Very good, but Charlotte offers better
5 Helpful / 2 Not
Pros: + Excellent use of elevation. There are elevation changes on every hole. This is RL's biggest strength. The elevation is used well, and the up and downs are frequently drastic. It helps keep the course feeling diverse hole to hole and avoid feeling repetitive.
+ Great variety of lines offered by the course. Straight shots, left turning holes, right turning holes. Excellent pin placement on many holes, e.g. #7 and #14, creates good risk / reward for a par 3.
+ The stream comes into play during many holes and adds to the risk on certain shots. #4 and #8 are much more interesting with the OB water in play.
+ Plenty of shade and benches, two things anyone golfing during summer in Charlotte will appreciate.
- Not as heavily played as other Charlotte courses. There are at least 6 or 7 more popular courses than RL, so you're more likely to go an entire round not seeing anyone.
Cons: - Only two par 4's and no par 5's. The vast majority of these holes are drive then putt, drive then putt. This is easily RL's biggest downside to me, as courses like Nevin and Renny Gold offer more par 4's and par 5's, which make the course feel more interesting and diverse. 16 par 3's automatically disqualifies it from being Charlotte's premiere course. The elevation changes help keep the course from feeling repetitive overall, but it would have benefited from a higher par in my opinion.
- Some boring holes. #2 I've never taken a par or worse on, easy putter anhyzer. #12 is pretty but super easy. #6, #13, #15 and #17 are easy pitch and putt flicks, #11 I don't care for, #16 is a gimmie birdie if you avoid going long, #18 has cool elevation as play but its just a basic 300' straight shot.
- Continuing from above, basically almost half the holes here are simple pitch and putt birdie holes. The other half feature awesome elevation changes, fun pin placements and interesting OB usage, but that's only half the course.
Other Thoughts: I think RL Smith is overrated. When I think of the top courses Charlotte offers within the 485 loop, three courses come to mind. Renaissance Gold, Nevin, and Hornets Nest. I've always found RL Smith to be a notch below those courses, although it would be towards the top of my list of "Charlottes second-tier courses"
That's not to say this is a bad course by any stretch of imagination. Charlotte is an area you have to view within context - it has an abnormally high concentration of disc golf courses, and many of them are very good. Charlotte's 6th or 7th best course would easily be a destination course in a normal city that has 1-3 18 hole courses courses.
There is a lot of difference of opinion of which ones are the best, but if I had to list my favorite Charlotte 18 hole course down to RL, it would look like this:
1. Renny Gold
2. Hornets Nest Web
4. Angry Beaver
So its surprising seeing RL within .05 to .10 of courses that to me are clearly a cut above it. I don't see how RL and Renny Gold could essentially share the same rating. Renny Gold has much more epic holes (#2, #13, #14, #18), more par 4's, two par 5's, is a more diverse and challenging course overall and has two other courses on site. RL offers more shade and to me that's the only thing it has over Renny.
But, like I said, none of that is to take anything away from this being a great course. It just so happens to be situated next to a handful of better courses. I think RL is loved because it offers a diverse wooded course with that signature Charlotte feel, but isn't quite as intimidating as the toughest courses in the area. If that's your speed, you'll love RL, but if you truly want to be tested, you're better off at Nevin / Renny Gold / Angry Beaver / Hornets Nest Web.
If I could rate it a 3.75 I would. I'm going with 3.5 instead of 4 because I think the courses rating is slightly inflated as it currently stands.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 1 Not
Pros: 18 concrete tees with tee signs and Discatcher baskets over scenic rolling elevation, rock formations, mostly playing par 3 golf through the woods with two creeks coming into play on many holes. Navigation is pretty simple and is basically one loop around to the parking. Nice bridges to cross the creek and other would be dangerous areas. Great variety of hole shaping through the woods and unique and interesting holes and rock greens, playing uphill, downhill, across slopes, over the creek, next to the creek, and down to the creek, straight shots and some hard turning shots. Bathrooms by parking lot.
Cons: The ever present roll-a-way greens and high disc loss potential in the creeks(at least when I played it was also raining). Some fairways were under inches standing water, and especially near the tees.
Other Thoughts: RL Smith is a great course in it's own right, it's got some of the best elevation in Charlotte and a fantastic layout overall. It's not a long course like some of the more notorious courses in the area, but it's got some of it's own teeth to gnash with the creek and tricky greens around the baskets, and of course some heavy Carolina woods. I wasn't thrilled about losing two discs in the creek early in the round, and made me think twice often during the rest of the round. It's not a gold level course, but it is a very solid and enjoyable intermediate to advanced course that I would recommend to anyone.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 0 Not
Over the river and through the woods...
Pros: The course is set entirely in the woods. Fairways are pretty fair, and several times I was tempted to pull out my driver but knew the rough would make me pay (and it did).
Elevation comes into play on nearly every hole, particularly in the beginning and end. Hole #2 is a fun, short shot up a steep grassy hill (the kind you'd probably sled down if it had snow), and I can only imagine the groans when someone parks their drive and watches their shot roll back down.
There is a creek alongside several of the holes. It is only an issue on one hole (#7), when it becomes a 25-foot wide body with murky water. I lost my River there, appropriately enough, but fortunately someone found it later.
Many of the holes are short and possible ace runs, but there is adequate punishment for missing your line. Several holes have multiple lines, and one even has a V-shaped tee pad to accommodate either line. I've never seen that before.
Hole 18 was a satisfying finish with a straight valley shot, another hole that feels like an potential ace run but that isn't an easy shot.
Navigation was pretty easy, and I didn't really use the map. "Next tee" signs are on most holes, and I don't remember any long walks between holes.
Cons: The tee signs are just okay. Many of them show what looks like a fairly straight fairway with the basket slightly offset, when the true line to the basket is a definite dogleg.
I have mixed feelings about horseshoe-shaped holes, and I didn't think (#9) had a big enough landing area or path to the basket once on the green.
Rough was pretty rough, lots of tangly stuff.
Other Thoughts: Travel tip: if you love wooded courses with big elevation changes like this, check out Pyramids and Devens in Massachusetts, Hummel in Omaha, and Conifer in Colorado, to name a few. Same idea but with even bigger elevation changes.
RL Smith is pretty close to the airport so it was the first I hit when I landed. The elevation changes are among the bigger in Charlotte. This is definitely a great option for combining a good challenge, some thrilling shots, and still being friendly for rec and intermediate players. It's these kind of courses that get new players addicted and keep seasoned players interested.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful.
11 Helpful / 4 Not
Solid Routing and Variety
Other Thoughts: The course is in a district level park of about 150 acres and conforms to the prevailing park design ethos for this municipality. As is typical for area courses, RL Smith is sited in slightly sub-climax canopy on rolling piedmont landform. Course also features play around the shallow-wide Paw creek, water catchment areas and sewer/water right of way cutouts. The park features more than enough area for additional expansions and improvements to the course in future.
Course is situated on the park's north side and is almost completely sequestered from other park activities, circling in a roughly counter clockwise fashion. It does not feature returning 9's, however, equipment, signage and amenities are all above average, especially the benches, which are more extensive and ornate than typically observed. Mandos are well marked and 'next tee' signs are plentiful. Way finding is not an issue and is quite unobtrusive, although there are a few longish transitions on the backside. Some might have minor complaints, for example, 'there's no trashcan on EVERY hole' or 'the tee-pads aren't all uniformly wide/long enough', but these complaints may safely be ignored as 'nit-picking'. For the most part, the canopy blunts play-affecting winds. This park also features two excellent fields; one is quite large enough for all but the biggest of arms to air out any conceivable shot, and is thus very suitable for field events use and practice.
Average hole length for the 18 is slightly less than 300', but 9 holes range between 225' and 275', which means that scoring well here will depend on something other than pure power AND that scoring chances are abundant for most levels. There are substantial elevation changes and/or slopes on nearly every hole and green, at times approaching a 15% grade (#2's green being a standout example). Course also features heavy penal rough in most areas; scrambling and recovery chances can be limited for even mildly errant shots. Ob areas feature prominently (with a capital 'P') here, mainly around the 9 Paw creek holes. It should also be noted that more than half of the holes are either blind or semi-blind. All of this indicates that RL Smith may be characterized as a 'locals' course, where intimate knowledge of this track will yield an advantage of at least a few strokes during a round. It should also be noted that the average hole length on the front exceeds that on the back by nearly 100', which means that as the round goes on, the 'need' to score becomes more pressing.
Stable counter spin shot shapes enjoy a significant advantage at RL Smith, especially when approaching the greens, as only 3 of the 18 show a DECIDED receptivity to clock spin approaches. This advantage is sometimes compounded overall by fairway shapes, which on paper appear fairly balanced overall. For example, both dual fairway holes are eminently drivable, have similar width/geometry fairways but both feature greens more receptive to stable counter-spin approaches. Another example is #7, a tough 'straight' driving hole, whose landing zone sets up perfectly for a counter spin fade shape and then a run for the birdie or an 'easy' three to its sharply elevated green. To drive #7 green with a clock spin shot, either a frozen rope or a controlled flex shot must be employed, both of which should be more difficult to execute than a simple stable fade. This counter-spin advantage is only moderately mitigated by o.b. areas which punish poor fade control of same, as there are plenty of areas where poor clock fade control is punished just as harshly, perhaps even more so. That being said, I feel both spins are needed to score well here, not just for scrambling, but also to deal with many of the tee shot's tight geometries.
RL Smith DGC gets very high marks for variety, dexterous use of elevations and the ambition/dedication required to tackle such a hilly problematic site, but is flawed regarding balance and fairness. Some players may also feel the course too short, but I would advise patience for these players. Also of note is the variability of fairway width over the course as a whole, which gives a more naturalized and mature feel to the course despite it's relative youth; this is the result of prudent observation and land use by the course designers.
Of particular interest are three holes:
#2 is a virtual carbon copy of #16 long at Stumpy Creek (with the addition of the mando). It's interesting for the tough geometry of the tee shot (a high uphill stable counter spin fade), combined with a slope that receives the fading opposite spin best. Hole is also noteworthy as the geometry and elevation on this hole are primarily the result of grading for other park activities, since grading practices are fairly universal, this type of hole may in future become as iconic as the 'tube shot' or 'split fairway' types. Despite its length (230') it's a tough pin for either spin, especially with the frequent prevailing headwinds.
#9 is a right-to-left fairway with a decreasing radius (or so-called 'fish hook') with a mandatory to protect cutting the corner. It finishes with (what might be evolving into a ubiquitous trope) an elevated rock outcropping green. Already a rare hole design in a disc golf hole, this 'fish hook' is really quite well done and is probably one of the course's toughest.
#17 is a near perfect translation of the Redan hole concept from ball golf (albeit without the extensive obs) into disc golf, and thus deserves special mention for drawing on historical precendent.
Rhythmically speaking, the course is somewhat staccato and abrupt, but in its favor is each hole's decidedly different look, which leaves little room for monotony. Despite a letdown of intensity on the back 9, RL Smith's routing is superb, with a front 9 as good as any in this length range and considerably better than most. RL Smith is a uniquely tough driving course, considering its length, especially on the back 9 where minor errors and 'rub of the green' macs may be heavily penalized. On every hole, all 3 aspects of your drive (angle, speed and direction) need to be 'on' for a close putt, and even then the heavily sloped greens may deny your reward. This cannot be said of many tracks, even ones as tightly wooded as this one. As far as a design school, RL Smith would fall mostly into the strategic one with an extra helping of the penal, which fits nicely with the prevailing local design ethos. You'll have to decide for yourself if it's fun or not.
11 of 15 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 18 Not
Pros: Nice view and it was a Avery hard challenge for a beginner player. Nice river view thru out the park
Cons: Long walk in between each hole made it take a long time to change between holes
Other Thoughts: Hole 1 looks scarier then it really is
0 of 18 people found this review helpful.
15 Helpful / 6 Not
Pros: Layout - This course has a lot of good things going for it. Numero Uno is an unprecedented amount of elevation change and natural features throughout the course. It sets this course apart from the majority of other courses within Charlotte because the grades here can be very steep and this courses uses it to the fullest.
The greens here might be the riskiest greens I've ever seen and for this reason you need to be on top of every drive/approach and think about how it will land and your positioning. There's baskets where you play up a steep hill, there's huge drop offs behind some, there's some that have creek in play and some positioned in rock outcroppings.
Even the fairways here are slanted and running downhill towards peril so every shot has to be meticuously considered.
The width of the fairways here are for the most part very fair and allow you ample room to execute the shot. There's no super long holes other than a few par 4's but many holes play long because they are so technical and use elevation.
Most of the course is a shorter technical style golf but there is a good mixture in shot types you'll need to get through and score low.
A few holes offer multiple routes to the basket which is always nice to see. I like it when courses give you options to weigh and create risk/reward for each option.
More than one signature hole out here; you'll walk up to some tees and just say wow.
Equipment - Brand new baskets, good signage as well as directional arrows pointing you towards the next tee. New concrete tee pads and some awesome benches... and a deck. Yeah the deck is cool. Trashcans in parts of the course as well with restrooms in the parking lot.
Atmosphere - It's a beautiful park with some very unique features such as the rocks and the creek. Very seculded and keeps away from the rest of the park.
Cons: Layout - I've got some issues with this course that can hopefully be rectified if seen fit by the designers. My biggest pet peeve is that many of the holes have to many overhanging limbs in the fairways; while they're wide enough you don't have enough vertical space to execute a solid shot on many holes.
There's a lot of places where you're being forced to throw pretty far considering the difficulty of the shot while keeping the disc very low which is a problem because it's much harder to work a disc on low lines and you have to add more spin. This causes the disc to hit the ground more unpredictably in some cases and with the rollaway fairways/greens and OB lurking it creates a lot of luck factor throughout the course.
There were many times where a solid shot produced an unlucky bounce that rolled really far away or even OB. I think more airspace should be cleared so you can more manageablly control how your disc is landing and where it's being placed on this tricky course.
There's also some areas that to me just seem a bit to overbearing with the tricky greens, it's almost as if it gets played out when every green you're worried about a rollaway. There's just some holes that without the elevation change would be boring shots. Some holes just don't seperate themselves from the pack and I think that takes away from the course overall.
You're never really given a chance to air anything here and I like to see courses mix it up a bit more.
The course has a few awkward transitions and one long walk.
Equipment - Danger Danger Will Robinson!!! I don't think I've ever felt less safe walking down some fairways, transitions and even while putting than here. They have took some steps to make navigating the landscape safer but more needs to be done because there are many safety hazards here.
The teepads are in some cases just to small for a course that just went in, especially for a course in a city with the reputation of Charlotte.
Atmosphere - Some of the course plays down sewer lines which can be an eyesore and smell bad. More of the briars and immediate rough needs to be cleared out more.
Other Thoughts: I like this course, it's a different feel from most of Charlotte and that helps it set itself apart. I think most of the design elements have been done very well and now some more steps to take care of the little things will make this course better.
This course just needs some love and play, plain and simple. Though if you want to check out some amazing elevation changes and picturesque holes hit this place up.
One of the best finishing holes in disc golf, it's not that hard but it's pretty awesome.
15 of 21 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 5 Not
Its Cool, its cool, its flukey
Pros: Great scenery, great use of elevation. Signature holes like #18. I also really like holes 2 and 3 with the significant elevation changes. Baskets placed near the large rocks on 9 and 12 just makes me smile because it is so original and creative.
Course directors and volunteers have done awesome work to make the course asthetically pleasing. The benches are the best!
Cons: Alot of roll aways near the baskets. In particular hole 7. It would be very helpful to have an area near the basket that is flat that could be aimed at during an approach shot to the green. I have seen so many bad roll aways on this hole that end up in the creek even though the shot orginally landed 5 feet from the pole. I understand disc golf can be flukey but R.L really exploits bad rolls and even more punishment from OB. (maybe just a part of hilly courses)
Other Thoughts: This course will wear you out from the tricky terrain. In tournament play their are some long back ups at holes 4, 5, and 7.
Its a great course to practice and a must see for out of towners
8 of 13 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 3 Not
Great Course feels incomplete.
Pros: Use of elevation is what makes this course. I cannot think of a hole where it does not come into play.
Crazy Fast and rocky greens make going for it a risky choice in many cases and laying up is the right choice.
It feels like there is a good balance of left, right, straight on the course.
Hole 12 while short is definatly a signature hole with a cool tee and cool green. And hole 3 is one of my favorite shots in charlotte.
It finishes strong with a good hole 18.
Newly instaled goat trails and bridges are welcome additions on several holes
Cons: Several holes go through a sewer right away which means there are metal poles sticking up in the center of several fairways which is an eyesore in my opinion and doesnt make for a pleasant smell some days.
Some of the OB seems punative in my opinion and takes away from the fun of the course.
There are several drag piles near fairways or baskets(the one close to the basket on 13 sticks out in my mind.)
Not all of the benches have been installed on every hole.
Some of the transitions are still very rough and need stairs or better ways to get up and down the hills.
There are trees leaning low into the airways on several holes
No way to replenish water as you get back into the course because it is a long hike.
The one major issue that could face this course in the future is erosion control. Several holes will have problems in the future if this is not dealt with(which I know it will be)
Other Thoughts: R.L. Smith is a great course and I want to give it a 4 based on what I know it will be. Several of the projects which I thought really took away from the course have been taken care of and I know that the others will be eventually but right now I still feel that the issues keep me from rating this one higher. It is definatly worth a stop if you are in charlotte cause it is probably one of the most unique courses as far as terrain goes in the area.
I will likely rate it higher once many of the negatives are fixed (specifiacally saftey issues).
7 of 10 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 3 Not
Did That Just Happen?
Pros: Sits in a nice park that also has a big playground and nice big soccer fields. There has been a lot of work put into this course to make sure the hills are not too difficult to navigate. The course makes great use of the terrain making you throw up and down hill a lot. There are plenty of tight gaps to hit and lots of OB to make things challenging. There are a lot of challenging baskets as well that will make you work for every stroke. There is a good mix of long and short as well as up and down hill. Lots of nice benches and new bridges to get over the stream. Nice new baskets and consistent tee pads are great. Nice new tee signs are very helpful. Be sure to look for arrows to show you where to go next.
Cons: This is not a course that will be fun for newer players. There are a couple of places where you could get crossed up on where you are supposed to go. There is a long walk back to the parking lot from hole 18's basket. Excessively marked OB makes this course less fun. I really did not like the tee pad on hole 12, no matter how cool it looks when you walk up to it. These are really all small things but cause the rating to go down, especially when you think about all the other great courses in the area.
Other Thoughts: A good round can go very bad here on one hole with the way a disc could just start rolling down hills from some of the baskets. While the baskets all look really cool sitting up on their hills and rock and what not, it can get very frustrating when you easy layup decides to roll away as if you ran at it. This only happened to me once during my tune up round for Worlds 2012 here, but it made me think twice about going for a lot of putts. This is just not my favorite of the courses that I will be playing, even though it does feel the most like the mountain courses back home that I am used to. This is a great course, but without the history of some of the other courses in the area I would put this in a close second group of courses to play in the Charlotte area.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful.
8 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Great use of elevation with interesting shots that are uncommon to the area make this a fun one indeed.
If elevation is your thing, and it should be considering your love for aerodynamics (cheers), this is a great park to get you feeling the ace runs, and looking for errant throws if you get off track. With that being said, it is a 5004 ft. course that is a newby so far. But, it ranks high on the fun meter because of the pin positions being mixed (elevated and way lower than your tee pad), and good use of nature (rocks and creeks). Some fairways are getting widened and will soon be forehand and backhand routes to the pins, nice touch shots abound. Signature holes are actually hard to pinpoint, because there are a few gems that make the course notable. As far as difficulty, it is advanced, but having a lot of ace potential for decent arms. Big field gets crowded with walkers some nights, but is an amazing driving range when it is empty, best I have seen in town by a long shot, three tiers and huge.Yes.
Cons: It is new and the rough is crazy at times, lost disc potential is very elevated. One of many things that will be manageable with time, no big issue for a new course, just be warned and keep your disc in bounds or pay the piper, as usual here in Charlotte.
Other Thoughts: I like the hike in this place personally, it feels very far away from town, and it is not. That by its self merits everyone to play this course out on Little Rock Rd. that is local and needs a break from the norm. Bring lots of water and snacks even though it is a short course by measurement, it is a hilly hike in this blazing heat wave as of late. As always take your time and let others play through to really enjoy what it is all about, see you on the tee.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
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