3 Helpful / 4 Not
Robert L. Smith Park is one of the more difficult courses I've been to in Charlotte. The course has an excellent layout with many left and right shot holes. After the first 3 holes you'll primarily be in the shaded woods which is great for escaping that Charlotte heat! The terrain is a hike, Be prepared. There are several up hill and down hill shots with some very unique basket placements up on rocks, on the edge of a creek, etc. There are some water hazards throughout the course. The water hazard is a relatively large creek but really adds to the great scenery of the course. There are several blind holes and and a few mandos. Hole 3 is alot of fun but is extremely overgrown and if you are not careful you could lose a disc into the brier patches below. Dont forget to bring some bug spray and watch out for spider webs in the woods.
Concrete tees with benches and trash cans at most of the holes. The course is very clean, and free of debris on the greens. Tee signs at every hole with accurate distances and basket placement which is great for first timers on the blind holes. There are some next tee signs but some seem to be missing or non existent. Plenty of parky, with bathrooms and water fountains available. Hole 1 starts to right of the practice tee next to a information kiosk.
Cons: After the first few holes there is no signage to point you in the direction to the next hole. Typically you can just follow the path but a few times I ended up at the wrong tee because of all the alternate paths that people have made to skip holes.
Other Thoughts: If you are looking for a challenge Robert L. Smith should be a good challenge and a lot of fun for you.
3 of 7 people found this review helpful.
12 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: RL Smith is a true gem in the Charlotte disc golf scene. Here are my pros:
1) This park is absolutely gorgeous! Even taking out the awesome course this park has a lot going for it and is visually pleasing.
2) This course, save for a few holes, is just an awesome design. Playing this course tournament style offers a great challenge because of the out of bounds found on the course. Hole 5 is an awesome par 4 that really makes you think about the shots you have to throw to make a good score.
3) The course has some of the most interesting greens you will find. Hole 2 is on such a huge slope and really can offer some 70 foot rollaways with a bad putt. 7 has a neat elevated basket that is right on a hill as well. The greens for holes 9 and 12 feature some awesome rock formations that add a lot of character. Interesting greens make for an interesting course!
4) The course actually has some nice elevation for a wooded course, which really adds some nice value. Hole 2 plays WAY uphill while hole 3 plays back downhill. Hole 18 is an awesome downhill finishing hole while 16 is a tricky little downhill shot. The designers did a great job of incorporating the elevation into this course and in my opinion this made a 3.5 star course into an Excellent 4.0 course.
5) Typically when you have a wooded course you are going to have holes that seem "pokey" and have unfair routes. After playing this course a few times that is not the case here. The course is challenging but every hole has a fair line to hit. The luck factor is low here which is a huge plus for me.
6) The creek comes into play on a few holes and I love water hazards. Hole 4 was an awesome hole with the creek guarding the right side of the fairway and the pin tucked right up next to the creek.
7) Navigation was SIMPLE. I was never lost and finding the next hole was never a problem. This is a huge plus for someone who travels a lot to play courses.
8) The "deck" tee on hole 12 was quite a treat. It really reminded me of Maple Hill number 9. That took a lot of effort and you can tell the course really has great caretakers.
Cons: Honestly I didn't have a lot of cons here. I am rating this course "Excellent" but there were a few things that bothered me:
1) I am not a huge fan of what I would call artificial par 4's. Hole 9 is a 394 foot hole with a mando. Its a dogleg left hole that has an awesome green. However, I don't like courses that force the issue on par 4's. To me this course was a very challenging par 3 course with one par 4. It seems the issue was forced to try to create a second par 4 and anytime you have to use OB or mando's to do it the hole just feels out of place for me. It wasn't a bad hole but just didn't feel right. I am not just a huge fan of a hole that comes backward at the end (horseshoe shaped) but that's just my preference. This was not a huge deal for me as it was just one hole.
2) The rough is VERY rough. I know its probably because it's that time of the year and I didn't knock the course because of it but just be prepared for some thick rough.
3) This is essentially par 3 golf with one long hole thrown in there. Only two holes are over 400 feet so there are no opportunities to air out a drive. This course wasn't intended to be open or a bomber course, obviously, but its important to point out that this is a wooded course with little opportunity for long drives.
Don't take my cons the wrong way - this is one of the best courses in Charlotte!
Other Thoughts: Quite simply this is one of my favorite courses in Charlotte. I actually preferred this course to Hornet's Nest. While it may not be as well known as some of the more famous Charlotte courses it should be! This is a highly recommended course!
12 of 12 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 3 Not
Great Wooded Course
Pros: Challenging, thoughtful, valid FAIRways. It's always refreshing to see a wooded course with sufficiently wide fairway lines and no luck trees in the fairway. This is an interesting mix of up, down, left, right, etc. Secluded setting in scenic, hilly terrain. Very good benches, woodworking and stairs throughout. The course is only 1 mile off I-85, making it a great road trip stop.
Cons: The biggest con was definitely a factor of when I played it (mid-July). The first few holes are overgrown to the point of making a lost disc a strong possibility, especially #3 where an errant drive will land you in 4' high weeds. If I played it regularly I would spend a lot of time looking for discs on #3 in its current condition. I'm not giving this much weight in my rating since it's a temporary curable thing. Once you get in the woods, the fairways were generally very clear.
Other thoughts: the teepads are too small and I thought the course felt unbalanced with the back 9 playing much shorter/easier than the front and without any par 4 holes. As a final con, it seemed like there were a ton of blind holes, especially on the front 9, and many for no apparent reason.
Other Thoughts: I played this course while on a road trip to the beach and would definitely play here again. It's very close to I-85, seemed like a safe place to park, and has a playground for kids to play on. I really enjoyed this course and went back and forth between rating it a 4 and 4.5. It gets the big things right -- great mix of holes, valid fairways, good signage and very good stairs/trails/benches. Better maintenance - especially more cutting on the first few holes to reduce lost discs - gets this to 4.5 for me.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 11 Not
Not Great for a Beginner
Pros: It's a beautiful place to play. There are a lot of cool holes around the creek and it's a really challenging course if you're wanting to really test your skill.
Cons: There are lots of places to lose discs if you're not an extremely accurate thrower. I lost my favorite disc on the second hole. The first 4 holes have some big areas that are really overgrown, so be super careful. The course does open up some after that though. Then your game becomes more about not putting your disc in the creek.
Other Thoughts: If you're not a beginner, this course might be cool. I loved walking around the course. Lots of cool stuff all around and this is a great place to challenge yourself if you think you're good enough.
0 of 11 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 / 2 Not
Up and Down
Pros: Another Beautiful Course in Charlotte
Good Concrete Tees
Adequate signage (Teesigns and "next tee")
Benches at several tees
Bathrooms/water fountains at the parking lot
Plenty of parking
Navigation is easy
Very fun course
Use of elevation changes is Top-notch
Fairways are well trimmed and wide enough to make the intended shot
Variety is great.
Good use of what water is there to make some holes challenging
Loved the use of Mandos to force certain lines
Also liked having several lines/options on most holes
The Deck on 12 added to the experience
Great place to work on shot-shaping
Some really good holes to work on Mids/Fairways
A few places to stretch out your drivers (you better be accurate)
Good for Rec to Pro players (something for everyone)
Empty your bag on 18 (fun)
Well kept and clean
Trimmed not just butchered
Playground for the Family/kids to wait for your round to finish
Well planned and flows well
Good workout, up and down hills
Favorite Hole(s): 5,12, 18
Cons: Not very many cons
A few more trashcans would be better (not really a problem, if you can lug it in full, surely you can make it all the way to the next trashcan empty)
A few good walks between holes (with friends this can be a plus)
A couple of holes feel repetetive
18 ends a little ways from the parking
Not really a con, but, if you're here in the Fall, bring your brightly colored discs and save you and your friends a good bit of time kicking around in the leaves looking for your discs.
Least Favorite Hole(s): 3, 11
Other Thoughts: This course is a great, fun, and challenging course that will really get your blood moving. Not too challenging, just enough to make it fun for everyone. I will definitely play it again if I'm ever in the area. This course is on the lower end of a 4.5 but I think better than a 4.
All in all, RL Smith is a must play if you're ever in the Charlotte area. If your passing through or traveling to Charlotte for DG, add this course to your plans and you won't regret it.
My disc rating is based heavily on "Fun Factor" which this course has lots of. I then bump it up or down based on amenities. This course has plenty of both.
PM me and let me know how I can be "more helpful" with my reviews.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 10 Not
Start the car
Pros: 1-18 are all amazing! Some of these reviews are right on target and some make me laugh. It is certainly not a beginners course, so know your limitations. 3 & 4 have some heavy rough in spots, but advanced players can easliy land on the green in one. 4 can be tricky getting down the hill, after that no worries unless you have trouble staying in the fairways.
Cons: None, feel fortunate that you are in a dg heaven and just play it already. Nobody likes complainers and people who nit pick courses to death.
Other Thoughts: Have fun, wear shoes with good traction.
0 of 10 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.
4 Helpful / 2 Not
A must play if in Charlotte!!
Pros: Course is fairly easy to navigate.
Tee pads and signs at every hole. Benches and trash cans at most holes.
This course unlike some others in the Charlotte area is not as crowded.
Course is secluded from the rest of the park.
Course provides a variety of holes (open, wooded, uphill, downhill, water, etc.). Variety of shots needed to score well.
Some holes will allow you to take various lines to get to the basket and the tee pads even accommodate for that.
Cons: Once you start your round, there are no exits if you are short on time and only planned to play 9 holes or so. Course design kind of forces you to play the whole round.
No chances to bomb a drive in an open field.
A couple of the early holes (#1, #3, and #4) have horrible underbrush.
Hole #9's mando is strange IMO.
Probability of losing discs is high due to water and high brush in some places. (I've found 4 out there this year alone.)
This will probably work itself out over time but there are some areas on the course where steps or a bridge here and there would be helpful.
Have seen several snakes out there so watch out!
Other Thoughts: Be sure to carry bug spray.
My opinion the signature holes for this course are #13 and #18.
This course is quite a hike and can be tiresome due to the constant elevation changes; however the back 9 is much shorter than the front.
If in Charlotte, along with Renny, Hornets' Nest, and many others....this one is a must play. You won't regret it.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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