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Traverse City, MI

Hickory Hills DGC

45(based on 2 reviews)
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Jashwa
Gold level trusted reviewer
Experience: 20.1 years 174 played 88 reviews
4.00 star(s)

3.9

Reviewed: Updated: Played on:Jun 8, 2024 Played the course:once

Pros:

*Scenery - This course is so beautiful! It's situated in a forest with significant elevation changes throughout, producing amazing views of the surrounding area. There is a cool "top of the world" shot at the end of the course that I would've liked to empty my bag on (see caveat in cons).

*Variety - The course has two sets of baskets on most holes. I played the white tees during my visit. The white tees featured some long bombs, tricky finesse shots, and just about everything in between. If I'm seeking even more variety during my next visit I will play the blue pins. Most of the tee shots from both are wooded with some sort of elevation change.

*Challenge - The whites were fairly straightforward, but not without their share of challenging holes. The blues are VERY challenging.

Cons:

*Navigation is rough throughout the entire course, including some signage that seems to direct players in the completely wrong direction. I suggest having a course map with you ready to go and consulting that instead of the course signage.

*Unfortunately, the quality of the course's signature "top of the world" shot is limited due to extremely tall grass throughout the fairway of the hole. With the extreme elevation change I understand why mowing would be difficult on this fairway, but it still makes it tough to fully enjoy the course's most beautiful hole.

Other Thoughts:

This course is worth traveling well out of your way for. The hike alone is so scenic that you could just walk the fairways and enjoy the place. The fact that there is also an awesome disc golf course onsite is icing on the cake!
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22 0
DFrah
Gold level trusted reviewer
Premium Member
Experience: 6.1 years 249 played 243 reviews
4.00 star(s)

Hickory Hills is BACK!

Reviewed: Played on:Jun 11, 2023 Played the course:2-4 times

Pros:

Hickory Hills is just outside of Traverse City, MI. It is an active ski area in the winter (and the disc golf course is not open then), but for the rest of the year the area is pretty much DG-exclusive.

My understanding is that this is the third iteration of Hickory Hills disc golf. The first version (pre 2019 or so) was a 24-hole icon that also happened to be the first "real" disc golf course that I ever played. The second version (c. 2019-2021) was an attempt at turning the 24 holes into completely separate "South" and "North" 18-hole courses. I don't think the "North" course was ever even completed.

Hickory Hills V3 is a single 18-hole course, but with two distinct layouts. The medium difficulty White layout and championship level Blue layout have 13 shared holes, plus five unique ones. On the shared holes, there is a single tee location but two basket locations.

The variety of holes here is very strong. There are left turns and right turns and straight shots. There are wide open, semi-open, and tightly wooded (but fair) fairways. Elevation changes affect play on almost every hole, and they range from mild to extreme playing both uphill and downhill. Even some of the "flat" holes have elevation changes just off the fairway. There are a ton of baskets on steep slopes where a missed risky putt could cost you 3+ strokes. There is a nice mix of hole distances as well, regardless of layout.

I'm happy to report that the designers kept many of the best holes from the original 24-hole layout. Some of my favorites now are:
- Hole 12 (White) / Hole 11 (Blue) has a fairway shaped kind of like a question mark. You tee off from the top of a steep ridge. The White basket is about 350' away to the right and down the ridge, up a second ridge, and just over the top. I believe this portion is one of the holes from the old layout. The Blue layout extends this fairway another 150', curling back to the left and continuing down the ridge.
- Hole 16 (White) was always one of my favorites on the old layout. It plays only 180' in a tightly wooded area on top of the ski hill. The actual fairway is flattish, but the terrain slopes away steeply on both sides. The fairway arcs sharply to the right, and (new to this version of the course) justttt enough trees have been cut down on the right side of the fairway to tempt you to try to thread the needle across the gap. I tried this and missed the gap I intended, but was lucky and avoided a huge rollaway.
- Hole 17 (White) / Hole 16 (Blue) is the one first-time visitors will likely remember best. It's a top-of-the-world type hole playing down the ski hill. From the tee you can see downtown Traverse City a couple miles away. The fairway is pretty wide, but not so wide that you don't have to think about the thick woods on either side. The White basket is 620' away, which is the basket location from the old layout. The Blue layout does something that I always thought would be wild and fun when I was noob hyzering here 10-15 years ago. It continues past the White basket to the left where there is an even steeper, narrower section of the hill. It measures another 400' down this section, making this an 1000' hole - but you might be able to throw a putter and make it that last 400'.

The way that some holes are shared and some aren't between the two layouts could be really confusing, but fortunately:
- The baskets are color coded (blue and white banded DISCatchers in great shape).
- The tee signs are color coded as well. They clearly indicate the hole number, distance, and par for each layout.
- Small color coded arrows are nailed to trees on most, if not all, holes. There are also larger signs in most places where there is a longer/less clear path between holes, and tape/clips in the rungs of some Blue layout baskets. There are still a couple spots that could use a couple more arrows, but overall both layouts now flow and navigate acceptably well (much better than what I experienced on the V2 "South" course in 2021).

The tee pads are concrete. Again, there is a single pad per hole. There are also benches at many tees.

There are two practice baskets next to the parking lot. The lodge building was not open on the Sunday I visited, but there was an unlocked flush toilet around the side of the adjacent "ski patrol" building.

Cons:

The multiple layouts are done quite well from a challenge perspective, and I don't think this configuration will cause any safety issues. That said, this is a popular course and I can definitely see pace-of-play issues if different groups are trying to play different layouts when the course is busy. This is because the 13 "shared" holes are not all at the beginning or end of the round but rather mixed in throughout. For example, the Blue layout starts out with two unique holes and the White layout starts with one unique hole, but then the layouts converge for holes 3-5 (Blue)/2-4 (White). Later, hole 7 is shared between the two layouts but then hole 8 is unique for the White layout - only for hole 9 (White) to be shared with hole 8 (Blue). I can see it getting very frustrating if you are in a faster group that gets stuck behind the same slower group multiple times over the course of a round.

There was a trailer right next to the left side of hole 1 (Blue)'s fairway when I visited. Hopefully this is just temporary, as it was definitely in play off the tee.

There are a few places where the grades are so steep that stairs would be a nice safety improvement.

The beginning and end of the course could be signed better.
- To find the beginning of the course, walk up the hill behind the practice baskets and turn left into the woods.
- At the end of the course, there is a bit of a walk back to the parking lot and at the end of it you may be tempted to go straight down the steep hill towards the lodge maintenance building. DON'T! Instead, continue on the path which will curl around down a much gentler grade and get you to the same spot.

Even though many tee areas had benches, I was disappointed that there was not one installed at the top-of-the-world hole.

Surprisingly, I did not see a kiosk/course map anywhere.

There were not any trash cans when I visited. Some signage at the start of the course indicates that they are only supposed to be located in a couple of areas at the bottom of the hill. I did not even see these, unfortunately. There was quite a bit of trash on the course when I visited, but I blame mostly inconsiderate players for this. Pack out what you pack in people!

Other Thoughts:

If it's not obvious by now, this course is a major hike. Not a good choice if you or anyone in your party is out of shape. You'll basically be hiking up and down a large ski hill twice during your round, regardless of layout.

In general, the old 24-hole layout will always hold a special place in my heart but "they" have done a good job retaining the best parts of that, while reconfiguring the course into this more socially acceptable 18-hole version. I would recommend starting with the White layout to all players other than maybe the most advanced ones. When playing the White layout you won't miss any of the sights, there are more holes from the old classic layout, and there is still plenty of challenge to satisfy most players. But the Blue layout is great if you are looking to kick your Hickory experience up another notch. Or you could bring a snack and lots of water, make a day of it, and play both as I did. :)

I have played a handful of ski hill courses now and this one is pretty firmly the best I have experienced in that category. It's worth a lengthy drive to play for sure. I considered a 4.5 rating, and it is 100% possible in the future if I return to find that some of the non-layout related Cons are ironed out. If you are anywhere near the area, Hickory Hills should definitely be on your itinerary!
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