts: *Signage - neither a pro nor a con, there could be better indication to the next hole, but the signs are good overall
This course is a fantastic addition to the already strong group of courses in the greater Portland Area. It is particularly well suited to experienced players, and i will certainly be back.
With fewer thorns it would be a 4.5 easy.
Perhaps this will be the case as time goes on.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Challenging, Great Tee Pads, Nice Fairways, benches
Cons: This course is a disc eater. Major blackberries and thick brush if you don;t hit the fairways. Good signage but no directions to next tee box.
Other Thoughts: This is an amazing course. Played it today for the first time and love it. Super challenging, we were fully worked by the end. This is a course for big arms, I think 17 is nearly 1000'. Good mix of Par 4 and 5 holes. Teeboxes are sweet with good signs and benches, not enough trash cans but that is no big deal. Park is very scenic but mostly follows 84. Huge course that is very challening, NOT for novice players. You need to really try and keep the disc in the fairways and if not, you better have your eye on it. The rough is terrible, some of the worse blackberries I have encountered but I think this will really be reduced once the course gets played more. If you go out with a big party, be prepared to spend a long time on the course. Holes 7 and 8 were a little bit of a pain. 7 has an elevated basket but there is a pond right in front with a fence around it. On 8 you need to get over a fairly large gully. I did not and the slop in the gully is stanky. All in all, an excellent new course to the Portland area, I can't wait to go back. Go play it if you want a challenge.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 5 Not
Big Beautiful Blue Monster
Pros: True "golf" experience.
Requires every shot in the game.
Par requires TWO or THREE good shots rather than only one.
Beautiful fairways which will only improve with time.
Pay to play will weed out less desirable elements.
Cons: Hole 12 goes against the general feel of the course, it is antithesis to the flow and feel of the rest of the course. I think it is a good hole, just felt peculiar considering all the rest of the holes. It felt like a throwback to the traditional idea of a disc golf hole where the rest of the course was more of a departure.
Hole 17 needs work, and to be played alot. Right now it is very rough, but Im sure in three months this will be remedied.
Other Thoughts: Blue lake is an amazing venue. It has the feel of a ball golf course. It requires a full drive from nearly every teepad, and much like ball golf good numbers will be determined by up-shots and putts. It is awesome to get away from the drive-putt-drive-putt rigors of most "par 54" disc golf courses. As disc technology evolves and players throw farther and farther courses like this are required to continue testing the abilities and limits of our sport. The winner of any tournament at Blue Lake will not be the best in the woods or the biggest arm, but rather the most well rounded competitor. I hope that out of towners who play this course will go back to their home courses and start looking for property to build a "Blue Lake" of their own.
8 of 13 people found this review helpful.
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