Olmstead Would be Proud
2 Helpful / 1 Not
Other Thoughts: I will have to quote a line from my friend here: "There aren't many urban courses throughout the country, and none that I know of on an island park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted."
That pretty much sums up the crazy unique-ness of this course. There is and never will be anything like it.
The current state of Belle isle is both beautiful and decaying. You can sense the great power and effort that went into creating this one of a kind park, yet you will also marvel at how little to no upkeep for years on end makes it look somewhat post-apocalyptic.
As it stands now, the course plays great with natural pads and posts for targets. I can't wait to see where things go from here. My advice, get out and play it now, so years from now you will remember the humble beginnings of this one of a kind gem of a course.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Decent Discin in the D (with room for improvement)
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Wonderful use of natural elements. Water figures prominently on several holes (most dramatically on hole 14), and the design incorporates the few (quite modest) elevation changes on this parcel to their fullest. See next point regarding use of trees.
Nice balance between being open and woodsy. While I'd describe the course as very lightly wooded, tee and pin locations have been well chosen to use strategically placed trees to take away some lines while presenting others. All the fairways are pretty open from the tees, but each hole presents some obstacles, so you have to find a line and execute. This makes it possible to really air it out from the longs, while still placing a reasonable premium on placement - poorly controlled distance can be costly here - especially if the wind comes into play (see Other Thoughts).
Great shot variety, with many holes offering several different lines - makes you think about what line to take/type of shot to execute off the tee to attack a given hole. Gives you a chance to go with your strengths or work on you weaknesses.
Layout flows well from hole to hole, and is pretty intuitive for the most part, although there are some spots where one unfamiliar with the course could proceed to the wrong tee. For the most part, the front 9 flows out heading east, with the back 9 flowing back towards the west returning to the beginning. However, with no more for tee markers than foot tall orange flags, you'd be well advised to print the scorecard/map (linked to this page) to make your first couple of outings less of a scavenger hunt.
Dual tees on all holes are well conceived for the most part. The shorts should be pretty accommodating for beginners, while the longs add considerable length on many holes (longs play 6175' vs. 3720' for short). Most provide different looks, along with different levels of risk accordingly.
Say what you will, but pole holes increase the challenge on putts and can really create some scoring separation. The targets/posts are only about 6" wide, so you really need to stick your line - there's no way for shots that aren't well centered to drop in a basket..kinda like playing on Bulls-Eye's...without the baskets. Targets are marked with black electrical tape to indicate low putts - disc must hit target above the tape to hole out. Each pole has the hole # stenciled in at the top so you know you played to the correct pin. Another good point is that wood posts aren't likely to get stolen for their scrap value (not as far-fetched as it sounds given the local situation).
Belle Isle offers some of the nicest views you'll ever see of the Detroit and Windsor skylines.
Cons: Uneven terrain: few courses anywhere would benefit from concrete pads as much as Belle Isle. Good run ups aren't possible on several tees (not to mention quite a few fairway shots). While there's not much that can be done about wallowy, uneven footing on fairways, pouring concrete essentially eliminates the issue for tee shots. This would allow you to get further down the fairway off the tee - which would make run-ups less of a factor on some holes. Hence, pouring concrete could also improve a few of your 2nd shots - being closer makes throwing from a standstill more feasible.
Equpiment: While shooting at wooden posts hearkens back to very roots of the game and places a premium on sticking putts, there's simply no denying that decent baskets would be a welcome improvement. The game's evolved, and there's a reason baskets have become the standard. They're what at most of us have come to expect on decent courses and help to provide some aspect of consistency from course to course.
Navigation: Relatively open terrain, natural tees (two sets of 'em to boot) marked with small flags all combine to make finding the next tee particularly tough for first timers. While the course flows well from a disc play standpoint, navigation can be confusing for the uninitiated - PRINT THE MAP.
Retains water and can be extremely soggy. Unless it's been dry the past few days, you might want to keep this in mind when choosing footwear.
During the summer, the grass here is going to be tall, thick, and disc swallowing. The kind of stuff that doesn't affect your shot, just impedes your ability to find discs. Bring friends and looks discs down (locals: think holes 9-17 at River Bends, or A-F on Hudson Mills Original).
West to east, east to west layout without dense cover means the sun can make following discs down during early morning/late afternoon rounds a challenge for several holes in succession - sunglasses and/or cap as you prefer.
Other Thoughts: Wind - it can be strong and flows through the course generally unimpeded. It can gust or go slack. Neither pro nor con, it's simply is part of the game, but one that's likely to figure more prominently here than on most courses. Those who deal with it best are sure to gain strokes on their competition.
Willows: they present a different challenge than most trees. They're bushier and extend closer to the ground than most trees, providing an obstacle that can prove tough to get through or around should you get an unkind lie. Rather than giving good or bad kicks, they simply slap shots down on impact, often inside their "umbrella." Getting out can feel a bit like throwing through a soft-cloth car wash. Hole 15 features a 200' tunnel shot/Ace Run through several willows.
Signature Hole: IMO, 14 (long) is most inviting hole on the course: 300' from tee to pin featuring a 250ft (give or take) water carry into what is usually a prevailing headwind. A few of the aforementioned willows stand guard duty on the bank, making a safe landing more than just a matter of distance. While there are openings to make it through for what could be a park job, their dreadlocks can drop a disc dead in its flight - perhaps only feet from landing on dry land. While the pond was frozen, I kept one low and skipped off the ice for a safe landing. Misplay the wind and your drive could get squirrely over the water/ice - gone (just because the ice can support your disc doesn't mean it can support you).
Close to downtown - best choice for a fun round before an afternoon or evening Tiger, Redwing, or Lions game.
Overall, I really like this course - good design, plays great, interesting round, with a high fun-factor, but there's simply no avoiding the fact that there's room for simple improvements that would make it much better: Concrete tees, decent baskets would get me to bump this up to 3.5. Add simple 4x4 posts with hole #, distance, and line drawing to make navigating a course with dual tees foolproof, and I might give it a 4.0. Just a matter money and labor - I'll be happy to do my part on both, and update this review as things progress.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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