A Gold Standard Being Revitalized
22 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: Highbridge Gold is one of five 18-hole courses on site at Highbridge Hills Disc Golf Megaplex in northern Wisconsin.
Anyone who plays this course is going to remember hole 8. This 1440' monster is the longest hole I have ever seen on a course by about 250' - and the longest hole on a layout I actually played by an even wider margin. From the tee, there is a nice view of a large wooded hill way off in the distance. My imagination ran wild and envisioned the basket somewhere up on top of it, even though I knew that was silly since that hill is at least a mile or two away. The actual fairway is straight and relatively wide, dotted with a couple of large trees. The terrain gently rolls up and down, with an overall slight downward incline. No idea what par is, but I played in a headwind and slight rain and wasn't even mad about scoring a 10.
The finishing hole is nice too, playing maybe 500'-600' up a slight incline. It's another wide fairway with a few large trees, and this one is also broken up by several small sections of rocks. Turn around when you reach the basket and you'll be treated to another great view.
Hole 8 is admittedly an outlier, but the hole distances here are championship level throughout. The first six or so holes are relatively technical, but after that it mostly opens up to the wider fairways described above. There are always at least a couple of trees to work around, and some potential water hazards on a few holes as well (they were mostly dried up when I visited in late September). There are appreciable elevation changes on several holes, although overall I would say it's a little less significant than on other HH courses. For most DG'ers, the distances will more than make up for it. I suspect the wind often plays a role as well.
The basket situation here is varied. Holes 1-7 and 17-18 have two baskets per hole. The long baskets are yellow banded DISCatchers with the band spray painted gold. The longer baskets are red Chainstar Pros. The remaining holes have only one basket each, and the make and model varied by hole as of my visit - but all of the baskets were in good shape.
Cons: Of the five HH courses, this one was clearly last on UP Mountain Man & Co's list to bring new life to. I think I was actually one of the first players to play the full 18 since the change in ownership several years ago, as signage on site indicated that the "back 9" of the course (actually holes 8-16) had recently reopened. This explains the hodgepodge of baskets and lack of second baskets on those holes. But it also means that the other infrastructure I experienced here is even more mediocre than elsewhere at HH:
- Some holes had older concrete tee pads in fine shape, but other holes had pads that could use a re-pouring and others yet had just turf for pads.
- The "Front 9" holes had hand painted tee signs, although the pin locations seemed to be missing from the painted maps. The "Back 9" holes just had the hole number and distance Sharpie'd on white PVC pipes.
- Navigation was OK on the "Front 9", but tricky on the "Back 9". I recommend taking a photo of the map at the pay station, as it has the correct hole locations for this course Sharpie'd on.
Overall, even though this is an old course it essentially feels like a new, unfinished course right now. This is totally understandable, but I have to review based on the current state of the course.
As a standalone course, I could ask for a few more short/tight fairways to balance out all of the long/mostly open ones. In reality though, I could just walk across to
the Woodland Greens or Blueberry Hill courses on site to get that. So not really a major gripe.
A second set of shorter (not too short on this course) tees would be a nice upgrade.
Other Thoughts: The following notes apply to all HH courses:
- Large dirt parking lot at the top of a hill, which itself offers views better than you'd find on most courses.
- Multiple porta potties.
- Multiple practice baskets scattered around.
- Kiosk info at pay station including large map of all 5 courses.
- Signage says pro shop and food are sometimes available, but I got the vibe those were holdovers from previous ownership. Maybe they are open for special events.
- Onsite camping available.
- Pay to play: $20/day or $10/round or other options that I won't go into here (check course website for latest info). Can pay with cash, check, or Venmo. Signage at the entrance to the course says to display a receipt on your car but you don't get a receipt from the pay station - this was a bit confusing. I paid via Venmo, had fine cell phone service throughout the complex, and was one of the only people there throughout my visit so I figured I would be contacted if there were any issues.
IN ITS CURRENT 2022 STATE, this course is way overrated on here at its current ~4.5 average. BUT, once this course is dialed in again it is going to be epic. Give it a year or two and a return to 4.5 rating is definitely not out of the question.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend a visit to HH overall. As noted in my other HH reviews, my recommendations in order are:
1. Blueberry Hill
2. Granite Ridge
3. Woodland Greens, especially if you have a noodle arm.
4. After that, if you still have time it really comes down to what type of course you prefer. If you like tight technical courses, you'll probably prefer The Bear over Highbridge Gold. But if you prefer wide open bombs, you'll love Highbridge Gold. Of course, the best option is to stay a little longer and play all five courses. :)
22 of 23 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 10 Not
Pros: Epic course at the Disc golf Mecca. This is probably the course that the Pros love the most. It is much longer than the other courses. Expert course. Carts are recommended (seasonal).
Cons: Not recommended for beginners or the meek. You will throw a lot on this one. It's a very long course. My group rarely plays this one with all the other options.
Other Thoughts: There are also layouts that use alternate tees, Blueridge, granberry, ect.
The main courses are Gold, Blueberry, Woodland Hills, Granite Ridge, Bear. There is also a course at the campground.
2 of 12 people found this review helpful.
20 Helpful / 0 Not
Real Gold Doesn't Tarnish
Pros: Highbridge Gold is the confluence of everything that makes this venue the legendary, infamous delight that's captivated golfers across the Upper Midwest and the nation. The host venue for Nate Doss' 2007 Pro Worlds victory, Highbridge features five primary courses on-site, plus a bonus campground course used primarily for glow rounds. The five courses on the hill are the main draw, with each one unique enough to showcase a different flavor of the richly diverse land. Gold is a bit of everything combined into one long, difficult, championship routing. The design, like the rest of the courses on site, is a Chuck Kennedy masterwork, interweaving placement-focused technical holes (Hole 14, for example) with long distance grinders (the legendary Hole 8, a 1426 foot par 6). However, the true character of Gold lies in its many holes that combine the two elements. Hole 3 is a brutally long hole that gently constricts the fairway with every shot before completely stovepiping it into a tightly wooded approach that could be a brilliant standalone hole in its own right. Hole 11 demands a choice of layup or crush off the tee to position around a small pond and set up for a challenging approach to a sloping, protected pocket green. Even relatively open holes like 18 provide a lot of fun and, in this particular case, one of my favorite greens in all of disc golf - a small rectangle protected by a front-facing rock wall that forces placement and power control to make your approach sit up where it needs to be for a clean putt. Fun to play and extremely photogenic as you look back down the fairway.
All of the courses at Highbridge are beautiful, and even the least scenic points on the property blow away most other routings by a country mile. Gold is probably the least pretty course here, but that doesn't stop some great drives (Holes 8 & 12) and approaches (Holes 2 & 18) from reminding you that you're in the middle of the gorgeous Wisconsin Highland. Also, I hold the unpopular opinion that the half-completed structures and failed Jokinen projects that line the fairways of Gold give a sort of spooky charm. Look for my current favorites -- the abandoned car and cabin on Hole 11!
There's two sets of concrete tees on every hole, with the golds dramatically more maintained than the whites. The course uses DISCatchers in good repair.
Assuming you can find a golf cart that works, Gold is a ridable course. I prefer to walk, but riding would probably save a lot of strength and time.
Cons: When you put aside all the drama and nonsense surrounding Highbridge, which are a con unto themselves for most (see other thoughts), there's really only one complaint that stands head and shoulders above the rest - Highbridge's inferior maintenance. It's a roll of the dice if the grass will be mowed on any given day, and tree trimming & rough control appear nonexistent. To make matters worse, Highbridge is approaching a relatively advanced age (14 years for most of the complex) where decisions should be made regarding tree removal, which will almost certainly never happen. When the courses are maintained, the level of maintenance is usually inversely correlated to its difficulty. You may come across an open fairway that's been mowed impeccably, only to play to a soggy green with waist-high grass. In all fairness to John, taking care of five courses with limited help is a rather difficult task, but that doesn't change the fact that unfinished mowing and trimming is a gigantic headache for us players. Depending on the status of the maintenance when you play, a course's rating could fluctuate by as many as two or more discs. Timing your visit to coincide with the intermittent mowing is just par for the course here. The Highbridge Hills - Wisconsin forum thread on this site is extremely helpful for providing detailed course condition updates.
For Gold in particular, there have been a couple of design compromises that neuter some special holes. Hole 12's green and the entirety of Hole 13 have been relocated out of a swampy area on the right hand treeline into the drier and easier to maintain open pasture. I assume these original locations would be salvageable with a little maintenance TLC, so it sucks to see them changed just because they're a pain to mow/trim. As a result, I've dropped my rating one half-disc.
Gold is currently the hardest course to play blind. First-timers will almost certainly want a map and some hole distances, as the newer tee signs here are the weakest at the complex.
Other Thoughts: With more twists and turns than a telenovela, the saga of Highbridge Hills has captivated golfers in the Upper Midwest for years. Regardless of where you fall between the two extremes of "John is a con artist" and "John is a harmless dolt whose reach exceeds his grasp", it's hard to visit here and not be charmed by the ramshackle enthusiasm of it all. Sure, it'd be great if a competent management team took over the complex, maintained it to perfection, and charged $20/day in greens fees to play what is probably the greatest collection of courses at a single site in the entire world. But where's the fun in that? Up here, disc golf still feels firmly tied to its DIY roots, as one man tries to hold it all together with chewing gum and string. Even as people (including myself) complain about the neglect of these world-class courses, it's important to remember that this version of Highbridge holds value as well. If you're looking for a true frolf adventure, Highbridge is the best place to find one. For now, it's best to enjoy what we have and hope for better days down the road.
PROTIP: Take a moment to rest on the shaded tee at the palate-cleansing intermezzo of Hole 7. The early woods holes can be brutal, and you'll want all your strength for the Hole 8 monster ahead.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 23 Not
Pros: The course has some potential as there are great elevation changes and many trees.
Cons: My friends and I went to High Bridge expecting a great course but were very disappointed. We got there a few days after a music festival and the course was trashed. There was garbage everywhere, even on many baskets on the course. The course was also just run down. It looked like the course was probably very good years ago but is just run down now. The grass was quite long and it was very easy to lose a disc because of it. It seems that John has too much to maintain. He should cut High Bridge down to 2 or 3 good courses instead of having 6 courses that are all run down.
Other Thoughts: Overall this course was a big disappointment. I was expecting the "mecca" of disc golf but instead found a course past its prime. This course does have some good potential though. John just needs to get some help.
6 of 29 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 8 Not
Pros: High Bridge Hills Complex is incredible, and this course along with Granite are easily my favorite. Great elevation changes, great mix of technical holes and distance.
One of two courses you can rent a cart for and ride the whole way.
Has a 1400+ foot par 6!
Cons: Likely not the course for you if you throw under 250 feet.
I recommend Spring or Fall for this course as the ruff can become difficult to find your discs especially if you are playing the day/days leading into when they will be mowing it.
Other Thoughts: John is one heck of a guy and all the courses are worth playing.
4 of 12 people found this review helpful.
14 Helpful / 0 Not
Long and demanding.
Pros: Disclaimer: This is a review of the course before the idiotic music festival.
Gold is the long, more open 18 at Highbridge Sports Complex.
Concrete tees on every hole. Most have multiple tees, although the shorts tended to be overgrown and not well kept. This is Gold...play the longs, dummy.
Chainstar baskets, mounted well enough. Like everything at Highbridge, they're showing their age, but they still perform. Many holes have multiple pin positions listed, but I doubt the pins actually get moved. One thing the do really well on this course is pin placement, though. Lots of tucked baskets, hillside baskets, and more. You really have to think about where you place your drives to be able to get at some of them.
Gold has distance. Lots of it. Sure, there's a few deuce opportunities (although they require decent shots), but the main attraction of Gold is long placement golf. How many places have a 1400+ foot hole? Not many. You get plenty of opportunities to blast drives, but they need to be accurate in most cases in order to get good lines for a second shot.
The design here is really good for how open it feels. One of the members of our group commented on how there were hardly any NAGS (not a golf shot) on the entire course (at least at our skill level). There's not a lot of tweener holes, which is nice. Also, while it feels open in some areas, even then the obstacles force you to work a certain line.
Plenty of tight tunnels here as well, especially at the beginning. By the time you get to hole 8 (the bomber), you're happy to be out of the woods. The first set of holes has a few that are deuce opps, but it's also littered with long, winding, tight fairways. Control is the name of the game there.
Cons: The tee signs were the old laminated paper signs, and they're rough. Navigation isn't really an issue, but still.
It's Highbridge. You're looking at 50/50 that it will be mowed and in good shape. Gold does seem to be John's baby, though, so it gets more attention than some of the other courses.
It's hard to get past the fact that Gold feels like the preamble to a horror flick in several places. Multiple unfinished cabins, a small shack that we were sure was used for some sort of animal torture, and just general malaise all over the course.
Oh, and there's a bear den in between holes 8 and 11/12. My buddy and I got chased (chased meaning we cried like little girls when the bear was 100 yards away) up hole 8's fairway the first time we were up there.
Other Thoughts: Gold is an asskicker. A wonderful, beautiful asskicker. In pristine condition, it's closer to a 5.0 than a 4.5...it's just hardly ever in pristine condition. Big shots, tunnel shots, tough birds, great pin placements...it's all here. Not to mention some great scenery. The fact that it's on a property with so many other great courses helps the cause, for sure.
It's a long round. Your arm will be tired. And then you'll want to play it again. A must play.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful.
13 Helpful / 1 Not
Gold has seen better days
Pros: -Good mix of length (although it is skewed more towards longer distance)
-Good mix of shot shaping required
-Good mix of tight, wooded holes and open holes
Cons: -Fairways are in awful shape, grass gone on many holes. In it's place is lumpy mud.
-Garbage is everywhere.
-In general, the course and amenities are badly in need of repair.
-Signs are at each hole, but mostly destroyed
-Benches are at each hole, but mostly destroyed
Other Thoughts: As much as I wanted to like this course, I couldn't. The basic structure and layout are definitely there to be a championship caliber course. If you look at the photos of the course on here, look at them with a grain of salt. Yes, the holes are still that length and shape. But, imagine it with garbage everywhere and multiple fairways destroyed from car tire tracks turning it into a mud pit. Not only that, but the buildings on the property are in serious disrepair. The "clubhouse" at the beginning was filthy with broken glass. The concession area was not open and from the looks of it you wouldn't want anything from it anyway. This was midday on a Saturday by the way, so everything should have been open.
On to the course itself, I can't stress enough: the layout, distance and hole shapes are all top notch. This is definitely a course for the more advanced player, especially because of the severe distance on several holes. There were additional challenges presented with the terrain in such terrible shape, not as though the course needed more challenge. Additionally, the course has had issues with being mowed lately. On this particular day, it was badly in need of mowing. The first nine holes were worse than the last nine. There were times when the grass was thigh high and that was supposed to be the fairway. All in all, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the course and actually quit the day of disc golf early because of the condition of the Gold course. I had planned on throwing at least one more course and maybe two, but enough was enough. In it's current shape, I cannot recommend this course. If it gets fixed up (which would take a lot of time and money) then by all means I would come back. But until that happens, I will not be back.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 7 Not
Best Course, Best Compound
Pros: Great range of hole types, nice range of distance (including the 1650 ft. hole... hell yes).
Very well designed holes. Never encountering anyone else - total privacy and leisurely pace.
Cons: Occasionally the grass is long - literally, that's it.
Other Thoughts: Highbridge Hills is the most incredible place in the world. So much so that most people end up making an annual pilgrimage of it with their best friends. I will come here at least 1-2x per year for the rest of my life and it is my #1 priority every year.
John, the course owner and manager, is a special soul and incredibly has never played a full 18 holes on the complex - a complex that is among the best in the world. He is a wonderful enigma.
1 of 8 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 10 Not
Total disc golf destination
Pros: Highbridgehills over all is a top disc golf destination. The gold coarse is more for the top line player.Distance off tee is must some tee shot require accurate placement to set up accurate 2nd shot to basket. Out of all the coarses there this would be the more difficult one. A pro I think would need to throw over400 feet from tee to compete.
Cons: Can't say to much there. Although if one player has a substancial advantage off tee in distance you would have hard time tring to compete.
Other Thoughts: I traveled around the last few summers playing disc golf coarses. the highbridge hills complex is the best place I have played hands down
1 of 11 people found this review helpful.
17 Helpful / 3 Not
Highbridge=Disc Golf Heven
Pros: The Championship Level course at Highbridge brings all the elements of the course together with tight fairways, big bombers, ace runs and water holes. this course has it all without any little dinkers to fill it in. This is a must play if you make the trek to highbridge (which everyone needs to do).
Cons: There is no system to keep track of what pin position the basket is in, strongly suggest playing with at least three preferably four or more so you can team up to take on this monster and split up scouting/spotting duties.
Mosquitoes can get bad from the end of May to through June so bring the bugspray and long sleeves. Since this is a multiple course complex keeping up on the mowing can be a bear, check with John to make sure it is in decent shape.
Other Thoughts: I may be a little jaded just returning from my first highbridge Adventure. We played this beast in teams of three and I managed to hit in ace on hole 4, but on the way up we hit Blue Ribbon Pines, Bryant Lake and Mont Du lac and while those all have their perks, there is nothing like
Highbridge in the world with 6+ Courses on one property, and this being the signature course (some might argue its Blueberry, but there is a reason this is the gold course),
**Updated: This review should be taken with a grain of salt as Highbridge has gone under an ownership change and has been forced to redesign this course. I still wouldn't hesitate to make the journey to Highbridge given the opportunity, but do your research before making the Trek. I've adjusted my rating from 5 to 4 as leaving it blank isn't an option.**
17 of 20 people found this review helpful.
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