Once in a Lifetime Disc Golf Experience
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Full disclosure -- I originally approached the China Peak ownership with this idea and was one of the designers. Having said that....
China Peak is a beautiful, scenic, challenging course. It is truly a disc golf destination which happens to be in a spectacular part of the Sierras (Huntington Lake is right there, Shaver Lake is nearby and Mono Hot springs is an hour away). There are tons of great camping and lodging options which make it a great weekend destination for the family.
China Peak, as a previous reviewer said, is not for the faint of heart. It will test your physical endurance, mental focus and ability to execute technical and long throws at altitude as well as require every shot in your bag (except rollers, mostly). This is not a course that you can play more than once in a day, and you best be prepared with some snacks (a 5-6+ hour round requires that) and water (though you can resupply on holes 12 & 19).
If you're used to playing at sea level this course (like all mountain courses) will require you to adjust what you throw and how you throw it. Add in the extreme elevation changes and you find a lot of first time players here scratching their heads. Although many of the holes could be birdied by a skilled player the very same player could take a 5 and up on those very same holes the next time around.
Outright epic holes: #2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 23, 26, 27.
Honorable Mention: #7, 12, 13, 22, 24
Great, friendly staff. Full bar at the end of your round. Awesome swimming nearby.
Cons: -- Depending on where you live it can be a haul to get up here (4-5 hours from the Bay Area).
-- If you're not in decent physical shape this may not be that much fun for you.
-- The chair doesn't start until 9 so you have to get on the mountain pretty early (say by 11 or so) to be able to finish before they close the mountain.
Other Thoughts: -- You'll want to throw multiple shots on almost every hole but resist the urge, otherwise your round will take even longer.
- Using a spotter saves an enormous amount of time. Although there is a surprising lack of underbrush which in theory should make finding discs easier the reality is that errant shots fly so far that it is sometimes difficult to spot exactly where they landed.
-- Some previous reviewers have mentioned garbage on the course. This is a concern but it is almost exclusively from skiers. But if every golfer can pick up a few things soon enough we'd have a much cleaner mountain.
-- The pro shop is good about calling people who lose discs so remember to mark all of your plastic.
-- Groceries are scarce and expensive up in the mountains so make sure to stock up (Prather is the closest proper supermarket).
-- I'm only giving this a 4.7 and not a 5 because there some dirt tee pads -- this is unavoidable because of Forest Service regulations but hampers some of your tee shots a bit.
In closing I think my fellow designer Leonard Muise said it best when he said:
"YOU GOTTA PLAY THIS COURSE. If you live within a day's drive of this course, you have no excuse not to play it every year. No matter where you live, you owe yourself a round here. No matter what courses you've played before, I'm certain that China Peak will be a unique and memorable experience."
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Dream Course For Anyone Who Loves To Throw
2 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: This is a spectacular course designed with high-level players in mind. Not a single hole is easy or boring. After paying $15 to take a ski lift to the top, you play 27 holes down the mountain. Lots of downhill holes, obviously.
- Spectacular holes with lots of potential for spectacular throws. At least twenty of the holes would be the signature hole on any other course.
- Beautiful views, including Huntington Lake.
- Best mountain course I've played, easily.
- Well-signed. Nice tee signs, and ribbons to guide you to the next tee. Baskets in good shape.
- Good, fair mix of righty/lefty holes.
- Wide range of scores possible on most of the holes; on many of them, anything from a 2 to a 7 is available
- With the elevation and so many downhill holes, there's not a huge premium on power past a certain point; if you can throw 350' at sea level, you are in great shape here.
Cons: - A bit remote (fact of life for any mountain course)
- You can only get in one round a day
- Can't really go back and play holes you like, unless you like climbing
- Fair amount of trash lying around.
- Arduous, and a little bit treacherous. Be careful.
- Easy to lose discs.
- A few of the tees were challenging, either lumpy mats or soft sand
Other Thoughts: Elevation makes discs more stable. Bring understable plastic. Stable stuff just does not stay in the air at all, and most holes are long enough that you'll need some glide.
Be patient. Don't worry about score. This course is really hard and really enjoyable. Focus on how much fun each throw is. As with any mountain course, you can get severely punished for being off by just a bit. That's the other side of the spectacle.
Since it's hard to get a disc to hold a turn, it really helps if you can throw both spins.
Use a spotter. It's easiest to have the first player throw a drive, then go down and spot for the others. That way no one has to climb back up to the tee.
Fantastic holes: 2, 6, 8, 11, 23 (my favorite)
Great holes: 3, 7, 15, 16, 19, 27
Very good: 1, 4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 24, 26
Good: the rest
Summary: If you love to play disc golf, this is an experiece you need to check out. Definitely worth the trip.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 0 Not
27 holes of wicked funchallenge
Pros: -- beauty upon beauty: SO many majestic flights past huge trees within awesome mountain scenery!
-- open yet technical, often on the same throw: threading the needle on a 300-foot hole is one thing (it's got plenty of that), but holding your line for 10 or 15 or even 20 seconds on a relentlessly downhill hole -- quite another! (common refrain: "sure seemed like a wide fairway before I threw! do you have any idea where it landed?")
-- great balance of power<>control and risk<>reward: there is exactly one low-risk big-arm hole on the entire course (#17, 420 feet, slightly uphill.) on the other hand, there are 10 holes where a big arm (450+ level feet) would seem useful, except that the course keeps beating you upside the head with this lesson: "far ain't no good if it ain't in the fairway"
-- elevation and slope are complex variables: yes, the thin air at 8500 feet will stabilize your discs. on the other hand, properly nose-down drives on downhill holes tend to flip easily. (good luck with that!)
-- a multi-course feast: after you've played this monster, you'll feel like you just played two or even three 18-hole courses worth of energy, scenery, frustration, and thrill. (it appears to be the longest course west of the Rockies, measuring 2.44 miles tee-to-basket -- over 3 miles if you count the walk from the chair lift to #1 and the walk from #27 back to the lodge -- over 4 miles when you count basket-to-tee walks and looking looking looking for discs).
-- CRAZY NUMBER OF FLAT-OUT EPIC HOLES: these holes would be signature holes on most any other course, holes where you feel like you've committed a crime if you only throw one disc.
>> #2: straight ahead looks like the best route, but don't be suckered. it's really a gentle 552-foot finesse rhbh hyzer (drops 160 feet) around a stand of big trees in the middle of the ski run. [regular par 4, pro par 3]
>> #6: nice little slightly downhill 498-foot rip through a narrow gap of towering pines, from an elevated tee to an elevated basket. the monster hugemungous rhbh hyzer bomb is completely legit and completely insane. [regular par 4 / pro par 3]
>> #8: gorgeous exasperating 873-foot hole through a classic corridor of both mature and younger pines. a good rhbh drive can easily sail the first 600-700+ feet (drops 119 feet, mostly on the drive). but if it fades off the fairway into the mix of trees on the left -- like nearly every "perfect" drive ultimately seems to do -- then scoring a 3 will have to wait for another day. [regular par 5 / pro par 4]
>> #11: maybe one of every 10 drives lands in the 250-foot-wide fairway of this 1050-foot hole which drops 280 feet down the face of a ski run. If you can throw 325 feet on flats and hold your envisioned line for 20+ seconds, then it's an easy deuce. seriously. no joke. just try it. go ahead, you can totally do this... any discs left in the bag? hit the fairway yet? [regular par 4, pro par 3]
>>#18: run-of-the-mill double-dogleg (left-to-right drive followed by long right-to-left approach) from wide open space into a ski corridor with dense forest (read: jail) on both sides of the 75-foot wide, gently curving fairway. slight but persistent upslope makes it play much longer than 714 feet; requires two excellent shots for good players to reach the green in two. [regular par 5 / pro par 4] (note: may be extended seasonally to an equally ordinary triple-dogleg measuring over 900 feet - par 6 & 5 respectively)
>> #23: reachable left-to-right bomb (measures 784 feet, plays about 475) from an elevated tee 100+ feet down to a seemingly wide, relatively flat fairway, split by a single tall pine. if you find the fairway, you'll have a rare wide-open approach for your 3. [regular par 4 / pro par 3]
>> #26: no radical slope or 20-second flights here, just a gorgeous and scoreable 642-foot par 4 amongst wonderfully spaced trees. like several of the par 4s, the ideal drive is slightly left-to-right and the approach is right-to-left. [regular par 4 / pro par 4]
>> #27: one last sweet launch to close the round. 603 feet long, dropping 133 feet, reachable with a mid-range for many players. appears completely wide open, but beware the treacherous basket placement on a small steep sidehill and major lost disc potential if your rhbh drifts into the dense swampy brush to the left. [regular par 4 / pro par 3]
-- epicness honorable mentions:
>> #3: 636 feet, drops 140 feet, tight line over boulders and through mid-fairway goal posts, reachable on the drive but rarely 3'd [par 4/3]
>> #12: 312 feet, level, perfectly picturesque, framed by two huge boulders. great complement to the preceding 1050-foot mega-huck [par 3/3]
>> #15: 477 feet, moderately downhill, quintessential rhbh stable S-flight blasting through wooded gateway across open meadow. pure. [par 4/3]
>> #19: 405 feet, moderately downhill, wide open with a dramatic drop-off to the right. wind is more likely to be a major factor on this hole than any other; 5-10 mph coming from coming from 1:00-2:00 is tricky for rhbh throwers [par 3/3]
>> #21: 273 feet, steeply uphill, through 8-foot wide goalposts 45 feet in front of the tee -- the sphincter factor. [par 3/3]
-- the staff is friendly and helpful, especially in the shop. if lost discs are found with names but no phone numbers, they'll cross-reference their waiver forms -- yes, you need to sign a waiver, as there's a chair lift, it's Forest Service land, etc -- to find your phone number. lately, they've also left a large water cooler near the basket on #11 for players to replenish. that's service!
Cons: maybe 4 or 5 holes out of 27 don't have anything uniquely interesting or appealing about them. for example, #17 is kinda boring. and also, uh, hmm... actually only #17.
overall, the course is well balanced in terms of flight paths and power. but there are a couple clusters of holes where a similar drive can be effective. the biggest cluster is holes 13, 14, and 16, then 20, 22, and 25 -- where a low, controlled, medium power, left-to-right drive can earn a *relatively* easy deuce (~275-325 effective feet). the course could use a couple more finesse rhbh hyzers to offset (or replace) these holes.
with such a huge landscape and fatiguing terrain -- not just steep slopes, but also loose, boot-filling sand and rocks -- it's a relief that the course flow is excellent. with only a few exceptions, the next tee is within 150 feet. in a few cases, however, the tees could/should actually be a little further out of range from nearby holes (#3, #4, #6, #7, #10, #12, #13, #21).
pace of play is slow, often taking 6+ hours on a player's first visit, even longer for unaware or masochistic beginners. as the course matures -- e.g., gaps open up, brush is trampled down, players get more familiar -- this should improve a bit.
course availability is limited. the chair lift starts at 9 am, and the mountain closes at 4:30 pm (which means you better get on the mountain by 11 if you want to complete 27 holes.) maybe if the course gets popular enough, China Peak will be able to run the chair longer, open on Fridays, and lengthen the summer season overall.
there's a lot more trash and beer cans littering the course than you'd expect for a new course with only ~200 players so far. it's just an attitude problem with a small number of players. China Peak could help out with a few more trash cans.
Other Thoughts: [[full disclosure: i co-designed this course with Ross Hammond (my design partner for the Golden Gate Park course) and Craig Getty (designer of many Tahoe area courses, including Bijou, Squaw Valley, and Turtle Rock). i've also designed roughly 15 tournament courses and course extensions, way back in the 80s and 90s. i'm a frickin perfectionist, so my 4.5 rating here is only because so many individual holes are spectactular. otherwise, it would be a 4.0 or maybe even 3.5. (I've yet to see, play, or design a course that i'd give a 5.0)...]]
mountain courses take tremendous effort to install, and they take a while to get broken in. at this point in its first season, some tees are rubber, some are still dirt. most tees have good signs, some still just have paper tacked on a pole. a few baskets are currently blind from the tee, but will be visible in the future.
it's hard to overstate the mental challenge of this course. the first nine holes are the most brutal nine, both in terms of scoring and walking. if you can keep your head together and pace yourself until you get to #11 -- the reachable 1050-foot thriller -- you might be able to exploit the many reasonable birdie opportunities ahead (#12, #13, #14, #16, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25). yes, that's a lot of birdie holes! if you can avoid 5s and cash in a few birdies, it's actually possible to go low.
the course does not seem to get very windy, despite the terrain. when it does blow, however, it only seems to help make holes more interesting rather than making them too easy or too hard. (having said that, my wish is that everyone gets to play #11 on a calm day!)
after warming up in the large open area at the base of the chair, taking the slow ~10-minute lift is a great way to transition onto the course. you can take in the wonderful views, get focused on playing well, and deeply inhale all the awesome you're about to experience.
with the sport's growth, some courses struggle to keep up. some are overwhelmed, some get wrangled into submission by a rapidly increasing number of powerful and talented players throwing incredible plastic. well, i dare say, the sport is not going to outgrow China Peak. some super-elite players might score well on occasion -- somebody says they shot 80 last weekend! -- but there's no doubt that this will remain a unique and intense challenge for any player.
YOU GOTTA PLAY THIS COURSE. if you live within a day's drive of this course, you have no excuse not to play it every year. no matter where you live, you owe yourself a round here. no matter what courses you've played before, i'm certain that China Peak will be a unique and memorable experience.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 1 Not
Epic Mountain Golf Not For The Faint Of Heart
Pros: - Some of the world's most epic shots. A 1050' par 3? Yep. Several top of the world shots 600'+ that pros can get with a midrange
- Technical, fair, and fun
- amazing alpine scenery: lake views galore, giant boulders used as hazards, awesome trees
- challenge for every shot needed except for extreme uphill (probably a pro at this elevation)
- Ski resort provides water at two locations
- nice rubber tees on most holes
- only a few blind holes: great to be able to see the basket from 1000' or 800' feet away.
- well marked for such a large and remote area
Cons: - a very long round that is physically demanding. Plan on spending a lot of time looking for discs as the previous reviewers mentioned. This is largely due to so many downhill drives which increases the spray distance. Trees often makes things worse when you hit one and it kicks off into oblivion
- unfinished tees on the front (3-10) make it more difficult to get the pure line that's needed off the tee.
- a couple of pin placements that are blind which, if placed with a view from the tee would make the hole more fun for a destination course like this
- too many right doglegs. Felt a little repetitive despite this playing towards my game. If there were a forced left dogleg, it would have given the course better balance
- beer cans...what are you littering fools thinking??? Pack it in pack it out...ain't that hard idiots.
Other Thoughts: WOW. My friend said after playing this course and getting the beatdown that you get what you want out of life. Well if you want incredible epic throws, a day you'll remember while you're staring at your computer screen at work, and are a little bit of a masochist and a mountain goat, then this course is for you. Flatlanders, chukkers, people who think that disc golf should only be played in a manicured park setting...STAY AT HOME. YOU WILL BE SERIOUSLY UNHAPPY.
For the rest, watching your disc fly 900 feet down the hill, weaving technical lines through massive trees and granite boulders, and the fun of playing all day in a physical and mental test...bring sunscreen, a wide rimmed hat, lots of food and water, gaiters, and at least ankle high hiking boots...and you'll be stoked.
Make sure you're on the hill early, since you'll need about 6+ hours to finish this epic monster.
My favorite holes:
2,6,8,9,11,12,18,19,23,26,27. All of these are world class epic holes that will challenge, inspire, perplex, and just have that wow factor.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful.
9 Helpful / 7 Not
This course makes you work for it!
Pros: -27 Holes
-Brand new baskets
-Lots of up and down throws
-Several LONG top of the world shots
-Course was well marked with ribbon for direction
-Awesome bar at the bottom
Cons: -Not all tee pads are complete (but still ok)
-A lot of loose debris will find its way into your shoes (crushed granite, bark, dirt)
-only one water station & restroom (19th tee pad)
-Need more trash bins, could already see bottles & cans accumulating in the woods (not cool)
Other Thoughts: -Spotters are an excellent idea
-Wear hiking boots and bring a change of socks
-Bring a couple water bottles
-If you pack it in, pack it out.
9 of 16 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 8 Not
This aint no flatlander course!
Pros: Basket one is at 8600.elv. feet. Great views, hard course, fun terrain, Trees and rocks. The best course I have played. Fun fun fun!
Cons: Wear lether boots, bring a spotter, water and long pants. This is a mountian course not a park. Its not free and there is a an issue with waiting to get no the first pad. Mainly due to finding disc.
Other Thoughts: Give yourself about 4 to 6 hrs to play. if you are not on the lift by 2:00 they will not let you go up. This course will eat your disc and time looking for it, so plan an extra hour for looking for lost disc. Even though you play from the top to the base, there is good amount of up hill if you make a mistake or play short. They need more trash cans and water stops. You need to be in good physical shape or you will not have a good time.
7 of 15 people found this review helpful.
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