3 Helpful / 0 Not
A hidden gem
Pros: Situated almost entirely in the woods surrounding the Swim and Racquet club in an upscale DC suburban neighborhood, this course is what a par 3 woods course should be. Course offers a big variety of looks, hard hyzers and and anhyzers, uphill, downhill and side hill fairways, and some blazing fast greens (especially on the early holes so make sure your approach game is ready at the gitgo). Precision first is the rule, but if you don't make it far enough up the fairway on some of these you'll still have a tough look for your par.
Eighteen Discatchers in perfect shape, only one pin setting each hole that I could find. One boxed and mulched tee per hole. The signage issues noted in earlier reviews have been addressed by large clear Next Tee signs pointing in the appropriate direction. There are PVC pipes at the from of each tee with the distance and a crude drawing of the fairway. Most walks from green to tee are pretty short but far enough away to be clear of approaches to the green.
The middle holes down by the creek (Amen Corner?) are a whole lot of fun and what makes this course excellent over just very good.
Several of the pin settings are on significant downhill grades, with a steep drop off not far behind (which may include a bath in the creek), but I view this as a positive as it adds a requirement for precise distance control on your approaches.
An absolutely beautiful setting for a walk in the park.
Cons: Even though it was early spring, the gnats were out in full force, so bring bug spray and a hat. Lots of walking up, down and along some fairly significant grades, so wear appropriate footwear (particularly if it's recently rained).
No bridges across the creek (which you need to traverse several times), not too difficult during low flow but i imagine this could be a challenge after some rain.
I prefer hardtop tees so mulched tees are not my favorites, but these were pretty well maintained (few divots) and while a few seemed a little cramped, were long enough for the most part.
This is nitpicking, but some of the holes on the front have a deja vu element as they play back and forth along side one another (much like a ball golf layout). There's what looks like an un-needed mando at first glance on 17 but it's there to protect the 16th green. When you get closer you see that you wouldn't want to approach from the wrong side of the mando anyway. I didn't really care for #18 as it had a wall of cypress about 15-20' before the pin. You have to either skip or slide one through low between the trunks or roll it through I guess.
Other Thoughts: I love woods courses and this is just the perfect piece of land for one. The designers did an outstanding job with it, I don't think I'd change a thing. I'm not sure how well the course would handle a crowd but I don't think that will be an issue, we were the only group there on a beautiful afternoon.
I'll echo what others have mentioned, keep in mind that this is basically private property and that we are guests. The course was very clean, I only saw one bottle (removed) during the whole hike. Please bring a trash bag along with you and help keep this place pristine and available to the DG community.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
If you like the woods then you're gonna love this course!
Pros: **Updated Review 2015**
Private course with 18 Boxed Mulch Tees with 18 Discatcher baskets. Secluded and scenic 16 acre disc golf only area around the Swim and Raquet club that is un-useable for anything else. Almost entirely heavy wooded and very hilly elevation terrain along a creek gives you all kind of variety. Lots of tight fairways that seem to favor backhand or forehand on some holes. Very little underbrush, well groomed, and navigation is fairly easy with big next tee signs and the tees are pretty close to baskets.
Cons: Mulch tees are probably my least favorite and they are short to boot. Holes play fairly close to together, so beware if others are playing(seems rare). The terrain is a little rough and rolled ankles a few times, also slipped down some steep areas. Can be muddy around the creek and had to pass over the creek some places. Tee signs are just pvc pipe with distance, but it's not hard to figure out the hole. Gnats and other flying insects can be bad in summer.
Other Thoughts: Wow...this is an interesting course and glad I made the trip. Accuracy is definitely rewarded over distance here as there are no holes to let a driver loose. It will test your skillz on elevated and heavily wooded fairways, and has lots of shots I've never seen before making it both fun and challenging. The creek and landscape give this course its beauty, but the elevation can be extreme and trees can be brutal. Aside from a few people playing on the tennis courts, the tennis balls and some deer, I had the course to myself making it very peaceful.
There is potential for this course with better tees. I use a fairly compact x-step, but felt cramped on a number of tees. Hole 13 was probably my fav, and the whole middle section was great. I definitely recommend this course(except to rank beginners), and hope to play again soon!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: The woodland setting and the integration of the natural environment into the course is the best element here. All the baskets are in place now. I found the wood chip tees to fit well with
the nature of the course. There are not a drawback as driving distance is not much of an issue on any of the holes here. Instead there is a premium on creativity and accuracy in shot making. The many trees, hilly terrain, and the creek make for challenging but fair obstacles. The relatively short length and general openness of the woods keep it friendly for advanced beginners.
Cons: LOTS of gnats. Even copious amounts of bug spray didn't keep them at bay. I disagree with the reviewer who thought the basket positions were "unfair". A testing layout doesn't mean
it is an unfair layout. Yes your disc can roll away down a hill with a not-good-enough approach shot but given the short distance of the holes this course's defenses are the trees and the terrain. The course can be tricky to navigate as many holes are adjacent and baskets and tees can be in close proximity and there are lots of blind shots. I have never had a problem with traffic from other folfers on this course though.
Other Thoughts: There are no grip-it-and-rip-it holes on this course. There are woodland courses that have relatively open if narrow fairways and impenetrable rough, think Whispering Falls, and those that have open woods with many trees dotting the fairways and rough that is not so difficult to penetrate, like Boulder Woods. This course is among the latter. A spotter would be helpful here to guard against disc loss but is not near mandatory such as at Whispering Falls or Seneca Creek. The holes near the creek with the dense low vegetation are the greatest risk. This is a nice course to play in the heat of summer as your first drive takes you into the woods and you stay completely in tree cover till your last tee shot brings you out. How some people have managed to lose tennis balls so far out into the woods is beyond me. Rotting tennis balls
seem to sprout as if they were woodland fungi.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: (Rating of 4 is based on how it's playing right now, a solid 3.5, with a .5 bump for the steady progress in development.)
I've been playing this course for some time and it just keeps getting better. I agree with other reviewers that one of it's best features is the land itself, but it's also how the designers have used it to create some really great golf. Each hole is unique and the full 18 requires a broad range of shot making from drive to putt: right/left/straight, uphill/downhill/cross slope, low/high ceiling, water hazards, etc. Its laid out well so there's no criss crossing fairways or long walks between holes (there is one slight walk back from 16 to 17) and play begins and ends right at the parking lot.
While most of the holes are in the woods and were frustratingly wooded when all 18 were first put in, they've been cleared out gradually for more open fairways. Now there's more playable area and some fantastic shot lines. The holes which do involve field shots--1,5,8,17,18--are also being opened up, giving more relief from the trees. Some of the baskets/tees/fairways which used to play too close together have been worked out. Another great feature, which helps give the course variety, is a stretch of holes on the back nine--12,13,14,15--which play along and over a really nice creek. These holes have a ways to go in overall maintenance, but each plays the creek a little differently and include some of my favorites on the course.
Recently all remaining baskets and tees were installed. The choice of wood chip for the tees is debateable, but it does fit the character of the course. If they harden over time and are raked and leveled regularly they should be fine. I actually don't mind this variable as part of the challenge and uniqueness of the course.
Another thing I've come to appreciate (especially with the heat this summer) is that because Darnestown is mostly in the woods and plays along water for a long stretch, it's the perfect hot weather course.
Cons: Little short: Overall course distance is on the short side. Looks like there may be a few holes which can be lengthened, but otherwise it will always rely on obstacles and terrain to provide difficulty.
Gnats: Much like Seneca can have a lot of gnats. I've played at all different times and in the late spring and summer months you can expect them, so plan accordingly. In the fall, winter and early spring it's typically not an issue.
Natural wood chip tees: These were definitely unstable when recently installed. Hopefully they'll tighten up. Some tees are shorter then regulation length, but it looks like there is room for these to be lengthened.
Lacks signage: I've played the course enough that I don't need signage, but this would definitely be lacking for the first time player.
Private club: During the middle of the day in the summer months the tennis and swim club can be crowded. And while I've played at these times without any issue, it still feels a little uncomfortable. Not sure what the situation is for the parking lot gate exactly and parking along the road seems less than ideal for the neighborhood, but again no problems so far.
Other Thoughts: Not only is Darnestown a nice compliment to other great courses in the area such as Seneca, Patapsco and Rockburn, but if progress continues as it has in its first few years, it could be grouped with these for some of the best disc golf in the DC Metro area.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
11 Helpful / 0 Not
Beautiful, serene; work in progress
Pros: This course is a tricky one to rate, because there are so many things to love about it, but also so many things that could be improved.
The best elements of this course is its beauty. The stretch of land has great hills, a nice creek, glorious old trees stretching up into the sky, and lots of wildlife. And from the road, its hard to even guess the course is there -- with the exception of 18s basket, the rest of the course is completely hidden in the woods, though its in the middle of some of the nicest homes/manors in the D.C.-area.
Every hole has trees -- most holes have lots of trees. However, these are old, tall trees with minimal undergrowth (and fallen trees/branches are very well cleared by whoever maintains the course), so finding discs is easy.
Holes range from ~200' to ~450', but many play longer than their distances because of elevation. The 200' hole, for instance, probably plays closer to 350' because of sharp elevation. There is a good mix of throws required, though this is definitely a course that favors backhand shots. Even the shape/gaps in the left-to-right hooking fairways tend to be lines that play better for a backhand anhyzer than for a forehand hyzer. This is not a bad thing -- just an observation. I am a forehand-dominant player, and yet threw backhands off the box on at least 2/3 of the holes.
The elevation is one of the things that really works well for this course. Most holes involve some amount of elevation change or involve throwing over elevation change. I love varying terrain, and this has some of the best land I've ever played on.
I saw one reviewer who was frustrated with the fact that many of the baskets are on hills or have "fast greens" that can cause rollaways. I actually consider this is huge PLUS for this course. Yes, there are a lot of fast greens, but none of them seemed unfair. I've played much faster greens on some of the top courses in the country, like Renaissance Park, and fast greens -- when fair -- make you a better player. It requires you not just to throw your disc, but to think about approach speed, landing angle, and even what kind of plastic to use to minimize skips/bounces/kicks/roll-aways. Fast, fair greens make you a better player. I consider the fast greens one of the best parts about this course -- it helps separate a good approach from a great approach.
I've only played through this course once, but I threw several teeshots on most holes, trying out different lines and approaches, and I consider all the holes to be fair. There are well carved fairways and some interesting lines that you don't see on most courses. Some are particularly memorable and unusual. Hole 12 is a slight downhill, almost straight, ~300', with the stream to the left. The R-to-L hill slope and the shape of the gap off the teebox makes it almost impossible to throw a backhand shot to the pin; most RHBHs will fade left into/across the creek. The best shot is a slight forehand anhyzer or helix -- a touch shot with a neutral fairway driver. This is a shot few players have, but everyone should learn. And on this particular hole, it's the best option off the box. I AM THRILLED at some of the unusual hole designs that make this a very unusual training course.
The other pro I need to mention is that this course (for now) has virtually no traffic. My wife and I were out there on a Sunday, midday, and while the pool was full and their were people on the tennis courts, there were no other players on the disc golf course. It is an undiscovered gem. Right now, this has an immense FUN factor. Great shots, great holes, and no one else out there. I know of no better course in the D.C. area to practice and improve your game.
Cons: Several of the cons right now are due to the newness of the course. I think 6 of the baskets are still missing. Instead, plastic buckets are hung on PVC pipe at roughly basket level. This isn't ideal, but it does simulate putting pretty well. It's a much better solution than I've seen at most in-progress courses. I think this will be taken care of soon.
Signage is minimal -- marker drawings on short pieces of PVC stuck in the ground. This wasn't a big deal -- it kept with the minimalist aesthetic of the course, and playing through the first time, without a map, we had no trouble finding any of the tees or baskets. The PVC marker drawings did what they needed to do. Better signage would be nice, but is not needed. If the course is obvious, even in the growth of early summer to someone who has never played the course, then it is as good as it has to be. My only worry is that the short sticks of PVC may not last, getting vandalized or knocked over. But for now, they work just fine.
It would have been nice to have at least one "field" hole. I don't think this course really has the land for it, but I always want one hole per course to really just rip it. The closest this comes is on the back, ~13/14, there are a couple of holes that have wider fairways and higher ceilings on some really cool shots by the creek. These are awesome holes, but I still miss non having one "rip-it" hole.
The bugs are bad here. Yes, it is early summer and we've been having rain, but it was so bad that my wife had to quit playing a few holes in, covered in bites (yes, we had bug spray). I wasn't particularly bothered, but if you're someone who attracts bugs, be careful. Lots of mosquitoes and ants, in particular.
A lack of par-4 holes. I am someone who loves a mix of holes, and this course didn't have any true par-4 holes. There appeared to be enough land in places for some of the holes to be stretched out to make this possible. I'm not sure if this will eventually be in the plans, but if there were some longer, PRO pin positions (maybe they can use the PVC/bucket combo for this after they get the other six baskets?!?!?) it would add a whole extra dimension to the course. Half a dozen pro placements (buckets) for some longer holes would take this course up another notch.
Other Thoughts: One thing that should be noted: teepads are dirt, and aren't always level. This isn't a big deal to me -- I don't mind rough teepads as long as they aren't mudpits. But I know this will matter to some people -- I included it here, because it is neither a pro, nor a con in my book. These tees were fine to play on and did not detract from the course. If anything, I like them better here because it helped the course feel very natural. Concrete teeboxes would actually detract from the course, making it feel too intrusive on the land. I also think this course has potential to be refined and improved over time, so I encourage the designers to keep the teeboxes very simple and easy to change, if needed, in the future.
Overall, I found this one of the most enjoyable courses -- one of the most FUN courses -- that I've played in a long time. The enjoyment value is definitely higher than my more objective rating of this course. I would expect that with some work, this could move up to being a 4-star course. But in the meantime, I would highly, highly recommend it.
If you're coming in from out of town, I think the best outdoorsy day you could plan in the D.C. area would be: hike the Billy Goat Trails on the MD side of Great Falls Park (only a few miles from this course), then come to Darnestown to get in a fun warm-up 18, then grab lunch (head straight up Germantown Road a few miles and you'll have a shopping center with dozens of quick-food options, e.g. Elevation Burger, Chick-Fil-A, Five Guys, Moby Dick's Kabobs, ), and then head to Seneca, just a few miles away, for 27 holes of the best disc golf in the country.
Darnestown fills a missing niche in the D.C.-area disc golf scene. It's a course I'll be returning to as often as possible. Hope to see you there.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 0 Not
There Will Be Punishment
Pros: Good technical course has a nice combination of length and obstacles to avoid. Good variety of hole layouts that will force you to use all your throws. Guys who maintain it do a very nice job and are friendly to visitors. Shady with nice baskets (now on all 18 holes). The holes along the creek are particularly fun. This is a course that punishes mistakes and forces you to really think about where you want that first shot to land.
Cons: Natural tee pads outlines by 3x3s can be very uneven but now have wood chips that help greatly. No run up potential. Insects can be bad; ground growth can be bad. The biggest con for me is that many of the baskets are located on slopes (or near slopes) that punish good shots. Number #3 is a good example where you can think you parked your throw only to find that it has rolled down a big hill into a creek so that your next shot is longer than the previous one. Navigation is a bit tough on your first trip (more so finding the baskets than the tee areas).
Other Thoughts: My opinion on this course changes every time I play it. Sometimes I think I will never come back even though it is the course closest to my house. Other times I think "what a great challenging course this is". The "unfairness" of the basket placement has been somewhat improved since the baskets were installed. Number 3 has has a 4 foot diameter circle around it that is flatter so parking your drive or approach shot, it will actually stay there. It is still sometimes better to intentionally miss the fairway and stick your disc in a bush rather than risking roll away. It worked to my advantage yesterday on 18 where I put my shot into the cedars where it dropped out for a 15-foot putt. Many of the teepads are right next to the previous basket which makes navigation easy but has the obvious problem. On your first trip, make sure you scout out the first basket (it is near the largest tree that you can see from the pad) and you will see that a RHBH flight path goes right over #2's tee pad. Not a problem in general as this is lightly played but you should be aware. I have aced #2 here even though it isn't my favorite hole. Hole #10 is the hardest (and best hole) in my opinion. My latest round was typical: a 2, twelve 3s, two 4s, and three 5s.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 0 Not
Fun and Challenging
Pros: Good use of elevation and natural obstacles.
Heavily wooded, requiring creative shot making ability.
Very challenging. It's just as difficult as Seneca Creek and other nearby courses but doesn't have the same reputation.
Beautiful piece of property; fun design; love the creek on the back nine; still pretty rugged; course flows well from each basket to the next tee pad.
Never over crowded. There are surprisingly few golfers out.
Course is well maintained.
The course now has 18 DiscCatchers; the last of the buckets were replaced early in the summer.
Cons: Downhill drives are rare.
Not a lot of ace shots.
First time out could be confusing....I don't even look at the signage anymore. First tee pad is between the road and the tennis courts, shoot down in to the woods.
Bugs can be thick in the summer. DEET is highly recommended.
Other Thoughts: This is a one of the best courses in the DC area. Lots of fun, rugged and challenging, it's definitely worth the drive out to Darnestown to see the course. If you haven't been out in the past 6 months, you should certainly come back out to see the changes and improvements made. That said, if you don't like playing in the woods or you prefer a leisurely stroll with your disc golf, you may not find Darnestown as exciting as I do.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Tennis ball graveyard
Pros: With lots of elevation changes and some water to avoid this mostly wooded course offers a lot of variety and challenge to any level of golfer. There are a few open holes, a few short holes and many holes that make you think on what shot to use.
Tee signs at each hole, with plenty of "next tee" signs through out to help with navigation.
Since its mostly played in the woods, very shady, which helps for hot summer days. Little to no non disc golf traffic.
Located in a nice neighborhood, with well maintained grounds, in a secluded part of the property.
Cons: Only 9 baskets right now, with nine buckets for the other 9. Buckets will wear and need replacing eventually.
Since it's in the woods, lots and lots of leaves on the ground. This will make losing discs in the fall a problem, and keep the ground on the moist side.
Some of the inclines are very steep. Going to/from tee #7 is the steepest, and may become hazardous in wet conditions.
Crossing the creek at tee #15 is a little difficult, since it is just a tad to wide to jump across safely without getting wet.
Other Thoughts: There are very few open holes, so accuracy is crucial. Very beautiful and scenic, it reminds me a little of Sceneca, I see a lot of potential here as the course matures and more people play it.
This is a private club, so I do feel like I'm trespassing, since I don't belong to the club or pay dues, but I'm respectful of the course and the club.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
Where Tennis Balls Go To Die
The combination of the: variety of distance (220'-460'), changes in elevation (flat, up, down, up-n-over, across), width of throwing lanes (pretty open to pretty tight, with various shades in-between), and degree of turns (about half rights, some fairly sharp, equal mix of subtle lefts or straight) creates a very challenging and varied course. Signs (PVC pipe) at each tee telling you the tee number, distance, and general standard flight path (important because many shots are blind); signs (again, pipe) at each basket giving you directions to the next tee.
Short, natural, somewhat uneven tees. Between the many blind shots, the large amount of leaves and deadfall, and steep slopes, the chance of losing a disc is high. Some very steep walking in parts - down to and up from #7 comes to mind. Probably not a good play when wet - in addition to the steep slope, some of the holes play near a creek, and/or in the run-off areas of the slope. The creek crossing is a bit of a stretch at #13, and too long for my stride at #15! Half the targets are baskets, half are buckets; most are numbered correctly, although I think the basket for #10 still has a '6' on it. The most visible target may not be the actual target for the hole - scout ahead, and, for the most part, the drawing at the tee is correct. Some tees are way too close to a basket and/or a throwing lane - if someone had been at tee #5, I would have nailed them in the back of the head with my meant-to-turn-but-went-straight-drive on #4.
Course plays into, out of, and mostly through a wooded slope that separates the D'town swim club from a creek that runs along the side and back of the club's property. You can tell someone is trying to make this course as playable as possible (signs at tees, baskets, other directional signs, re-numbering of baskets and objects), despite the overall roughness of the course (many downed trees, branches, dead leaves, steep, somewhat eroded muddy slopes at places). A few very challenging target positions, i.e. near creek, at top of steep slope, etc..
Favourite holes: #10. Choice of two uphill throwing lanes the first ~150'. You then have about 250' across a left-to-right slope, then another 50' down into a dip and the blind basket. Creek holes #12-#15: #12, about 300', slightly downhill, right-to-left slope, basket to left - near creek! #13 has you throwing through a "picture frame" (two vertical trees with the branches of a huge downed tree between them) about 150', with the basket on the other side of the creek, in a little peninsula that juts out; Easiest hole on the course (220' straight, no objects) at #14, then #15 - choose either the narrow throwing lane straight head, steep hill to left, trees on right, or throw down the running creek, trying to turn left at the best place; from there, a hard left approach to the basket up a narrowing gully.
Tee #1 is next to the tennis court fence/near the entrance. Tee #7 is next to the creek. Tee #8 is not immediately adjacent to its tee sign. To find tee #17, after finishing #16, re-trace your steps about 125' down #16's fairway, and look right.
Not recommended for beginners or anyone that has difficulty walking up and down steep slopes. If you're fairly confident in your navigational and disc-finding abilities, give it a go - otherwise, try to play with a guide/spotter your first time there!
This course is, indeed, a diamond in the rough. Rating it just upon the variety and challenge of the holes, I'd probably put it between 3.5-4.0, but the tees, some flow issues, and general rawness of the course lowers it a couple of notches. If you like challenging, technical courses, this course is for you.
Update 1/1/11: Three buckets replaced by baskets, so now 12/6 baskets/buckets. A few, new bright orange arrow mandos added. Bucket #14 moved about 100' further away. Basket #9 moved to the bottom of the ridge. Most fairways have had leaves and branches removed - looking good!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: 18 holes with clear tee pads. PVC pipes at pads acted as tee signs with hole info and a sketch of the flight path.
You will probably have the course all to yourself the entire time.
Course starts out nice and has a few nice holes. Hole 13 would be a great hole if it had a basket at the end instead of the bucket target. Hole 15 was another nice hole, 353 footer that crosses a creek. Hole 18 was interesting with 2 large trees up front and a row of smaller trees protecting the basket, but both baskets had the wrong numbers on them.
eduit: Many baskets are still numbered wrong, but somewhere on the basket the correct number is handwritten, also there are a lot more baskets.
Cons: Half baskets half buckets on pvc pipes for targets. (edit as of May 1st there are still some buckets, but numerous baskets were added)
This course was probably a spectacular 9 hole course, but when it was expanded to 18 it lost a little in the transition.
Course is confusing to navigate. (edit, navigation issues have been greatly improved, but a map is still your best bet)
The baskets have old numbers so you will look for basket 10, but basket 10 has 6 on it. The buckets need someone to come by with a sharpie and number them.
The course uses drop offs after the basket, which is normally an awesome challenge requiring you to decide to lay up or go for it, but this course over uses this technique cheapening the effect.
Other Thoughts: I was told I could not play because I was not a member, finally a manager said as long as I had my own discs I could play anytime.
With new signage and 9 more baskets this course could rank up near Rockburn and Seneca. There is alot of potential here.
The first 9 should be either baskets or buckets and the next 9 should be the other so you can choose to play 9 instead of switching target types every few throws.
Edit: This review was written before all 18 baskets were in place. This course is now one of the 10 in the state of Maryland
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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