Saw the Lakes... but Where are the Deer?
11 Helpful / 0 Not
- three concrete tees per hole
- high quality Mach X baskets
- multiuse park, but disc golf is generally isolated from other activities
- well maintained park with beautiful natural setting
- incorporates ponds as water hazards
- extreme elevation changes
- next tee signs to help with navigation where they still exist
- full color tee signs with maps
- some basic amenities like ample parking, both outhouse style bathrooms and port o potties, garbage buckets and benches at holes
- good technical challenge, with more forgiving fairways than Moraine State Park
- many details considered, including building platforms for tees on slopes in woods so they are level
- dual pin placement on most holes
- some more open holes mixed in for variety, but mostly wooded
- some red tees are no longer where they are shown on the maps
- several next tee signs are missing and could be replaced
- navigation can be confusing, you will need a map
- no indicators for which pin is populated
- holes 9 to 12 get a bit repetitive out in the open
- hole 18 has the only notable safety hazard, playing close to the road and requiring a bit of a walk back to the parking lot
Moraine State Park and Deer Lakes in the same day is both exhausting and overwhelmingly rewarding. I have trouble deciding which of these courses takes the crown for most impressive elevation change. Both are impressive, and Deer Lakes checks my top two indicators of a fantastic course: great wooded technical challenge, and extreme elevation change. Similar to Moraine, this isn't an exceptionally long course, but all of the up and down will make you feel like it is much longer than its relatively average length.
Triple concrete tees give various options for all skill levels. I was pretty worn out by the time I got here and opted to play the short reds, but I recommend any experienced players do not do this if they have something left in the tank. The whites add some distance and challenge, and the blues even more so. I really appreciated the tees being level even on the extreme slopes of this course.
My favorite holes here were probably 9, 14, and 15. Hole 9 is a long bomb out in the open, but follows up with a tight shot in the woods with a steep drop off after the basket, and requires finesse to place safely. Hole 14 throws over a massive ravine, and hole 15 throws over a small lake from high elevation with some significant risk due to the water hazard. There is lots of technical challenge here and you will be forced to play a lot of different shots. Some holes are shorter, but most require some power as well.
Hole 18 seems like it could have been pushed into the woods a bit more to stay away from the road, but as it is a park road traffic is minimal. That and the walk back to the parking lot were minor cons. I think the only other major con is that navigation was a bit confusing with several next tee signs missing. This is a fantastic course, but a few of these minor cons hold it back from being a 5. With the navigation aids improved, this may be pushing past a 4.5 into 4.75 territory for me.
Very few details were overlooked here, and I think the course may be a bit more forgiving than Moraine, though still very challenging - or maybe it's just that I played the mid tees at Moraine and the shorts at Deer Lakes! I did not see any deer, unfortunately, but they are certainly around in this area. Road noise is minimal here, and you can be alone with disc golf and nature which is what I'm going for. The park did have some crowds, but it still was a pretty average length round for me, near the 1:30 mark (solo).
Moraine State Park and Deer Lakes were my two "must play" Pennsylvania courses when I passed through Pittsburgh. Though exhausting, they did not disappoint, and I would do everything possible to play both if you are in the area. Having disc golf of this caliber at 2 different courses so close together is a real gift.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful.
15 Helpful / 0 Not
Dear Deer Lakes Lacks Nothing
Pros: + The course takes the player on a nice walking tour of a quiet and gigantic park through adventurous wooded hills and peaceful flat fields.
+ There are two practice pins to get the player accustomed to the landscape here. One is in the middle of a open hillside. The other is among a flat grove of pine trees with roots everywhere.
+ There are three tee pads per every hole each with its own tee sign denoting distance, par, etc. All tee pads that I saw are decently wide and long contiguous concrete rectangles.
+ Plenty of hills all throughout the tunnels, fields and hybrid holes.
+ There is just one basket per hole but multiple pin positions.
+ Most holes end with a bright and noticeable 'next hole' sign.
+ Any OB on the course is clearly and unmistakably marked both on the tee signs and on the course itself.
+ There are plenty of benches and trash cans. Please do not litter!
+ The front nine ends right next to the parking lot in case players need a short break or to claim something from their car.
Cons: - Some of the 'next hole' signs are missing like after holes 4, 10, 11 and 16. It's possible that I wasn't looking in the right spot. That's one problem with multiple possible pin locations. There's never a guarantee that a player is looking in the right spot at a certain pin location.
- There is no way to know from the tee sign which position the basket is in.
- A few of the blue tee pads are damaged. I didn't play close attention to the whites or reds.
- Within some wooded holes, the fairways and rough feel interchangeable.
Other Thoughts: My favorite hole to play and look at was hole 15. I played my one and only session here from the blue tees, and from up there, 15 is an intimidating downhill glide with a big murky pond at the bottom of it. I wondered how many discs silently slept within its depths.
My least favorite hole was either 13 or 14 because I can't mentally pull them apart. They were the most boring to my mind.
As a whole, Deer Lakes is a lovely place to be- almost perfect from start to finish. The issues I mentioned within the Cons section are really more along the lines of minor notes that I briefly took as I played. Nothing flung me out of the experience. I never got hopelessly lost. There were a few times when I had to scout ahead to know which direction to throw as a result of there being no 'current basket' system, but that's about as bad as it got. And maybe I'll again mention that some of the holes are missing 'next hole' signage. I've always said that they are key to the smooth flow of a course. It's not an insult to the player's intelligence. It's a sign of consistency and dedication.
But back to the good stuff!
This is one of the few courses I've played where pretty much any and all levels of difficulty are on offer. I love how the par is identical for all three layouts. That lets players know right off the bat which experience is easiest or toughest to play, so even freshmen golfers can feel as though they are earning their scores here.
The landscape that all layouts play through are challenging without being ridiculous. There are slanted hills in the middle of some generously-spaced tunnel shots. There are some wide open fields that follow after punching through a forest.
However, there is one bewildering downhill hole early on where it looks as though you're meant to play pachinko with your disc to get to the basket behind a wall of trees. I couldn't help but laugh at how impenetrable it looked, but it was so much fun to try that I couldn't resist taking multiple shots off the tee. You'll know it when you see it!
What I'm trying to say is that there is a grand assortment of variety here.
So, in closing, Deer Lakes disc golf deserves a visit. It deserves many visits. It deserves many visits very often from all disc golfers. I truly envy you if you play here regularly because of its balance of open and wooded holes, the elevation changes up and downhill, that one pond and the painstaking attention to course maintenance all within a sprawling park. Emphatically recommended!
Oh, and the number of deer I saw during my session at Deer Lakes? Two.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 3 Not
Wear Your Mudders...
Pros: Intra-hole Variety: In typical Pittsburgh fashion, every hole has three pin locations and three tee locations (all good sized and concrete). This gives locals plenty of different layouts to keep the course fresh, while giving everyone the opportunity to play from a tee that suits their skill level.
Hole Design: great mix of throws. Long, short, wooded, open, up, down... This course makes you use your entire bag.
I could go on, but I would just be echoing what everyone else says. The course design is fantastic, the navigation is relatively easy, the tees and signs are all in good shape, etc. It has the look and feel of a top tier course.
Cons: Mud: When it rains a lot, the course is practically unplayable. It doesn't seem to drain very well, and there isn't enough erosion control or gravel in place to keep the traveled areas of the course under control. Every time I have played this course, it has been dry for a day or two yet the entire course is muddy. No hole seems to be safe from the mud; it is EVERYWHERE.
Difficulty: This course is not beginner-friendly, even from the close tees. On top of that, some of the holes do not have clean lines with a smattering of trees everywhere (the long hole in the back 9 stands out to me in this regard). Advanced players are probably OK with this, but it can be frustrating for intermediate players and really discouraging for beginners.
Other Thoughts: I really want to love this course. It is challenging and the inter-hole variety is top-notch. However, I feel like I need a new pair of shoes every time I play it, which makes me not want to come back (I'm an out-of-towner, so I don't have the luxury of waiting for it to dry). If they could put in some measures to control the mud, it would be the clear-cut best course in the area and maybe a 5 star course (probably a 4.75 if that were an option). Until then, I guess I'll have to keep wearing my waterproof boots to play here.
10 of 13 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 11 Not
Best course in the steel city
Pros: 3 different tee pads for all skill levels with 3 pin locations on each hole. Very challenging wooded course that has open holes that use the elevation perfectly. Amazing teepads and some of the best baskets in the game.
Cons: It can get muddy in the wet seasons
2 of 13 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 9 Not
One of the best!
Pros: amazing layout, well-groomed, and good facilities. all three tees are challenging, so don't skip the short tees because of your ego!
Cons: no food nearby! a bit out of the way, but that makes it a great experience being out in the woods and secluded.
Other Thoughts: do not miss this course!
2 of 11 people found this review helpful.
23 Helpful / 0 Not
Deer Lakes was better than expected
Pros: Great tee signs. Great tees. Multiple basket positions. Beautiful forest with a well designed and maintained course.
I played The Hunt at Deer Lakes so that gave me 3 rounds here (one for practice and two in the tournament). What a beautiful and spacious course with everything you'd want to challenge you. It was better than I expected, even for a 4.62 rating.
There are three tees (blue is long, white is middle, and red is short). The course designers did an excellent job keeping scores even by putting the red tee in a place where an old guy like me can compete against the younger big arms from the blue tees. Of course the PDGA round ratings tell the real story, since my rounds were under 800 and the same score over par in the tournament from the blue tees are rated over 900.
Hole 15 is one of many signature holes, but my favorite. The blue tees are throwing from the elevated position down through a corridor of trees and then over a pond. The basket is just on the edge of the water on the other side so it is common to get over the water but still end up in it since the ground there slopes back to the water. The white tees are halfway down. The red tee is level with the basket for a short touch shot less than 200 feet over the water. If blue or white throwers end up in the water their drop zone is the red tee. I played the red tees since I'm over 60. My often repeated comment was heard again here on 15, "I'm loving these red tees." I birdied 15 in both rounds of the tournament.
Hole 2 is not bad for red since it's a short uphill that works well for my RHFH. From blue tees this is a tough shot. But even from red plenty can go wrong since there's trees on both sides and slopes everywhere.
Hole 3 is a long par 5 even from the red tees. I had seen Paul MacBeth's eagle in the 2015 world's YouTube video, but in person it's intimidating. I didn't feel too bad with a double bogey here since even the pros can't keep it in this narrow fairway and are scrambling from the woods on either side or the ditch/river on the right.
Hole 4 is the easiest on the course for red. There's no obstacles, just a straight shot at about 225 feet. If you go long or to the right, however, you're in a thick rough. So there is some risk for the reward.
Hole 5 will punish you if you can't get down the hill and through the trees. You're throwing into a dell, which is full of trees. It's pretty much poke and hope.
Hole 6 is designed for my RHFH with the basket up the hill to the right with many trees to contend with along the way, but be careful since there's OB on the right as you turn the dogleg.
Hole 7 is another one that took away my RHFH line, unless you can thread the needle between a few trees. This again forced me out of my comfort zone, which is a sign of a good course.
Hole 8 is a short par 3 on an elevated basket, but it's behind a tree from the red tee. Although I hit the tree I wouldn't trade it for the obstacles the white and blue tee throwers had to deal with.
Hole 9 challenged my RHFH since the cluster of trees in front of the red tee took that line away before opening up to a grassy field. This par 5 then takes you into the woods and down the hill to the left. It's real easy here to end up down this hill (I did) and then you're scrambling back up.
I could keep going hole by hole through the back 9, but I hope it's clear that Deer Lakes is the "Best of the Best." Hole 16 was my nemesis. It's a brutal uphill that doglegs to the left to the top of the hill. For some reason my discs consistently found the woods on both sides and I was constantly scrambling. They interviewed Paul after his amazing round here and he said the secret is to hit the fairways and make your putts. It is one thing to know that and another to execute it.
Cons: It's muddy in many places. I buried my shoes in mud more than once. It had rained a lot beforehand, but from what a local told me, it is always muddy at Deer Lakes. Bring boots or be careful in anything else, but be warned. I am not discounting for mud since I don't think it detracts from the top level experience.
Weather is unpredictable and can be very extreme. Wind, rain, and thunderstorms just happen in this part of the country and I can't discount the score for that. It's an education to learn how to throw the right discs in extreme weather conditions. On the last hole of the tournament I was up by one stroke (there were only two of us in the over 60 category). Heavy wind and rain beat on us and I didn't know how to deal with it so my Katana went OB twice and I ended with a triple bogey and lost by one stroke in my first official PDGA event. I think this adds a skill dimension to the course and doesn't lessen the course's grandeur.
I kept asking myself, "What can I say is wrong with Deer Lakes?" I could not come up with a valid CON and I could not confirm or agree with the others I read about. Maybe one negative thing for some is that it's a little remote so that you have to leave civilization to get to it. I didn't mind that.
Other Thoughts: The Pittsburgh Flyers Disc Golf Club may be one of the tops in the world. They do a great job maintaining the fairways. I even thought the roughs were in pretty good shape. Moraine and Deer Lakes are both under their care and are top 20 courses. I think they should both be in the top 10, with Deer Lakes being a little higher than Moraine on my list. I've given a "best of the best" score of 5.0 to Selah Lakeside, Milo McGiver, and Idylwild. Deer Lakes is right there with those other top courses. Harmon Hills, however, in Falls Branch, TN is currently ranked #7 with a 4.76 on DGCR and Deer Lakes, currently 4.62, is a WAY BETTER experience. I heard from some locals at Harmon Hills that the owner/creator passed away and the new owner wants to limit changes and maintenance to keep it like it was in it's classic historical state. I played Seneca Creek in Maryland last weekend and it had the same nostalgic feel, and lack of maintenance, that Harmon Hills had. Anyway, those are two separate reviews I should write, but I don't like to write critical reviews as much as encouraging ones, like this one for Deer Lakes and another for Moraine if I get around to it. The Pittsburgh Flying Disc people work hard to keep these courses in top shape and it really shows. Good job guys and girls!
23 of 23 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 0 Not
Awesome People, Awesome Park, and an Awesome Disc Golf Course
Pros: + Deer Lakes is a stunning park in Tarentum, PA just north of Pittsburgh and southeast of Youngstown. The 1,180 acres contain just about everything you can pack into a park.
+ Top notch amenities are present from the time you pull in to the time you walk away. Large parking lot with restrooms and two practice baskets. On the course itself, there are 3 sets of concrete tees per hole, each with a beautifully designed tee sign. Baskets are high visibility Mach X's, the best on the market. Benches are on several holes if you need a break from the round.
+ Fun factor is through the roof! There's many signature holes at Deer Lakes, with #15 being the most memorable. There's holes in dense woods, open fields, and anything in between. Good mix in distances and hole shaping, with water coming into play on a few holes.
+ Red and white tees are perfect for intermediate players, while the blues provide a pro tour caliber round. Tees rarely sit right on top of each other, and each provides a unique approach to the hole.
+ Makes two nine hole loops back to the parking lot in case you need to swing by your car, or you only have time for 9 holes.
+ The locals and visitors I met were really incredible people. I might have spent more time talking to locals than I did playing lol. Friendly, helpful, and fun to talk to.
+ The entire course was maintained to perfection. I swear to you I didn't see a single piece of trash on the course.
Cons: - For a top course in the world, I was expecting more navigational signs. I got spun around a few times, but luckily a nice elderly couple and their German Shepard showed me where #17 was.
- Flow can be kind of awkward at times, with a few long walks between holes.
Other Thoughts: Deer Lakes really is a best-of-the-best course. I'd say it's deserving of a 4.75, but I'll round up because I'm feeling generous. It has almost everything you need for a world class course! Still not on the same level as Moraine in my opinion, but it's easily the 2nd best course I've played to date!
14 of 14 people found this review helpful.
16 Helpful / 0 Not
A thing of beauty
Pros: - Easy to get to. The drive to the course is nice and scenic and super simple to find. Once in the park there are signs pointing you to the disc golf course.
- This is set in a beautiful giant park. The disc golf course is massive and the park is even bigger. You are playing up and down valleys throughout the whole course. Its a lot of fun up and down the valleys.
- Pretty simple flow to the course. There was never really a time where we got lost but some holes have a few paths to take to get to the next hole. But it flows pretty seamlessly.
- Large concrete teepads. These teepads have some nice raked concrete that grip extremely nice. I could see these tearing up a lot of shoes but thats more then worth it to me to have safe footing.
- There are also 3 concrete teepads on every hole which is awesome.
- Clear, easy to read tee signs. These are some of the best teesigns I have seen out there. They point out everything you need to know about the hole.
- Orange Mach-X baskets are a great sight to see. Finding the baskets might only take a while because they are out of view because of long hole lengths but once its in view its real easy to point out.
- Basket placements were on point. It seemed like a lot of the holes were in the "C" location but they were all in a great position.
- It also looked like every hole had 3 pin positions.
- Every single fairway was fair. There are a ton of trees out there but every hole had at least one fair lane to take and usually a few out of the ordinary routes. Tons of fun to throw here.
- The course looped back to the parking lot after 9 holes. I love when a course is designed in this way. You can restock up on supplies or just play nine hole. This design is superior to most others.
- You are going to need a full bag of shots and tricks here to be able to shoot well. I throw a lot of destroyer shots here but I needed to have all the other shots in my game to get off of holes cleanly. It definitely favors the longer thrower but putting it in the fairway is about all you need.
- This course has everything you could ask for in a course. There are short technical shots and long wide open bombs. Theres OB and hills and water. This course has it all. Just tons of fun to play.
Cons: - The course could use some next tee signs but they are not needed. You can figure it out easy enough but they would be a nice added touch.
- It also seemed like a lot of the pin placements were very close to each other. I cant speak too much to this because I only played the course once but it seems like there might be a lot of positions that are pretty much the same shot.
Other Thoughts: I would have rated this a 4.75 if that was an option but this course is closer to a 5 then it is to a 4.5. The only reason I wouldnt rate this a 5 is simply because you could have a clubhouse, or more bathrooms or next teesigns but they are all things that are not needed to make this course great. It stands on its own as being one of the best courses I have ever played and I am just nitpicking things that could be improved but if nothing is done then it doesnt take anything away from the course.
I 100% want to come back to this course. I onyl got to play the Blue pads but I want to go back and play the Reds and Whites. Overall this course is easily in my top 10 and should be a course on a lot of peoples hit list.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 1 Not
Amazing! Lived up to the hype
Pros: Been wanting to play this course for a couple months now since I really just got back into the game. When I first started playing, my home course was Cal U's course in California, PA. It is a brutal course but great for someone learning to really throw accurately. Since moving back to the Irwin, PA area, my new home course is Schenley.
Deer Lakes managed to mix everything I loved about both Cal U's course and Schenley's course and wrap it up all into one, WITH A BOW ON TOP!
This course is great. The signs are very well done. Some courses have low detail signs, if any signs at all. Honestly, that is the first thing I look for in a course. I hate having to play something blind.
There is a great deal of parking. AND in the parking lot attached to the big disc golf sign, there is a scorecard with a layout of the course. LOVE seeing that.
I had watched a few videos of the pros playing this course from last years Master's and the videos just don't do the course justice. You really need to play it to get a feel for it.
I will be honest, I played the white tee's and some of the holes gave me some trouble, but that is in no way a bad thing. Getting into trouble on the course can only help to make you a better disc golfer.
This course has a great mix of open field shots with some very well wooded shots. Plenty of holes where you can really let it rip and not get into too much trouble.
The par 5 holes are true par 5's. I never like seeing a hole labeled "Par 5" that can be easily made in 3 shots. Don't think they exist? Go check out Monroeville's Hole 8 and play in from the "Pro" tee. Made it within the 5 feet of the basket on my first throw and I definitely do not throw my discs as far as most.
I really enjoyed the water hold. It definitely played with my head. I ended up slicing it so hard that it basically landed on the path to walk around the lake.
Another great feature are the practice baskets. It has not only one, but two. First time I have seen two baskets for practice. Really goes to show that it is a course really made for people who love the sport.
I can't wait to play there again! That being said, no matter where you are coming from, it is pretty easy to get to. Just a few roads once you get off of the turnpike.
Cons: I went on a day where it rained early in the morning. It was definitely wet and a little muddy. Never realized how necessary a towel can be until my disc slipped out of my hand on a throw. My only thought, if you think it will be muddy, it probably will be so where shoes you might not care about or some boots. Especially if you think some of your shots could go off course. The fairways are generally fine, but once you get into the rough areas it can be a mess.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 0 Not
Everything a course should be
Pros: -Three, long, wide, smooth concrete tees on every hole
-Mach X's, three pin positions per hole
-Not just benches, but picnic tables on most holes
-Amazing use of Pittsburgh area topography; so much elevation change everywhere
-Clean and well maintained, all grass is cut nice and short, trash was nowhere to be seen when I played
-Beautiful scenery - gorgeous, towering, shady trees, steep and wide valleys, rolling green hills, treacherous slopes, and lakes and ponds grace this course
-Highly detailed, very helpful and informative teesigns on every hole; you won't need to walk any fairways here before throwing
-PERFECT balance of wooded, open, up, down, left, right, long, short, par 3, par 4, par 5, and water shots (DISCLAIMER - in my opinion only one, very well executed, treacherous water hole is needed on a course for me - and Deer Lakes does it perfectly)
-Signature holes - almost every hole here seems to be a signature hole, so I'll only list my favorites
- hole 2 - ace run across and incredibly steep ravine, with putting danger on the backside and left of the pin
- hole 5 - ace run downhill at a steep angle through thick woods
- hole 7 - top of the world - not the tallest drop off ever, but still an awesome drop in elevation off the tee, where you can just rip a fairway toward the pin inside the edge of the woods
- hole 9 - long par 5 where you can rip a long gentle hyzer off the tee, and then take another powerful fairway/mid shot towards the edge of the woods, and approach the pin which sits within 10 feet of a looooonnnnnnng dropoff slope
- hole 15 - another steep downhill, dead straight with trees left, right, and above, to a pin on the other side of a large pond
Cons: -There was one hole where I had trouble finding where the next tee was, I believe it was going from 12-13. And I don't recall seeing many, if any next tee signs - I could be wrong though. Regardless, Navigation isn't difficult to get down as whole though.
- A walking path CAN come into play with an errant shot
Other Thoughts: This is my first 5 disc rated course ever, and I don't think I wasted my first perfect rating. When I think of the perfect mix of different holes, Deer Lakes just nails em' all. You will throw every shot in your bag, and every type of hole that exists in disc golf - wooded tunnels, wide open bombers, water hazards, top of the world, flicks, hyzerbombs, rollers (if that's your thing) dead straight lazers, tomahawks (if you find yourself in trouble), and putter drives. Pin placement is immaculate, making you think about every putt - rollaways and sailing down hills behind the baskets can happen on nearly any hole here. You have the top of the line equipment in the Mach X's (which are orange and super visible), and the giant concrete tees. Every skill level can play here, as the blue tees are just night and day compared to the reds, with a perfect balance in the whites, and if that doesn't provide enough variety, there are 3 pin placements per hole to make sure you never get bored. I'm sure I never would if this was my home course. Well, it is sure ironic that it could've been, as my favorite course to date is in my old hometown of Pittsburgh. But nostalgia is NOT the reason for the 5/5 - this course IS the best of the best.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful.
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