Top 3 in the 515
3 Helpful / 0 Not
- Gorgeous! Set atop the rolling hills along Saylorville Lake in Johnston, Iowa, Walnut Ridge is a true gem of a course -- which is really saying something when you consider all of the other outstanding courses (Pickard, Ewing, Big Creek, Colfax, etc.) in and around Des Moines. Between the open holes along the reservoir, the sprawling elevation changes on the hills, and the tightly carved fairways in the wooded areas, you might find yourself wondering if you're playing disc golf in a park or balls-deep in a Norman Rockwell painting.
- Clean and well-kept. Though there aren't many trash cans around, the Army Corps of Engineers does a heck of a job keeping the park mowed on the regular while the Des Moines Disc Golf Club members do an outstanding job keeping trash in the park to a minimum.
- Plenty of shelters and facilities. If you're looking for a place to have a quiet picnic, a club party, or just a scenic stroll through the woods, Walnut Ridge is the place for you. The park has plenty of shelters for cookouts, offers many restrooms and water fountains, and the nature trail in the woods along the hillsides provide plenty of respite for those looking to get their zen on. Of course, we're here to talk about disc golf though, so let me get right to it.
- OUTSTANDING mix of challenges! The first three holes right off the main parking area offer a great warm up for your arm before you're tested on the rest of the course. Some might consider these "throw-away" holes, but I prefer to look at them as an opportunity to loosen up in the open before accuracy becomes the factor it does later in the round. With two tee pads on a majority of the holes, even if you're pressed for time Walnut provides a ton of fun. The rest of the course breaks down like this:
#4: Lefty friendly. The slight right bend is perfect for an easy turnover shot for RHBH though. The woods on either side of the fairway (along with the trees in the middle) make this anything but a pitch and putt par 3. A deuce is absolutely possible, but it ain't no gimme.
#5: Another LFH (Lefty-Friendly Hole). The "fairway" guardians in the middle of the natural dog-leg right line make you *earn* a deuce. You could try going over the guardians (and everything else!) but there is absolute JAIL on either side of the fairway. And if you go long to the right, you may find yourself rolling down a veritable ravine. Needless to say, if you par this hole, be happy....you did your job.
#6: Fairly straightforward uphill shot, but you don't throw straight you may end up in the jail on 5.
#7: Huge downhill BOMB that really lets you air it out. Beware the woods on the right and the OB road on the left. The wind plays a huge factor here.
#8: LFH. Nice little turnover shot and a relatively easy 3. Provides a decent chance to make up any bogeys, but no guarantees. The woods at Walnut take no prisoners.
#9: LFH. The long tees have been flooded ever since they built the houses near the park, but the short pad is no joke. A long shot down the very defined fairway fading to a green on the right isn't automatic and if you find yourself off said fairway and into the shrubbery you're looking at a bogey almost for certain.
#10: Awesome pseudo-tunnel shot that you have to keep low to avoid the branches. To the right of the fairway is a RIDICULOUS ravine that goes about 50 feet down on about a 50-degree incline. If you find yourself down there you're gonna get a workout retrieving your disc, to say nothing of the damage it will do to your score. If you go right off the tee here your best bet is to re-tee. No kidding.
#11: TIGHT fairway that fades gently left. A straight shot with a Teebird or OS mid will put you in birdie range.
#12: Hard dogleg right through some tightly grouped trees. This is North Carolina disc golf in Iowa, y'all.
#13: Up and over! 555 foot bomb first over a hill and then down into a guarded green. One of the holes that the big arms will absolutely love.
#14: Hole 11's older brother.
#15: The Berserker of Walnut. TIGHT tunnel shot with woods on either side and deep crevasse on the left. There are two schools of thought here: Try to make it all the way outside of the trees on the right to the open field and try a huge hyzer-bomb to attempt to reach the green, or play down the middle and take your chances. If you don't stay in the fairway on this hole it will take your lunch money and you can only HOPE to save a 5.
#16: Easy 4 for most, good 3 for many, and a damn-near impossible deuce.
#17: McBeast took a 7 on this hole once - not sure exactly when (and it may be apocryphal but it's completely believable) - and this hole could make or wreck your round. BIG dog-leg right onto a green buried deep in the woods with a ravine on the right, you can either lay up to the mouth of the fairway or go for the deuce over EVERYTHING and try your luck. This is the very personification of a risk-reward hole.
#18: Straight down the gut. Not a gimme deuce, either. Fall off the fairway and you'll be thankful for a par. These woods are no joke.
(There are few.)
- Few trash cans. This is one of the longer courses in Des Moines and you're likely to want to bring nourishment and accoutrements for hydration with you. (You'd be foolish not to.) That said, there are very few receptacles for which to discard your refuse after your consumption. There could be more.
- Straight through. Though there's a path for those who don't have time or want to skip a full 18 - playing 1-7 and then 16-18 for ten is an option - there's no logical progression for a front and back nine. A pittance, probably; but a legitimate gripe nonetheless.
- Bring bug spray in the summer. Mosquitos may carry you off or plague you with the Zika virus. No joke. These bad boys play for keeps.
- No topless Hooters girls frolicking along the #8 fairway.
Walnut Ridge is one of the top five courses in Des Moines, which (IMNSHO) makes it one of the top ten courses in the entire state of Iowa. If you find yourself in (or even vaguely around) Des Moines, you owe it to yourself to play this course. It's worth a drive out of your way...especially if you're from the Carolinas and want a little taste of home, but still wanna feel like you're on vacation. It has a bit of everything you love about technicalities, but still gives you room to bomb it out and have a good time. In short, Walnut Ridge is worth the drive out of your way. Don't miss an opportunity to check it out.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Great Challenge Course
0 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: Great variety of holes. You start out in the open to warm up, but then you're test with tough wood shots. Playing this course also feels like you're hiking and away from civilization at times.
Cons: The signs all point to one tee and two cages but it was the opposite. Confusing if you're trying to keep track of par. Also, I played alone and got lost twice. There is quite a distance between holes. It would be nice if each basket had some sort of indication of where to walk for the next hole.
Other Thoughts: Great course. I recommend the first time playing you take a friend as you will lose your disc quite often and helps to have someone watching it. Plan for about 60-90 minutes to play this course.
0 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Always worth a play
8 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: - There is certainly a fantastic variety of holes here. Some very open (1, 2, 3, 7), some tight and/or wooded (4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18), and some nice mixtures including large mature trees (5, 6, 8, 13, 16). Also, a hole that tees from the woods ending open (6), and a few that tee from the clearings, but lead you to a basket sheltered by timber (5, 13, 17).
- Many times, I like courses whose order mixes up hole types, to always keep you on your toes. However, I do enjoy the run of 9 - 15 on this course being tighter and more technical (save for #13). It changes your mindset for the whole middle third of the course.
- #12 is a wonderful wooded dogleg with plenty of challenge. From the long tees, the first and largest challenge is the window you have to hit 100 feet off the tee. Two younger, but tall trees that obviously take quite a beating.
- #15 is my signature hole. If you were to look up "tunnel shot" in the glossary of the "Disc Golfer's Guide to Everything," there would just be pictures of this hole. It's like the road through the woods that Little Red Riding Hood probably took to Grandma's house: narrow (20-30 feet?), completely covered overhead by tree branches, and on a big swooping curve where you can't see farther around the bend than 200 ft or so. And it's LONG - 555 ft from the Pro tees, 365 from the Rec. A manageable hole, but one where you must make the decision whether to plod along at 150 ft/throw, or take your risks and put some power behind it. Strong, accurate throws are heavily rewarded here. Safe, shorter, but straight throws might get you par, if you're perfect. Love it. Unfortunately, it looks as though, like most other holes, only one pin placement is in. The old B placement added another 65 feet, but the area of that pin is slightly overgrown now.
- #17 is on a hillside that slopes left to right, leading you from the open, deep down 150 feet into the woods towards the pin. Having to stage a 250 ft drive somewhere in the clearing for a look at the pin makes for a great hole design. The hole also gives you two choices, either going wide around a large tree to approach the layup spot, or going straight through a smaller (but very manageable) gap between the tree and the dense thicket to your right.
- Restrooms located in a few places along the course, plus water in even more places. Ample parking, and a practice basket right there.
- Scorecards/Maps at Tee #1. Grab one, you'll need the map.
- Very large, wedged concrete tee pads at both sets of tees. Very nice. The Rec tees on this course, so far as I can tell, just reduce distance and make the holes a little easier, and more approachable (i.e. they don't create wholly different line, just reduce difficulty). However, there are a few obstacles or windows to be managed on a few Pro tees that don't affect the Rec tees. Mostly on the wooded holes (e.g. 4, 6, 9, 12, 15).
- Park benches here and there, trash cans available. Could probably use some more, as I saw small garbage piles around some tee signs where there were no receptacles. At least the litterers are courteous enough to make their messes neat.
Cons: - There are two pins listed for every hole, but they are not used. In fact, I don't think I ever saw the 2nd post hole on any of the holes, indicating that this course is set as-is. The heavily compacted soil around quite a few of the pins solidified my hypothesis. This is probably fine, as many of the placements just look like they increased distance.
- As I mentioned in the 'pros' above, 1-3 are mostly open, and they sure don't do the course justice after looking back at a round. Of course starting with these three is better than having them in the middle or the end of the round, and they do give you a warmup chance, of sorts. Just a little out of place.
- It's been mentioned, but navigation on this course is not easy. There are signs here and there, but if you didn't grab a map, you'll be searching. There are some long jaunts between holes too, namely 3-4 and 15-16. When you look at the map, the course flow at least makes sense, and they did well in ordering the course, but that still doesn't make it easy. I've played the course a few times now, and even I walked the wrong way out of #18 trying to get back to the parking lot.
- Not a lot of elevation on this course, for what it's worth. 5, 6, 7, and the hill you have to drive over on #13 host about all there is on the course.
- Not a huge fan of #9, for nothing more than it's a pain in the rear. It's a similar layout/line/distance to #15, only mirrored. However, rather than being in the woods, it's cut through a thicket, which is much too dense. You won't take chances here, and even then you could be searching for a disc, and getting cut up trying to retrieve it, let alone throw from your lie. Reminds me of the parts of Big Creek State Park in nearby Polk City that I dislike. Also, the area around the Pro tee is perpetually wet or flooded, and stagnant. It's a prime mosquito breeding ground.
Other Thoughts: - I'll mention the signage here, as it is sufficient. They are nice signs, with good info and layouts. However, since there are no longer A & B pin placements, having them listed on the sign can be confusing. There are also a few blind holes where pin indication would have been useful.
- Wonderful course, a must-play in the area. There are some skill requirements for a few holes that may discourage newer players on this course in some of the wooded holes. Also, the sheer length of a few of the holes, both wooded and open, may be discouraging. From the long tees, this course is certainly no slouch.
- Some of the above may be due to the highly demanding course par. You can tell it was designed with high caliber players in mind, and individual hole pars have been assigned as such.
(EDIT): Not until posting this review did I truly realize how long it was! I hope it's all useful information!
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 1 Not
WORTH THE DRIVE
Pros: Easy parking, well mowed, free course maps, clean toilets (not porta-johns, but real facilities). Easy walking. Decent signage. Great variety of shots from the first 3 (they were warm ups really with nothing too interesting) to wooded "tunnel" shots, both short and very long drives. Pro and recreational pads are always nice. The last hole and the parking lot for the first are very close so it keeps the walk back to the car short.
Cons: Better scout the nets before you throw on some holes. The baskets are not labeled (I see this elsewhere too). Why not label the baskets with large numbers? It would lessen the time it takes to play if we could see them. There should be more "next hole, this way" signs since there is such a long walk between some of the baskets and the following tee pad.
Other Thoughts: Someone could coach the cross country athletes not to throw their clothes all over the warm up net and area. We played anyway just standing over their equipment and clothing that was tossed over the ground like the rapture had just occurred and they got the idea. Generally they were pretty respectful folks after that.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: The course plays through a sprawling park with a mixture of open and wooded areas. There are a handful of open holes that include some chances to air out longer drives and put a premium on shot placement. The rest of the course is wooded, with a nice mix of more open and very tight fairways.
There is enough rough in the woods that you'll pay for missing your line, though not so thick that we had any trouble finding wayward shots. You'll need a pretty strong set of line shaping skills to be successful here, there's a mix of hole shapes and lengths that keeps you on your toes.
There are two tees per hole, and they're well designed to add a different look at many of the holes. There are different angles and pinch points from many of the long tees and they add length as well. The signage is decent if inconsistent. The park is groomed nicely, all the open areas were mowed and the wooded fairways were well kept.
Cons: Some of the open holes felt a little like filler shots, no real obstacles and no interesting elevation changes. Navigation is a bit messy here, especially with some missing signs. There are some long walks and areas where several trails cross in the woods with no indicator of the correct path to the next hole. Make sure to print a map or pull it up on your phone. We found lots of poison ivy even late in the season, in the late spring or summer I'm guessing it gets pretty thick out there.
Other Thoughts: I really enjoyed the long tees here, they add challenge and length without feeling like they're just added on behind the shorts. Experienced players will find a nice balance of different tests here. Beginners will find the shorts approachable, the rough can be a bit daunting but it's not as thick as it initially looks. A few of the longer holes are still long from the short tees, but not frustratingly so. I highly recommend a stop here if you're in the area.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Design - The course design, other than the flow, makes great use of the elevation and includes hyzer shots, anny shots, long holes, short holes, wooded, open, tunnel shots... you name it it has it.
Signs, tees - the signs are the same type used at Grandview, very informative and aesthetically pleasing. There are two tees per hole and they are in great shape.
Amenities - the park has nice restrooms that are spaced around the park, as well as plentiful parking. A large shelter works great for a tournament central.
Cons: Flow - the biggest drawback to this course is its flow. It is almost as if the course operates in chunks and you have to do quite a bit of walking and back-tracking between holes. It would be very difficult to find your way around the course without a map or a guide.
Location - The course is located outside of town and is kind of far away from food,drink etc. Just a minor inconvenience.
Other Thoughts: The park is beautiful as it is located next to a giant lake and has cliffs, ravines, and some water that you have to deal with. Walnut Ridge is a very complete course and will test golfers of all skill levels.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: great park, with large tee pads. baskets were mach 4s. long pads as well as shorts. for the des moines courses go this one had a good mix of open and wooded holes. thumbers could be used of the tee to place a reachable 2nd shot. had a local guide from the desmoines club show me the course which was very helpful
Cons: it was muddy, not many trashcans, and it was closed...not really aproblem if you know where to park and walk in.....with out a guide or a map this course could be confusing in some spots
Other Thoughts: i really enjoyed the course, the scenery, and the fact that i had the whole park to myself the day i played...also saw a bald eagle flying around , which was pretty cool
1 of 4 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: -very nice long tee pads and nice baskets
-has alot of longer holes but also some shorter ones
-good mix of open and wooded holes
-the woods here did not seem to have as much underbrush as places like Pickard Park so it was a little easier to find discs.
-there was not alot of repeat holes so the course did not get repedative to play
-it was a small park away from everything, a really nice place to play
Cons: -It is not well marked at all, when we played we often had to look for the next hole (especially between 3 and 4)
1 of 4 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 2 Not
Great, just not my type
Pros: -Nice huge tees with dual tees on most holes
-Signage is excellant with distances for both pin locations. Signs at both short and long tees as well.
-Bathrooms/drinking fountains at beginning of course
-Huge parking lot
-Lots of shelters and picnic tables for eating and relaxing.
-Good mix of wooded and open holes.
-Great variation of distances, could use a few more shorter ace runs though.
-A very challenging championship type course. You need all your tricks to be successful here. It also can beat you up mentally if you're not careful.
-Good locals that can help you out when you're lost.
-The park is right on a lake and has some interesting trails/walks between holes.
-Trash cans here and there, course was well maintained and clean.
Cons: -Can be wet after rain as I experienced.
-Can lose a disc in the woods as I experienced
-Hard to find next hole sometimes, also long walking distances between some. My buddy and I had trouble finding holes and a party later had trouble as well. At least tee could have been aimed at multiple baskets. The tee on 5 was missing its sign and is confusing.
-A course of this quality could use some scorecards at the start.
Other Thoughts: This course didn't recieve a 4.5 or 5 due to my own personal preferences. I like shorter courses with more ace runs and not a lot of holes over 400 feet. This course was excellent but just isn't my favorite type of course.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
11 Helpful / 1 Not
The Spice of Life
Pros: There is lots of variety here. This course has woods, open, multiple pathways, long, short, and creeks. They have nice long tee pads and some tee signs. There seems to be some real pride in keeping this course in good shape. Restrooms and trashcans are available. They do have a practice basket near the first hole. Basket placement on some of the holes is quite challenging. This course has some really fun holes to play. The course actually plays quite differently from the short tee pads compared to the long tee pads which is always the goal of this (however some places never really accomplish it).
Cons: There are some long walks between some holes and you may even have to walk to different parts of the park (crossing streets and so forth). You will need a map for the first couple of times as navigation is tough. This is not a place to play after a heavy rain. Some of the tee signs are missing. You only come in contact with a playground (just barley) once and you do tee off next some private motor home spot once during the round.
Other Thoughts: The fun factor for this course is pretty good. There are enough great holes to make the entire round a real treat! #18 is a great finishing hole since the chance of you getting a 2 or a 5 can swing a round so easily. I would most certainly play this course again in a heartbeat.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful.
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