Cream of the Bay Area Crop
19 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: The Stafford Lake course is located at the back of a huge semi-wilderness park which offers hilltop views of the surrounding landscape and quiet solitude (at least on the winter day we visited). You might think you are in a backcountry area through much of this course; wildlife abounds here - we saw many little critters roaming the fairways along with a herd of deer (& a young buck!), wild turkey, and several large hawks up above.
Holes range from completely open to moderate woods and shots off the tee are extremely varied - this course won't "make" you throw a particular type of shot, the multiple options on the tee usually allow the player to play to his or her strengths. However, there are holes where particular shots are really going to maximize your opportunities for birdie and holes which require some planning before tee-off. You'll also find several really challenging par 4's and a par 5 and even a 'gimme' par 3 or two depending on pin locations.
Hole 3 is a prime example of the kind of great golf out here. You tee from high on a sloping hillside across a small depression and down into a large undulating field. There isn't much to get in the way yet so you can really open up and launch one. If you've put some muscle behind your drive and have landed somewhere within the landing area, you will be looking at another 300-400' slightly uphill approach through moderate woods which force you to throw one of three approach lines. The really huge arms may be able to launch a huge spike or tomahawk over the protecting tress. The rest of us will be looking at a low ceiling RHBH turnover, long sidearm, or roller to avoid the guard trees while still working up the slight incline towards the pin. Snatch a birdie 3 here and you'll have something to remember no matter how the rest of the round treats you.
Pros: Skill level - The course has definitely been designed with the elite/gold player in mind. Many of the par 4 holes require placement shots of 400+ feet (equivalent flat distance) and then approaches which range from 200-400 feet depending on elevation and tree coverage. This all creates a course where gold level players will rarely find themselves wanting for situations where their skill will be adequately rewarded. Several holes require planning not just off the tee but also into 2nd drives and approach shots and many holes offer multiple distinct routes (with unique risks) off the tee. Those at mid-range skill levels will still find plenty of opportunities to test their skills, although some birdies will probably be out of range due to the sheer distance of a few of the multishot holes.
Navigation - Even for first-time players with no guidance, we very easily were able to find our way around this course. The flow is mostly very natural and logical. The one hole which we were initially baffled by and I'm sure many others before us was hole 2. The teebox here is elevated and faces a massive wall of trees, you would expect a basket at the bottom of the hill, but a quick check of the tee sign told us that the hole length was much too long for this. After a bit of scouting we found that the hole throws directly over this intimidating wall to the pin out in an open hillside past the line of trees. A very unique and memorable hole to say the least.
Maintenance/Baskets/Tees - Nice grippy concrete (even when a little wet) and Mach III's which were all in great shape. The course was pretty much trash free and while not "groomed", it looked as good as I think you would ever expect with a course so large. Stafford is definitely well cared for!
Aura - We played on a somewhat drizzly winter day and were able to really enjoy the solitude that the course has to offer. With the quiet and calm, it was almost like hiking rather than a regular disc golf round. I'd be interested to see how the feel of the course changes on a busy summer weekend.
Cons: Some might consider the walk from the parking lot to the first hole as a con but I think this probably helps keep the park less crowded and also allows disc golf to be the sole activity in this area of the park. That said, you'll probably want to be at least a little in shape to enjoy the course and score well here because of the hills and walking required.
I would probably not bring a true beginner to this course unless they were generally very patient and already excited about the game. It is mostly open which helps for beginners, but the hills, hole distances, and a couple of holes (e.g., #2) will probably prove very frustrating.
Other Thoughts: This course is definitely a must-play and qualifies as a destination course in my opinion. Add in Golden Gate park which is not very far away and you've got the cornerstone of a really nice disc golf road trip. Out of the nearly 400 courses I've played thus far, Stafford Lake earns a spot in my top 15.
19 of 23 people found this review helpful.
11 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: This course has so many jaw-droppingly stunning holes, at least 4 or 5 holes would be signature holes anywhere else.
Tremendous variety in distance with holes ranging from 200' to 1000'.
Course pushes you to use every shot in your bag, dog legs, places for overhead shots, holes where you need pinpoint accuracy as well as a few wide open holes to really let loose.
The changes in elevation made every drive exiting.
Multiple tee pads that really change the flavor of each hole.
Many holes have as many as 5 different pin placements, often spanning as much as a 200' range in distance.
Great new concrete tee pads on every hole, very level, large and with nice ridges at the end of the pads for extra traction.
Maps on the first tee, as well as an informative kiosk and great tee signs diagramming tees and different positions, there were also wheels on each sign showing the current position.
Course is kept in great shape, paths were good and I didn't see any trash anywhere on the course.
Hole #6 from the extended position is a fantastic top-of-the-world hole from the extended tee, #17 comes up as a close second also playing 60' down the side of a large hill.
Amazing natural beauty, just walking the course would be a great visual experience.
Cons: Walkout from the parking lot to hole #1.
The course could have used a few holes with some thicker foliage.
Other Thoughts: Playing Stafford Lake for the first time on my trip through California was one of those truly breath-taking disc golf experiences. The first thing that you find is some really intense natural beauty, nestled in giant rolling meadows with towering Bay Oak trees, the course would be a pleasure just to walk let alone disc golf. The course has clearly been taken care of well by the local disc golf club, everything from the tee signs with the pin position indicators to the kiosk at the parking lot and on the first tee just exuded professionalism. I tried to find any real issues with the course but I wasn't able to find any, most of the problems I read in previous posts seem to have been fixed, like the spacious new concrete tee pads in place. With all the variation in pin positions and tee boxes I can see how a course like Stafford might never get old for local players. I would heartily recommend this as a must see stop on any disc golfing trip through California and my only regret was not playing this course sooner.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 1 Not
New Year's Eve Gem
Pros: Stafford Lake course was a blast to play. It has great variety in the shots required - I used forehand, backhand and hammer throws. The first 6 holes are up and down with some blind tees and tees over groves of trees. It's a real workout and spotters are a must.
I think that as beautiful as #6 is, Number 2 is a tee shot over a grove, #7 is a tee shot around a grove. Any of these holes could be signature holes for this course, but then there's the longest hole ever when you get to #9 - over 1000ft. I throw about 300' on my longest drives, and had all I could do to get it to the pin in 4. REally long arms will love this hole; it's flat and basically straight so "Live and let fly!"
Cons: The wind was an additional hazard on the first 6 holes and with side hill lies on many of the shots, the wind could make you take a really long hike! But then again, that just adds to the experience of the course.
The course would benefit from more directional signs between holes. The maps were invaluable because of this, thanks for providing those. Make sure you have one for your first round - you can pick them up at the first tee, or download one from the website.
Other Thoughts: This course kicked my tail, but I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. I wish I would have had enough time to play it a second time after I knew the layout and how the holes played.
Walking into the first tee reminds me of Fredericksen course in Poulsbo, WA. On both courses, by the time you walk in, then have to play the first hole which is uphill to a blind basket placement, the course has you on your knees. Stafford is fantastic! I've only been playing for a couple of years, but I think I gained about 6 months worth of experience in this one round.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 2 Not
A slice of heaven
Pros: Set on the inland side of a coastal range in Marin county, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco, Stafford Lake is the kind of course that makes one hopeful for future county park/disc golf collaborations. The course has sweeping panoramic views from almost any place your disc may end up, and ample wildlife - the turkeys in particular make for a great "gallery."
The sheer size of the park area dedicated to the course allows for lengthy, challenging holes, several of which qualify as pro par 4/5s. From hole to hole players will be challenged by elevation gain/loss, sharply left and right-turning fairways, and side-hill pin positions that demand focus and attention to upshots and putts.
New cement tees on all 18 holes are the icing on the cake, as for many years players had to deal with natural tees while trying to execute max distance drives. Great signs on every hole feature Google Earth images with all pin positions listed, including distance and elevation differential. Most holes have at least 3 pin positions, and in some cases each selection can dramatically change the nature of the hole. Several holes also have "MONSTER" alternate tees, which are not recommended for beginners, but worth a look for folks who can bomb it off the tee.
While most holes are on the longer side, there are still a handful of shorter par 3s that allow those players who are more accurate but have less distance to compete with the big arms.
Finally, the course area is pay-to-play - more accurately, pay-to-park - which for me is always a plus, as it contributes to the rangers who help patrol the area and perform maintenance on the park.
Cons: There's some low-lying, sticky, nasty tarweed that can junk up your shoes and socks. Certain times of the year, the grass can get tall and make it possible to lose a disc on an otherwise good shot.
A little bit more foliage/fairway obstructions would add a bit more accuracy requirement to some shots, but most folks will be plenty challenged as is.
No water/bathrooms/amenities at the course area itself- they're back at the parking area, which is a 5-10 minute walk away. As you can tell, I'm struggling to find downsides here.
Other Thoughts: Stafford is worth the trip if you find yourself anywhere in the greater Northern California area. Bring water and be prepared to be humbled; the pain starts on hole 1, which plays anywhere from 430-480 ft, straight uphill with an elevation gain equal to a 10 story building.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the first 5 holes comprise arguably the hardest stretch of golf on the entire course. You'll then be rewarded by the "top of the world"-type shot on Hole 6... make the hike past the regular tee to the new long tee, the view and shot are completely worth it!
10 of 12 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 2 Not
Wide variety of holes - long, short, strategic, etc
Great park overall - plenty of other activities
Great tee boxes with fantastic markers/hole layouts
Poles for disc-in-tree retrieval, brooms
Multiple tee locations
A smidge difficult to find the route to the next tee on a couple holes
A smidge difficult to spot some of the pins from the tee boxes
Bring money for parking ($5-$8 I believe)
Use the restroom before you hike to #1
Bring a friend/spotter
There's a warm up area with a basket near the far-right parking lot, which is the best place to park for the shortest walk to the course.
The photos on this website for this course don't reflect the current conditions. Trust me, it is much improved.
Don't forget to be out before they lock the gate.
To the course designers: What exactly is par on the epiccally long (~1000 ft.!) hole? This hole definitely generated a chuckle. And to those who're wondering: it's completely flat.
This is a fantastic course! When you add it all up, it's the best I've played so far. It's isolated from the rest of the park, well though out, and has a wide variety of tee/hole/shot selection options on each hole. It's a beautiful park in a beautiful area, and is an absolute pleasure to walk and play through. Having said that: this is not a beginner course. It's quite long (probably a 3 hour round) and there are numerous areas that you can lose a disc, which is why I recommend a spotter. There are also a few shots where it can be a challenge to land your disc in a 'safe' area, which some people might find frustrating. I tend to like the challenge, but I'll confess that my girlfriend did get a bit frustrated. The other thing I would point out is that the front half of the course is quite a bit more challenging from a lost disc perspective than the back half so be patient if things start out rough. The other advice I would give to the beginner is to wave and keep walking when you come to the 'back' tee on those holes that have them. Other than maybe the side of the mountain hole (#6) these tees are REDICULOUS. =) And I mean that in the nicest way. My hats off to the folks that throw from these tees but, as daring as I am, I didn't even try. I figured it'd be easier to wad up $20 and throw it in the forest, because I'm surely not at a level where I'm confident I can make it to the 'safe zone'.
Bottom line: There are so many memorable things about this course from the couple 'bomb it off the side of a mountain' shots to the views and the wildlife walking around to the wonderful attention and care paid to the course, that no review would do it justice. You must play this course!
Update for 6/19/2012: I thought I'd drop in and give everyone an update on the recent additions to this wonderful course. There are now the beginnings of five additional holes on the course between holes 4 and 5. Details are:
After you finish #4, if you look towards the trees in the back on the right you'll see a trail and a piece of wood pinned to a tree pointing you to 4A which is further into the trees to the right. You should see the cleared area, bench and tee markers on the right of the trail bringing you to the 4A tee box.
4A: There appear to be a couple of basket positions but thus far this is a short 225ish left to right shot through the trees. Do not be right. Nasty over there. After you finish, 4B is to the right.
4B: Again, there appear to be a couple basket positions but right now this a long (325ish) and mean left to right through a very tight grove of trees. You can't really see the basket from the tee. You'll need to walk ahead and look down in the grove of trees to the right. This is probably the most difficult shot of the new holes. When you're done, 4C is to the left up the hill.
4C: This is a left to right shot (225ish) that finishes to a basket on the hill on the right. It's really only tight in the middle. Don't miss left. When finished, there are actually two 4Ds. One 4D is to the left down the hill and the second is to the right up the hill.
4D(1): The 4D down the hill is basically a straight shot, very slightly left to right, to a basket in a grove of trees. It's very short (200ish) and aceable with some luck. This is my favorite of the new holes.
4D(2): The 4D up the hill is 225ish slight left to right fairly open shot across the side of the hill to a protected basket just right of the trees straight ahead. Again, don't be left.
When you're done with 4D(1) you'll see a trail leading left on the other side of the bank that'll take you to 5 long or short if you keep walking.
My overall thoughts on the new holes is that "they're great". They introduce some very technical shots on what's a mostly open course so they bring a nice bit of variety to the course as a whole. We enjoyed them immensely. I do not know the long term plans but I suspect that 4D(2) may go away as it does not have a natural walking flow. You have to walk back across the fairway and across 4C to get out of that area, which is not a great idea on a course, as most of you know. But this is not a deal breaker for me personally, I say leave it in and enjoy the fun of a 23rd hole. Once again, great job course designers!
P.S. It'd be great if you could pave, or re-establish the tee for #1 short. It's getting ugly up there and I think it sets a bad first impression for the beginners I bring out there to tee off on that area. Particularly, because #1 is not the easiest hole when the basket's in the longer positions. And yes, I'm available to help. ;-)
12 of 14 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 3 Not
Beautiful and challenging
incredibly beautiful scenery
some phenomenal, world-class holes
course layout can be confusing
park closes as dusk and they will lock your car in if the Park Ranger doesn't find you
Other Thoughts: Epic course. When you make the trek from the parking lot just to get to hole one, you feel like you're heading into a disc golf hideaway -- and you are.
The course is completely on it's own in a majestic mountainside setting. The photos here just cannot do this course any justice.
My brother & I were fortunate to have a local -- "Disc Golf Dave" as we named him -- be our guide to the course. Not only a great player, but a patient guy as we played some of the worst disc golf in our lives that day. I think we might have been a bit psyched-out by the course.
Hole one sets the tone with a monster uphill drive. I think the course would have been very disorienting had we not had a guide playing with us.
Hole #6 as has been mentioned is a *killer* hole, and playing from the long tee is flat out incredible. Neck-and-neck with de LaVeaga's hole #27 for awesomeness.
This course is deceiving as much of it is wide open, but you also need accuracy due to wild brush lining the course and the occasional hillside drop-off. Definitely not a course for beginners or casual players.
My review may be incomplete as we did not have a chance to play the entire course. 'Disc Golf Dave' took us to the best holes we could play and still make it back to the parking lot before the park closed. We got to play about 11 of the holes.
I'll be heading back there for sure when I am back out in northern California visiting my brother. He preferred Stafford Lake over De LaVeaga (I preferred DLV), but we both agreed these are top-notch courses.
And a final thanks to 'Disc Golf Dave' for being our course ambassador! Made for a memorable round.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 2 Not
Worth the trip...
Pros: HUGE. Biggest course I've played, including some in Canada. Big arms can really stretch. Great tee boxes (concrete). Major elevation changes, challenging hole positions. Similar to the Black Rose in Kamloops, but definitely not the same. Holes are well-supplied with hole information.
Cons: Very little signage between holes; finding your way without a map would be difficult. Barely adequate signage from parking area to course. Incessant wind up to 40 mph on the day we played.
Other Thoughts: In all, this course is excellent. Every hole is different, requiring lots of varied shots. Tees not really long enough for the distance on each hole; adequate, but I'd prefer more. No water anywhere. You must be in good shape to do this course - definitely not Golden Gate Park, play in your sandals course!
I don't think this course was designed with the beginner or intermediate player in mind. It's obviously a big guns, advanced course with one hole reaching over 1000' and several over 500'. That said, it's a great course on which to challenge yourself.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 12 Not
All Tees Are Concrete!
Pros: We are happy to report that all 18 holes have at least 1 concrete tee pad now. #3, #7, #11 and #18 have two concrete pads.
Cons: If you are lazy, out of shape or cannot throw it over 200 ft., you will not like this course.
Other Thoughts: Stafford is Avery Jenkins favorite course. What else do you need to know?
1 of 13 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 11 Not
Pros: This course is disc golf heaven! Course design is first class. Big arms can let it fly. Hole #6 is the best in Northern California.
Cons: Locals are picky Marin jerks who think they own the course. Hole #9 is ridiculous at 1000 feet. Could fit another eighteen in all the available space.
Other Thoughts: There is no comparison to this gem in Northen California. Delaveaga gets the hype, but Stafford is the jewel!
1 of 12 people found this review helpful.
15 Helpful / 2 Not
Scoresheets and brochure available at course, course homepage at http://www.staffordlake.com/,
and map available on this site provide loads of information about the course. Portion of larger park, scenic hillside running down into a small lake, area dedicated to disc golf - plays up, down, and across the hillside, with lake in constant view, and near a few basket locations. 2-5 basket positions per hole, most with 3 or 4. Multiple tee positions on about ½ of the holes. Most teepads are concrete. Signs at each teepad which indicate various baskets positions, current position, and even the elevation change from teepad to all basket positions! Fantastic variety in length and shape. Bathroom, water fountain, and practice basket near parking lot.
Costs up to $8 to enter the park. Bit of a walk from parking lot to first tee/last basket. Some baskets not easily visible - flags, coloured poles, and/or bright coloured bands on the top of the basket would help. Signs didn't indicate if it was the primary or alternate tee location, which wasn't always obvious.
Variety - most holes are very different from each other. Elevation - major/minor/no change. Shape - left/right/S/no turning, some opportunities for tomahawks. Distance - just over 200' to just over 1000', a few legitimate par 4's/5's. Approach shots - due to some holes being extremely long and/or steep, your second (or third) shot will also often require some shape/touch to it.
The day I played - and given the topography of the course, I imagine this is a rather common occurrence - there was a steady breeze coming from the West. This meant I had a tailwind about 1/3rd of the time, a cross-wind 1/3rd of the time, and a headwind about 1/3rd of the time, so the typical flightpaths of your discs could vary greatly from what you normally experience. Since I was on vacation, I only had ten discs with me, and at one point, I could only trust my heavy Firebird to fade as expected - my other lighter, less-overstable discs were turning like Roadrunners!
Many of the baskets are fairly open, but don't let this lull you into a sense of security - most are on some type of slope and/or have a steep drop-off nearby, and when combined with the steady breeze, this increases the level of difficulty on many seemingly "easy" shots.
Favourite Holes: #3A from the long tee, a blind, long right-turning initial drive around the side of a hill will leave you with a long approach across a small depression and through a gap between to small treelines to the basket; #6B/C, just under ~400, a major downhill bomb to a basket with a drop-off and woods just a few feet behind the basket, with a view of the lake and neighbouring hills in the background.
This course is certainly worth the effort to visit if in the Bay area - to make it worth the entry fee, try to allow enough time to play two rounds! Given the extra length and walk to/from the parking lot, allow an extra 30-45 minutes than you normally take to play a typical 18-holer. Adding more alternate tees, making them all concrete, and adding a bit more signage would make this already very strong course top-notch.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful.
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