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Portage Lakes DGC Akron, OH

Pros:

I'm a pretty tough critic on courses usually. There are a few key features that I expect and -- you know what - this course hits almost every one of them. Namely, in this case, we're talking natural beauty, varied shots with memorable holes and a good set of amenities.

I start pretty much every review with the natural features and that's one of the places that this course stands out. You start off in a pretty little valley and you play through plenty of Ohio woodland along the way. They also took full advantage of the shoreline of the lake. Unlike many courses of this sort that only get close enough to the water once or twice, this course touches the lake many times, including a walk out onto a beach. At every turn I found myself stopping to look around and catch an osprey fishing or a black squirrel or nice flowers. There could be no course here and I'd enjoy the park.

The course was a lot of fun to play. Much like I mentioned with the natural side, I keep finding myself saying "well this is the best hole" and then there would be one better. About a third of the course play in the same valley woodland. You'll definitely challenge your tight game with those shots as you have to get shape on long drives to have any chance of scoring well. The back nine is where it really shines. The postcard hole everyone remembers is a fun downhill drill to a green that features an elevated basket on a lighthouse looking structure. There are two holes where the lake plays a predominant feature, asking you to risk the hero shot for birdie or take the "long way" and most have challenge hitting par. Both are really nicely designed holes that give a legit chance at the hero route, while also giving you a cowards path. One of my favorite holes made use of the marshy lagoons coming in from the lake. It's a long anhyzer drive up and over two ridgelines to an amazing green that sits on a another ridge with OB swampland between all that. Another hole has a cool little island green that sits in the roundabout of a driveway.

There are two sets of concrete tees, marked Blue and Red. I liked that on several holes that tees weren't just rectangular but shaped to give line options. There are two permanent baskets on each hole with the long baskets pretty clearly marked. There were garbage cans all over the place, a vault toilet available and picnic tables.

Cons:

There really are not many to pick apart here. I have played some elite courses and there are just a few things keeping this from being one of them. While I think the vast majority of this course was well designed and fair, a few holes felt too tight for my liking. I'm all for asking for accuracy, but on a hole like 14, for example, the coward route is already going to take a few well placed shots to have any chance, then the fairway is just littered with trees on top of it. In a few places, the greens felt inaccessible from all but the perfect drive placement though I'm sure locals know some lines.

It was nice that there was garbage cans all over the place, but they were all full to the point of overflowing. There was noticeable garbage laying in other places of the course as well, but that is most likely due to course traffic.

There is no running water anywhere near the course.

Other Thoughts:

This is honestly worth a drive. Pack a lunch. There's plenty of beauty in this park to make an afternoon of it.
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Lake Wichita Park Wichita Falls, TX

Pros:

-huge park with open areas, wooded areas, large mature trees of various species throughout, and a creek
-new, red chainstars
-concrete long tees, natural short tees
-multiple basket locations, most holes have at least 2, some have 3
-five par 4 holes and one par 5, some of them are good
-a handful of tighter wooded holes, some of them are good
-course map near the parking lot and hole 1

Cons:

-a lot of long, uninspired holes
-some of the short holes seem almost gimmicky in contrast with the rest of the course
-roads and walking paths that are potentially in play
-the front 9 is distinctly weaker than the back 9

Other Thoughts:

The course here at Lake Wichita Park was redesigned a couple years back and now boasts being the longest and toughest in Wichita Falls. It's definitely the longest at least, just edging out Wind Creek.

There are concrete long tees and dirt short tees marked with flags. There are also two basket positions on all but three holes and four other holes that have three positions. The new, red chainstar baskets are in great condition and are easily visible. Unfortunately there are a couple places where you can see a number of them and it may not be obvious which one you are throwing at, hole 4 particularly.

The front 9 is mostly longer holes that seem to be long for the sake of being long. It averages over 425' and includes a par 5 and two par 4s. My arm is not the target audience for this course but I didn't find any of these holes very interesting. Hole 7 ducks into the woods and has a really tight window and an unnatural dogleg right.

By hole 10 I was ready to write off this course but then things start to get more interesting. More woods begin to encroach on hole 11 and then hole 12 has a tunnel to hit for the first 100'-150' before opening up and turning sharp left (for the long pin). Hole 13 does the opposite, starts in the open and finishes in the woods. Hole 14 is a super tight, straight 164' shot. Hole 15 is another 165' shot in the woods but hyzer and not as tight. Holes 16 & 17 are like holes 12 & 13 but longer, tighter par 4 versions of them. FInally, hole 18 has a basket at the base of a very large hill. I really wanted to throw a disc from the top of it after my round but I was done after a long day of course bagging.

The back 9 makes up for the front 9 but I also feel like there could be a better layout overall here. I'm guessing the local club just wanted to have a course where MPO would play during local tournaments. It really made me curious what the original layout was like.

Shorter arms and less experienced players can play here and still have a decent time but it's obviously designed for bigger armed, more experienced players. For that audience, it's not that difficult of a course with not many memorable holes. That said, it has great replay value for locals with all the tees and basket locations. I think I would prefer Wind Creek for the long course option but the back 9 here would make this part of my regular rotation if I were a local.


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Pronghorn Park & DGC Castle Pines, CO

Pros:

Well laid out, challenging, short holes, trails well marked, easy to navigate.

Cons:

Large thickets, some steep slopes, no shade, no shelter, no seating.

Other Thoughts:

Distances tend to be 225' or less. Be careful not to throw discs outside of the fence. If you do, you're not allowed to retrieve it and doing so is considered trespassing. A decent to good place to play. Just remember to bring sunscreen because you will be in the sun the entire time and there is nowhere to rest once you start.
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Portage Park Portage, PA

Pros:

Portage Park is a lovely, woodsy 9-hole course with moderate elevation changes throughout. A mature deciduous tree canopy shades the course and should also limit undergrowth and risk of disc loss. I did not anticipate enjoying this course quite so much, but my modest expectations were easily exceeded.

Satisfying variety in hole lengths, fairway shapes, and elevation changes. Distances range from 180' downhill (with a tricky mando) to 366' uphill (listed as par 4). Fair fairways, with some tighter and others more forgiving.

Each hole features short and long rubber tee pads mounted over framed stone dust. Tee signs at each short pad include distance and par from each tee and a rudimentary but helpful map showing mandos, man-made obstacles, and the flight shape required.

I love that the first 6 holes play more-or-less downhill, the last 3 holes play back uphill, and yet somehow the course finishes back at the starting point. Kudos for that, I say! This magic trick also facilitates playing one round from the short tees followed by one from the longs, or vice versa.

White-painted baskets were numbered, easy to spot, mounted level, and caught well. Hole #2 has a raised basket. Short walks between holes and easy navigation, aided by orange "next tee" arrows clipped to the basket spokes.

Drainage was excellent, despite the fact that every other course for miles around was muddy and squelchy after a week of rain.

Cons:

Hole #1 plays downhill towards a small "shed" housing bathrooms, which are open in the summer months. Bathrooms are not in the direct line of fire, but people walking around the building might be at risk. Otherwise, the designers did a pretty good job of avoiding conflicts with other park activities.

Some of the framed rubber tee pads sloped enough to affect my run-up. I had no problems with slipping on a damp spring day, but I would be careful if the pads were wet or muddy.

This is not a bomber course, if you like that sort of thing.

Other Thoughts:

Portage Park is well-suited to beginner-intermediate players who enjoy woods golf, but there is enough challenge (and distance on a few holes) to entertain advanced players. If I had a course like this nearby, I would play here often.

Caveat: I have inordinate affection for well-designed, short woods courses with elevation. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
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Gordon Lake DGC Iowa Park, TX

Pros:

-nice concrete tees, orange Mach V's in good condition, great signage (for the old 16 hole layout)
-makes good use of the limited land features: some elevation around the dam, a large culvert, the lake, a pond
-mostly easy navigation, take care around holes 4-6 and don't miss hole 8

Cons:

-over half the holes are nearly completely open
-the wind is pretty gnarly coming off the lake
-holds a lot of water
-barbed wire fence to avoid on holes 6 & 8

Other Thoughts:

Gordon Lake DGC mostly plays in the flat area below Gordon Lake dam. There are a few holes that take advantage of the elevation at the edge of the dam (8-10, 13), a couple that play over a large culvert (1, 14), hole 7 has an artificial island, and hole 6 has a small pond with a fountain just in front of the green and a barbed wire fence behind it; at 267' it's a great test of distance control for the amateur player. The last four holes play on the other side of the parking lot, adjacent to the lake which comes into play on hole 16 and with a bad enough shot on hole 15 too. This area definitely feels more like an afterthought.

The holes are mostly on the shorter side but some of the more open ones are a little bit longer, into the 300's and topping out at 423' slightly uphill on hole 17. The equipment is great. The concrete tees are nice, the baskets are in great condition, and the signage is great but will have to be updated now that there are 18 holes. I played the week the new holes went in and was lucky to have two young locals to follow right in the tricky area (they were about 10 & 7 and pull my disc from the edge of the pond on hole 6, shout out little homies!). A few holes are rerouted in addition to adding two new holes so the hole numbers on the signs are off by a different amount in various parts of the course.

The wind is probably a near-constant companion here. It rips pretty good coming off the lake so a lot of the holes are a bit trickier than they might look even though the course is pretty short. The area holds a lot of water, especially the first 4 holes. The two new holes (5, 8) as well as hole 4 have grass tees for the time being. There is also a dirt volleyball court in play on hole 17; probably not an issue nearly ever but the net is there as an obstacle.

Gordon Lake has its moments but it is one of the weaker 18's in the Wichita Falls area. It probably wouldn't make the cut of courses I'd come back to when I'm in the area. I'm sure the Iowa Falls players appreciate not having to drive into Wichita Falls and the WF players can get a change of pace every now and then. Best for experienced AM players with shorter arms and local beginners.


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Pine Nursery DGC Bend, OR

Pros:

Decent use of the minor elevation changes on the property.

Cons:

Almost zero shot shaping requirements on any of the holes. Lava rocks that will chew up your discs worse than almost any other terrain feature.

Other Thoughts:

This course is fine. It's decent enough given the property but I think it could be significantly improved with some changes. The most interesting aspects of most holes are can you put it close to the pin at x distance on a hyzer or whatever shape you prefer. That's a super boring course and yes this course is super boring. The property doesn't have terrain features for much more than this but I do think there is room for improvement. I'd rather see the course reworked to include a bunch of short holes where the pin or the tee is near the small trees that do exist on the course where you're forced into certain lines/shapes. There's a limit to this approach given that all the open space makes it too easy to just throw sometime over the top. However, there are enough trees that you could get creative with tee pads and pins to force some creative lines with shorter holes. You could probably squeeze in a 24 or maybe 27 hole layout if you took that approach.
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Isel Park Nelson, New Zealand

Pros:

Short 7 hole course. Played twice. Map at park shows reality, downloadable map is way off base. Short fairways. I birdied 3 times using MVP Glitch on whole course and I never birdied before.

Cons:

Just a short course. Good number of dog walkers even on a drizzly day.
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Parma DGC Parma, OH

Pros:

This is obviously a well-loved course that sees a good bit of play. I play plenty of raw courses and this is far from that. There were well worn walking paths from hole to hole. There are benches all over this course and not just your average boards on post, some of these benches were uniquely designed and memorable. The course was kept pretty well maintained. There are concrete tees on the course and they were nicely built. There are tee signs, though fairly rudimentary.

The course will challenge your accuracy and that makes it fun. Most everything is tight lines in the woods. There is a good variety of shots here as well, in terms of "directional". You'll need backhands and forehands. You'll need to throw with right and left in equal measure, as well as up and down hill. It does have a little bit of everything along the way. The "island hole" was a nice fun touch. In general, that was my impression of this course was fun shots that didn't require a terrible amount of challenge, but were not easy pars either.

The park itself was nice. As you drive in, there are plenty of other activities going on with sports fields, picnic pavilions, etc. The wooded section of the course uses a nice little chunk of woods that played along some walking trails and and athletic course. I was there on a rainy day and there were still dog walkers and couples out enjoying the park.

Cons:

This is a prime example of a 2000s era course. Discs were starting to get "bigger" and courses were expanding but we were still maxed out at 9 and 10 speeds. That means nothing here requires all that much distance. When I say that keep in mind I'm a complete noodle arm and even I think it's short. Because of the lack of distance, the course does start to feel a bit generic. I've played dozens of courses in my time and many of them in Eastern Ohio. Many came from this same era and they all feel a bit same-y. There are courses in my area just like it, it's a bunch of 300 foot shots in not all that dense woods. It's a fun course to play. If I'm local I'd be here all the time, but is it memorable? Is there anything here that makes it stand out? That's most of the reason for my ranking.

There are only one set of tees and I'm not sure they even have grass tees for anything so no Red or Blue tees here, etc. The signage really needs some work. The tee signs are simple and don't do much other than distance. The front 9 has good directional navigation but it disappears eventually. The course doubles back on itself repeatedly, so combine that with no signage and I walked the wrong way several times.

As many have mentioned, there is a good amount of litter here. That's probably a symptom of the use, but also surprised a bit given the overall condition of the park which was nice. There was glass in many places on the course.

They probably need to do some work on irrigation. Admittedly I was there on a fairly rainy day but there was standing water everywhere and more than ankle deep in many places, including tee areas.

Other Thoughts:

The course name on this site is a bit different than the UDisc app, which refers to it as Veterans Memorial Park.

Info says that there is a restroom. I couldn't find it. Not doubting the info, just couldn't find it.
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Eagles Crossing New Truxton, MO

Pros:

Treats disc golf at the same level of respect as a high-end ball golf course. It was an honor to have the opportunity to play here and well-worth whatever distance and time it took to get here. It's over an hour from St. Louis but once you hit the property you know you've made it to a special place for disc golf.

--Well-stocked pro shop, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff. The staff made us feel welcome on this special property.

--You can rent a cart! You can play without a cart, but to me it's worth the extra expense given the distance of this course. You'll be walking well over three miles. Just the walk from the 9th green to the 10th tee is over ¼ mile. For this MA70 player I might not have made it to the back nine without a cart.

--Beautiful place: Gorgeous property, manicured like a good ball golf course. Sculptures, fountains, stone walls and a fair amount of whimsey add to the ambiance of the natural beauty of the place.

--Amenities: Clubhouse with a well-stocked pro shop with everything disc golf from discs to clothes to snacks and drinks. Also, all you would need for a fishing side hustle. Running water with flush toilets in the clubhouse, clean port-o-potties on the course. Wi-Fi, even in the far-reaches of the course.

--Three sets of cement color-coded tee pads per hole. Even in the morning dampness they were fine to throw on, with room for huge run-ups and follow-throughs with a couple of minor exceptions. (See CONS). The Red tee pads were a touch smaller than the blue and white, I think, but that just might be my rec-player bias.

-Gateway Titan Pro 24 baskets catch great. Not sure that's everyone's choice for a Championship-level PDGA Gold course, but for my skill they were fine. Always well mounted, with 4 different possible positions. The Caddie Book that you get on sign-in has the current position for each hole written in. The greens were all fair and free from gimmicks, occasionally build-up on boulders or in the case of the "cake" 18th hole a series of layered circles. I did get an unfortunate roll-away on 15 B position when my birdie putt was a bit low, hit the rocks, and trickled into the pond but that was on me, not the course.

--A legit par 70. The Red course was a real challenge for this sub-800 rated MA70 player. I had a few birdie looks, but on many holes my "drop in bogey" felt like it was about as good as I could have done. I'm sure the other layouts will provide a fair challenge for stronger players as long as you pick the right layout for your skill set. Don't let your ego put you off the RED layout... most amateurs probably belong on this layout. If your group has a mix of skill levels, its no problem to have players tee from different pads, all layouts play along the same fairways nearly all the time.

--With lots of par four and par fives, there are risk-reward decisions all the time. This is far more interesting than playing an all-par-3 course where you are attacking the basket on every drive.

-Natural terrain is well utilized for golf. Excellent design takes advantage of ponds, elevation, trees, and the old train right-of-way. Miles of out-of-bound stakes make for some faux islands and tighten fairways (See comments in CONS)

--Signage is minimalist but functional. The "next tee" pointers under the baskets are helpful. Consult the caddie book and/or UDisc app and you'll get around no problem.

-The colorful caddie book was informative and makes a great souvenir.

-With rental cabins and a second high-quality course on the property this is an amazing destination.

Cons:

The biggest con for me was the miles of out-of-bounds stakes. The course was tough enough with the natural terrain of ponds, trees, and elevations. I "get" the need to put some teeth into the course to make it a challenge for 1020 rated pros, but for us mere mortals (who will be playing by far most of the rounds on this course) the OB could be crushing in the wind. Where there are safety issues near ponds and drop-offs, I'm OK with OB, but do we really need the faux "island" holes when there are already plenty of shots that force dealing with "real" water. Hole twelve comes to mind- a bail-out to the right would already "penalize" a lower rated player, but shouldn't I have that option?

On hole eight I actually had an "ace run" that buzzed the A-positioned basket, then sadly rolled OB. I know I was supposed to re-tee, but I played it as OB, took my bogie and moved on. Most times an errant shot is already penalized by forcing a scramble recovery shot, a "OB" penalty takes away that scramble/recover aspect of the game.

--High risk of losing discs. Many holes involve throwing near water. Especially when the wind is up (in this part of Missouri that's most of the time), even careful shots can end up at the bottom of a muddy pond. At least the on-site pro shop likely has something you can buy to replace it.

--Reservations needed. You can't always just "show up" and play. On slow days you can probably get a tee time on short notice, but when it's busy to be safe you might want to book at least a day in advance.

Other Thoughts:

This place is definitely a "FIVE STAR" rated disc golf destination. It's well-worth the effort to get here, and for you course baggers and bucket list players this makes a perfect paring with Harmony Bends in Columbia. The question I struggled with is does this course meet the criteria for 5 STARS "Best of the Best". It's close, but ultimately while I thought the experience was among the days of disc golfing I've ever had, on the technical side the golf didn't quite reach the "Maple Hill" level for me. The OB and the wind conspiring to give me a triple bogey on the finishing hole might have lost a ½ a star. On a different day, who knows.

--For a rec player who throws less than 250', I was tempted to throw A LOT of full distance drives but I found I was mostly successful with a fairway driver that I have confidence in my accuracy.
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David W. Barger DGC on Mossy Creek Jefferson City, TN

Pros:

On the east side of the Carson-Newman University's grounds, the David W. Barger DGC on Mossy Creek is a fabulous 18-hole course that combines scenic views, appropriate challenges and unique holes.

Tabbed as one of the "hidden beauties" on campus, the new course does a fantastic job utilizing Mossy Creek as well as the scattered trees, rolling hills and gorgeous lawns to provide picturesque holes. I have played 48 courses on college and university campuses to date, and this course immediately vaults to the top spot for scenery. With the exception of a walking path that borders a few holes, the designated area is nearly exclusive for disc golfers.

As the previous reviewer stated, there's plenty of design variety. The elevation is used well, and while the creek borders about half of the holes, there's never a hole where the design seems unfair or requires too risky of a throw.

There were several holes that felt a little unique, and as a course bagger, I cherish the opportunity to play a well-designed hole that is different that what I've experienced before. A couple of my favorite designs were Holes #11 and #14. Hole #11 is listed as the shortest hole on the course at 207 feet, yet it's moderately uphill and turns to the right. The trees on the right side are positioned well to prompt an accurate RHFH or turnover backhand. Throws that fade too early risk leaving the mesa-like area and tumbling down a hill. Hole #14 is a 261-foot challenge that offers an ideal line to the right, and drives must find the gap between a few trees and then secure a landing spot on the plateau around the basket as there are small drop-offs on multiple sides.

The teepads are excellent. The signage and basket banners sport the blue and orange colors and logo of the Carson-Newman Eagles. Nearly every section of the course is on grass, though there are a few rough and muddy patches over the last few holes.

The hole distances average about 280 feet and the course difficulty is ideal for recreational to intermediate disc golfers. The course is moderately hilly, which includes a bomber throw of nearly 400 feet downhill (Hole #8) and another shorter downhill toss on Hole #17. Only one hole is significantly uphill (Hole #7) and it's one of the shortest holes out there.

I noticed several little things during my round that contribute to the thumbs up I'm giving this course. For example, there's some private property that is fenced in between Holes #10 and #11. The designer wisely chose to bypass this land for course use and instead inserted a short walk to limit the possibility of irritating a property owner. Also, the basket placements are outstanding as the trees serve as obstacles en route to the basket but are rarely in the circle.

Cons:

One obvious shortcoming of the David W. Barger course is the lack of bridges. Building two bridges would contribute greatly to the course navigation and reduce the extra walking. The teepad for Hole #3 is near the creek's edge and offers one of the most gorgeous views on the course. However, after throwing over the creek, one must retrace their steps down the fairway for Hole #1 to cross the course's only bridge and walk several hundred more feet to the basket for Hole #3. More consequential is the pause after Hole #14. Without a bridge to cross the creek, which is akin to a small river at that spot, one must walk for a few minutes to reach the solitary bridge and then hike a significant hill up to Hole #15. If I played this course frequently, I'd be tempted to start my rounds on Hole #15, which would limit the interruption during the round and moves the long walk to the end of the round.

The creek was flowing quite rapidly during my visit and discs that find the water are extremely unlikely to be found, let alone retrieved. The creek and the metal barrier that protects the water's edge from erosion reminded me of the log flume rides at an amusement park.

Due to the course's proximity to the creek, it's possible that several holes, especially Holes #3 through #6, will be susceptible to standing water or complete flooding after rainstorms.

Other Thoughts:

The new layout is a remarkable improvement upon the original course at Carson-Newman, which was in the center of campus and only nine holes. When I played that version in 2019, the in-ground markers indicating tee areas were challenging to find, navigation was extremely difficult, and several fairways were dangerously close to buildings, sidewalks, roads, cars, students, and well … you get the picture.

As I reviewed the list of college and university courses I have played, the index is full of nondescript nine-holers with ordinary design at best. Too often, those courses are shoehorned into areas that aren't ideal for disc golf and don't merit revisiting. However, by choosing a spot away from campus traffic with attractive land features and pairing it with smart, enjoyable design, the David W. Barger course has raised the bar for what a university course can be.
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