Iron Hill: Magnificent test of mettle
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: If you inquired about the best disc golf course in Maryland, you could forgive someone for jokingly responding "Iron Hill." Just a couple miles across the Delaware border is a disc golf course that offers tremendous design, worthy challenges and excellent multi-teepad, multi-basket layouts.
The smorgasbord of teepad and basket choices - from the short red layout to the mammoth gold layout - means that every disc golfer will find a reasonable challenge at Iron Hill. In fact, the gold layout includes 11 holes that are 600 feet or longer. Also, the baskets - the "silver" Chainstars and "gold" Discatchers - are usually in significantly different areas, offering a diversity of targets and obstacles instead of just simply a longer hole.
While a map might be helpful in navigating in between holes, the "traversability" is excellent. Even off the fairway, the number of terribly sticky spots with briars and brush are few. Enough trees have been removed to ensure that most of the fairways are fair and even the areas off the fairway are bearable and allow for recovery. In fact, several gentlemen were in the process of removing a couple of unnecessary trees when I played. I appreciate that the course is regularly maintained.
The signs are detailed and nicely designed, though the signs were only at the long teepads.
The silver basket on Hole #14 is in a tree. But the basket is positioned perfectly and doesn't feel gimmicky.
Cons: With most of the course situated in the woods, the course does feel slightly redundant by the end. A lot of the holes are fairly straight, though several holes offer changes in elevation.
The short teepads aren't perfect - some of them are little more than dirt and stones. But despite the condition, I didn't have any issues with them.
Other Thoughts: I played the white tees - short teepad to long basket - but I thought that the par of 72 was a little on the generous side. (Even though I still finished over par.) All four holes that were par-5 or par-6 seemed one throw too high. A par of 68 for the white tees seems about right.
If you like wooded courses with big trees but reasonable fairways, Iron Hill is an excellent selection. I walked around the course with a huge grin on my face while enjoying the challenge and ambiance. As nice as the DGCR photos are, the course is even better than the images show. And if you're seeking to snag a course in "The First State," the easy-to-reach and peaceful Iron Hill is definitely the best choice.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Tremendous Disc Golf Experience
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: 18 hole primarily wooded (2 open field holes) championship level course in a nice town park. Two practice baskets, an informational kiosk and a porta pottie are all by the ample parking area near hole 1. There are three tee pads and two baskets- a gold and a silver- at each hole, providing players of all levels with plenty of options. The gold layout is a par 72, 10,000 foot monster which will challenge you in ways most are not used to at a typical course. There are benches at many holes and attractive colored signs by each tee pad give you comprehensive information for each hole. Despite the course length, navigation is relatively easy. The design and basket placements reflect great thought and effort, and elevation is incorporated nicely into the layout. Several standout holes- hole 12 is a long straight shot then dog leg left, 13 is a really fun downhill shot with a silver basket wedged between two trees above rocks- and hole 17 is a 900 foot par 5 with a gold basket perched above a beautifully constructed rock wall and stairway.
Cons: The silver baskets could use flags extending from the top, as many are hard to see given the course's length. Although their absence doesn't detract from the golf, more benches, bag poles and navigational arrows would be of great help. Though nice, I found some of the signs to be a bit confusing with a little TOO much information- both silver and gold baskets are shown in "red", and a few of the distances were questionable.
Other Thoughts: It's hard to say much that hasn't already been said about Iron Hill on this site. Though there is the absence of water and picturesque views here, I feel this course is on par with Warwick and Nockamixon as being the best of the best on the east coast in terms of challenge and overall disc golf experience. This is no recreational course. It is a long, grueling venue where all your shots are needed, you'll work for everything you get and be plenty tired at the end of your round(s). Though "gold" is the pinnacle layout, don't think for a second that "silver" is a picnic. Run-ups are difficult, given the number of rocks on most fairways, making driving accuracy that much more important. While there are plenty of trees to hit, the course plays very fairly.
Some have said- with some justification- that part of the course feels repetitive: throw a long, straight drive off the tee to clear guardian trees on either side. But the fairness of the course and the abundance of variety elsewhere don't make this a negative for me.
Any player seeking a serious challenge will more than find one here. A super experience.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
True Championship Course
15 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Iron Hill is a true championship caliber course. This 18 hole course plays through the Delaware woods and includes two sets of targets and at least two sets of tees on all holes. Tight wooded course requires good skills and good decision making to score well. I played this course at part of a disc golf road trip playing 12 States in 12 Days. Iron Hill is the only course I played in the state of Delaware.
I used bullet points for those that don't want to read the entire review.
The Gold Tees to the Gold Targets definitely provides a Championship level challenge. I normally choose harder tees when I play new courses as I am up for a challenge. However the Gold tees at Iron Hill are truly designed for 1000 rated players and not some advanced hacker like me. For the most part, Iron Hill had ample fairways that required good shot selection. I like courses that force a player to think ahead when making shots. It is not always about how far you can throw but if you can land your disc in the right spot to set up the next shot. I thought the white/blue tees to the Gold targets provided plenty of challenge.
Two Tees/Two Targets
Where I live, courses may have two tees and two pin placements. However, it is very uncommon for courses to have two targets installed at the same time. Iron Hill has 18 DISCatcher targets installed along with 18 silver DGA style targets at all times. Along with two sets of tees, this course provides an endless number of combinations. On my visit, I played the shorter tees to the DISCatcher targets. Even from the shorter tees, this is still a very challenging course and is not really meant for new players.
Signs and Tees
Wonderful full color tee signs with informative graphics. Both sets of tees are developed. The Gold tees were all made of concrete. The shorter tees were framed and filled with crushed rock or had rubber mats. Except for some run off from recent rains, all the tees were in excellent shape on my visit. Dont forget the map. Some walks to next tee that are not intuitive.
18 In a Row or not
The course is technically two 9 hole loops. After you play the front nine, the tee for Hole 10 is close enough to the parking area to get back to your vehicle to pick up more water or supplies.
Clean and well maintained
The entire course was clean and in great condition. All the tees, signs and targets were clean and free of vandalism. There was no garbage lying about and I don't recall seeing any butts. I was impressed how well the fairways were maintained.
Kids, Carts and Strollers
I would likely say no to kids and no to kids in strollers. This course covers a lot of ground for walkers and it would be tough to push kids in strollers on the uneven terrain. An all-terrain disc golf cart might be up for the challenge. This course is simply too long for younger ones to play along. There is an opportunity to stop after nine holes and take a break at the restrooms located off the parking area.
There was record rainfall in the area the day before I played and some lingering showers during my round. Despite the record rainfall, the course was in excellent condition. While there was some sand and gravel washed up on a few tees, there was virtually no standing water or mud on the course.
Bugs and Poison Ivy
I don't recall seeing any poison ivy, and there were no bugs when I played in the rain.
I am really trying to think of anything negative to say about this course. I wish I wouldn't have left my map and cell phone in the car as I did miss a couple of turns to the next tee. A few more navigation signs or next tee arrows would have been most helpful. As this is a Championship level course, it may not be suitable for total beginners, but I can't knock it for that.
Other Thoughts: Is it too much?
I am not sure this dual tee course needed two sets of targets. Some of the silver target locations seemed to be afterthoughts. The Silver targets seem overshadowed by the Championship caliber of the Gold course. It seems easier and less expensive to move a single target between a few pin placements for variety. I would personally rather have more benches, signs and navigation aids on every tee instead of double targets.
I played this course as part of my 12 States in 12 Days disc golf road trip. I am glad I had the opportunity to play this top rated course. This is not just the top rated course in Delaware, but one of the top rated courses in the world. A true Championship course that is fair and fun for all. I hope I get the chance to play it again someday.
Updated to correct errors and typos.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 3 Not
The Best Course on the East Coast
Pros: Very long, next-level woods golf. The Gold layout is the premier woods course in the world. Break 70 and you'll feel really good about yourself. It's fair and punishing. Come here to challenge yourself.
Red (Short to Short) and White (Short to Long) layouts are very fun if you're looking for a more casual round.
Cons: Very few left.
Hole 2 could lose a couple trees to be more fair. This will happen in time.
A few drainage issues after big storms, but getting better and better. Barely an issue anymore.
Other Thoughts: Prepare to feel small.
3 of 6 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: This review is for the Gold Layout. Extremely challenging, features long, tight woods holes and a few open field crushes that will test almost every aspect of your game. Hole 1 is a left-right shot with a relatively narrow passageway that opens towards the pin...don't finish early right...super trouble! Hole 2 is a right-left with plenty of trees to navigate that the top arms can reach for a rare deuce opportunity. Holes 3 and 4 feature open field tee shots to set-up approach shots into the woods. The rest of the course consists of woods holes with lengths of about 300-800 feet. Tee shots are critical, and if you get "off-line" you will need to be creative. Grueling and technically challenging. Distance markers are present on several holes (assuming you are in the fairway!)
Tests you mentally and physically. Roots and rocks can turn that perfectly placed drive into a tree filled scramble. Prepare to get f****d, now deal with it! Great course to hone your tournament skills, both physically and mentally.
Cons: A large number of holes have the same tee shot....straight and as far as possible. This is a good shot to have, but it did become somewhat repetitive.
Other Thoughts: The course shows a ton of love...Jimi Mac and the crew deserve super kudos for all the hard work and dedication...it shows!
Cheap hotels near the course...if you are staying in Elkton, Md DO NOT get on the freeway unless you want to pay a hefty toll. Take the back road (Old Baltimore Pkwy) for travel N/S of the course.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 2 Not
Bring your A-game
Pros: There are 4 layouts to choose from. Get in where you fit it and play the red if you are a beginner and either the white or silver if you are more advanced. If you are up for the absolute most difficult round you have ever played there is the gold layout.The gold layout will test you mentally and physically on pretty much every shot. It will be emotional and there will be ups and downs. Afterwards you will be proud you finished and you will think about all that was left out on the course. Whether it was your pride or strokes you will realize that you cannot beat the hill, you can only hope to contain it. Future champions will be forged at iron hill. It's that kind of place.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 1 Not
The Chessboard of Disc Golf
Pros: Iron Hill's Gold layout, par 72, is the world's standard disc golf course for championship level competition. The course requires a mix of controlled aggression & calculated finesse off of every tee and towards every approach. More than anywhere else, Iron Hill conditions its throwers to mentally navigate its bumpy and wooded terrain one shot at a time. I know that's cliche, but not one hole at this monster of a layout allows its players to ever assume par! So if you're looking for the ultimate disc golf challenge and adventure, Iron Hill County Park in Newark, Delaware is awaiting you and your pretty plastic...
Cons: Due to the number of trees that encompass the course, there are a few winter months where your disc may want to hibernate under the leaf fall that occurs. A spotter ahead can easily alleviate this issue.
Other Thoughts: For those disc golfers not up for the more mentally and physically challenging Gold layout, Iron Hill offers a shorter Red layout that is loaded with par 3s. And two intermediate (in length alone) layouts, White & Silver, that play closer to low the 60s.
Gold: longest (gold) tee boxes to gold banded Disccatchers.
Silver: longest (gold) tee boxes to all silver baskets.
White: shorter (white) tee boxes to gold banded Disccatchers.
Red: shorter (white) tee boxes to all silver baskets.
Note that the Disccatchers on #12 & #14 play shorter than the silver baskets on each hole, respectively.
Bonus: Iron Hill is free to play.
Please pick up after yourselves, thank you.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
Thrill on the Hill
Pros: Iron Hill is set in a great park for disc golf. On my list of favorites, though some would not agree. The fairways are primarily wooded, fair but not easy. Long concrete and short rubber or gravel tees, and two sets of baskets make it that much better. Not entirely flat, with gradual to noticeable elevation change on several holes. I liked the jagged boulders littering the first hole, and many places thereafter. Hole 3 and hole 4 are the most open and grassy, but tees and baskets play near the edge of the woods. Number 7 was one of the shortest holes, and it humbled me with the basket perched on a five foot tall pile of rocks protected by a cluster of young trees. Number 14 actually yielded my only birdie that round. Nailed the drive on 15, but I 3 putted my way to bogey. I played the (silver layout) long tees and short (Discatcher) baskets, and took a good whipping. Finished with a +8 (70) and felt like it was ok, for an over 8000 foot course. Only playing one round, I feel like I could play closer to par if I had been putting better. I had some really solid, long drives. There were chances for some par saves or birdies that I gave up through bonking trees approaching the target, or flat out missing makable putts. The consistent makeup and quality of this course is what I enjoyed. Layout was easy to follow, and markings are pretty good. Not any hole that I found boring, all fitting together very nicely. I will give the bump from 4 to 4.5 rating based on the extra baskets, good tees and signs, however a better than excellent, yet sub phenomenal, 4.25 is my true feel.
Cons: I didn't see the second basket on one or two holes, might have overlooked them. Not a signature hole, that shines above the others, despite high overall quality. Slightly repetitive, but not in a very bad way. Dogs are required to be leashed, if I remember correctly. Not that its a bad idea, but my dog protests.
Other Thoughts: I loved this course first time out, one great course for Delaware, to go with the others across the way in PA. The park was pretty clean with trash cans near the parking lot. A good size BBQ was going on, but the disc golf course was not busy on this beautiful evening, save for a few dog walkers. A young dude named Chris played the first 10 or 11 holes with me, providing some guidance and company. Iron Hill has some natural beauty that can be harsh in a disc golf sense. If you make shots, it can also be very satisfying. Solid all the way, for sure. Iron Hill is hardcore, and left me wanting more.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
16 Helpful / 0 Not
My Favorite Beatdown
Pros: This is definitely a course I would identify as playing fairly, especially for a woods course. From the teepads, landing zones, and baskets, it is apparent what the intended and preferred line is.
Iron Hill is unusually secluded for how large it is. Aside from some early holes winding near some other park facilities, two in the middle near a gated parking lot, and occasional access trails, it's easy to play a full round immersed wholly in the golf. In the same way, there is minimal interaction between holes-- it would be very unusual to end up on another hole's space, despite no long transitions between holes.
Iron Hill has the least OB of any high-SSA course I have ever played. That said, there are numerous ways to add strokes, mostly by being off the fairway. This method of designing feels real and authentic--I must congratulate the designers and those responsible for maintenance on the course's quality and condition (and the fortuitous nature of the land available). Many other gold-level courses test one's ability to avoid OB or throw far; Iron Hill tests your ability to throw controlled shots with an appropriate finish on them, often at the expense of distance, and your ability to string together multiple good shots in a row. Scoring well, or even playing bogey golf on the long-long layout, requires a diverse game and dispensing with your ego every now and again. Really and truly, I see this as the future of championship golf.
Signage is excellent. Distances and diagrams were clear and accurate. Paths to subsequent teepads are marked, if not self-evident. Teepads, even the gravel short pads, are long and adequate. Both sets of baskets are in good condition. Parking is ample on all but the busiest days. I do not know of any permanent restroom facilities.
A lesser designer would have gone ham on elevated baskets on rocks. Instead, there's only a couple, tastefully made instead of gimmicky. The few that are elevated are either on a wide plateau or form an interesting course feature--they're not elevated for their own sake. This places the focus and execution more on the fairway shot.
There's a gradient in rough--if you're a little off the fairway, recovery is possible; if you're a long way off, you're hosed. Playing controlled shots is rewarded, making this course largely uncheatable.
Cons: For all of my enthusiasm for Iron Hill, I can empathize with reviews calling every hole the same. Even after several plays, the middle of the course runs together in my head. Each hole is distinct, but there's a definite theme in requiring the toughest shot in disc golf-- the straight one. Iron Hill will (invariably) beat you down but, if you've got a hint of hubris or masochism, you'll crave more.
Update, 12/2014: I retract my previous statement about capricious greens and/or fairways. Designer/volunteers are working on removing select trees.
Other Thoughts: Reading through previous reviews and the forum makes it apparent how polarizing this course and style of play is. If I lived a little closer I would play here every day: it is a course that teaches and requires REAL golf shots, knowledge of one's discs, appropriate assessment of risk and personal abilities, and provides all the tough love you can take.
Hole 17 wouldn't be nearly as magical if it was in the middle of the course. Unfortunately, its tightness, elevation changes, and landscaped green make hole 18 a comparative letdown, despite being a very good hole itself. As it stands, though, holes 1-4 are some of the easiest on the course, and the difficulty crescendos to holes 16-18, which are some of the most challenging I can remember playing.
Update: I'm calling Iron Hill a 5 now; previously I'd whined about a couple greens and fairways being a little screwy. I think I was partially right, but ain't nobody figuring out this course without a few tries. This is real golf. This is manipulating your discs. This is learning how to solve an impossible puzzle.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 2 Not
Hard but Fair
Pros: -Great Signage
-Easy to Follow the layout of course
-Set in a beautiful park
-Nice long concrete tee pads
-A lot of variety in that you have multiple pins and tee boxes
-Get to use every disc in your bag
-Variety of types of holes: elevation changes and in and out of the woods adds to a lot of different scenic holes
-Easy lines to follow when throwing through the woods (not necessarily easy to hit, but easy to understand where you should throw)
-Plenty of space so that you wouldn't ever feel overcrowded by multiple players on a course
-You can tell that a lot of time and energy has been put into the maintaining of this course. Kudos to those that work on this course and make it enjoyable for others to play
-Rock lined paths, and stone created stairwells add to the character of this course
Cons: -There will be times where you will need to send a spotter to watch where your disc lands/you are supposed to go.
-Muddy, but to be expected after a lot of rain and in low places
Other Thoughts: My friends and I decided to come play this course as well as two others for a disc golf weekend in Delaware last saturday. We chose to start with Iron Hill to get the "hardest" course out of the way first. We were intimidated at first by the length of the card and seeing how many of the holes are over 500 feet long through the woods. However, once we began to play, we found that the course was very fair as long as you didn't have a drastic mistake. There are many times where you might be able to hit a tiny line and help move the disc down the fairway for the next shot, but sometimes playing it easier on this course will allow you to better set up your next shot. It is very true that being able to line up for your second shot can very much determine how well you score on each hole.
My friends and I are used to playing the two courses at Pinchot State Park in PA...we found Iron Hill very much to be like Boulder woods with an extra 200 feet per hole. We all expected to play a course harder than Quaker, but we all felt that Quaker is much more challenging because the room for error is so much less at Quake. If you went off the fairway at Iron hill, you still had a chance to possibly get a good throw out to move it down the fairway, where if you play quake, if you go off the fairway...typically your best bet is to just pitch it back in the fairway.
We played Iron Hill first, White clay second, and Brandywine third. Iron Hill is a fun course to play no matter what your skill level is. If you want to really push yourself, play the golds, but if you are newer to disc golf, play the white tees to the short pins and you will have a great time.
We played in Delaware three years ago and got to play Carousel....and we wish that course was still around
6 of 8 people found this review helpful.
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