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.
7 Helpful / 2 Not
Very Cared For
Pros: This course had great tee signs taht were super accurate and helpful, there were great maps at the first tee that helped explain things, and trust me you will want to read this and adhear to the directions that it gives. The course itself had a great mix of distances that included the insanely long 1000 ft hole 9. There was not a lot of people there when I was there and the course itself is in a part of the park that will only get used for Disc Golf. There are some great views. This course is super challenging. There is a place to fill up drinking water at a picnic area just before crossing the bridge to the first tee.
Cons: There were no good tunnel shots on this course, it was alway over or around something. There are a few holes when it is easy to loose a disc. You have to hike to the first tee and you have to pay $5 a car to get into the park. It got really hot while I was there and with all the up and down hill you will need plenty of water. This course is defiantely not for beginners. The tee pads are not consistent, some dirt and some concrete, but they do appear to be working on this. There is a claim that there is some poison oak on this course.
Other Thoughts: The first thing that I thought when I got to the first tee was that there were some good disc golfers who put this course in to be a standard for what should be done. I loved the tee signs and how helpful they were. At the same time I was slightly disappointed by the layout of this course. I think they could have done a lot better in design, while at the same time keeping the challenge level where it is at. You will not want to play this course by yourself as there are a couple of holes when a spotter is almost necessary. I nearly lost a disc on hole 2 I think it is but was able to come back before playing hole 17 to find my disc. Be prepared for temperatures to be hot and the wind to provide little relief.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: This course is very challenging & humbling. It will make you a better player for sure. There are lots of elevation changes and interesting shots. Never crowded. Some wildlife
Cons: It can get very hot. Poison Oak in places.
Other Thoughts: Don't go alone. It's a long hike in & out and not heavily traveled.
1 of 5 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: This course is a game changer. Hole 1 sets the tone right away. Hole 3 long is major. Awesome scenic beauty, pay to park makes money for the county park system, which in turn makes disc golf more viable as a sport (and it keeps jerk-offs away). Moist-Tee (hole 6) is the most epic shot I've played in California, though it makes me wonder if it should now be played to 7's pin. Facilities are great, tee pads are looking good. Wind gets challenging in the afternoons. Awesome wildlife, especially the wild turkies!
Cons: not too many. I wish there had been a few more tightly wooded shots, but the designers did an amazing job with the landscape.
Other Thoughts: I wish there were another 18 on the premises.
2 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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