An Honest Review of PTP
8 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Pioneer Trail Park is a great wooded disc golf course. As a local for the past year I have played the course dozens of times. Blue Tees are a fun challenge during the summer months and Red Tees are great for approach practice, beginners, and winter rounds.
-Lines are difficult but fair. This is not a poke and hope course, but the heavy woods function as natural OB. Players who throw off of the fairway will be punished with poor looks that often result in bogies. There are trees on every hole. Hole 8 is the only open hole, and even that one has some trees that can come into play.
-Some holes have multiple lines off the tee. In particular, holes #1, #2, #3, #11, and #15 present players with two or more viable options off of the the tee. Most other holes have one intuitive line, but players may choose different throws to hit said line. For example, both #6 and #7 are big left turns. However, I have seen both pins reached with righthand backhand and forehand throws.
-Memorable holes: #8 is a short downhill ace run that carries across the road. It's a fun hole that breaks up the otherwise unceasing string of heavily wooded holes.
#16 is a bear of a hole appropriately labeled "Lefty's Cliff." Golfers are met with a tight line over a hill with a steep dropoff on the left side of the fairway. In my opinion the most difficult hole of the regular 18.
#19 is the only water carry on the course, but is a "good disc hole." Players throw maybe a little under 200' over a mucky pond before entering left bending tunnel. It's a cool hole.
-Good signage. It is clear where the course begins, as indicated by a large "Disc Golf Course Starts Here" sign that it is impossible to miss. Tee signs are accurate, in great condition, and even offer tips and hole descriptions. There is a sign near hole #18's basket pointing back towards the parking area if you choose to finish there.
-Intuitive Course Flow. I can't recall ever getting lost on this course. Playing this course feels like going for a hike through the woods while playing disc along the way. Just follow the trail.
-Challenging holes mixed in with relatively easier holes. #8 and #9 present very reasonable birdie opportunities. Holes #16-18 have a reputation for ruining good rounds. The course as a whole is challenging.
The course has amenities in the form of the camp office. Food, drink, and a limited selection of discs are available there.
Cons: -Mosquitoes are terrible at this course in the summer. Can be almost unplayable without bug dope.
-Tunnel Shot Redundancy. This is partially a natural quality of heavily wooded disc golf courses, but it can feel repetitive. #13 is a long narrow straight tunnel shot. #18 is a straight longer but wider tunnel shot. Holes with only one viable line adds to this feeling.
-Raised Gravel Teepads. This is my biggest issue with PTP. Gravel teepads develop ruts, which become puddles when it rains. There is also a dropoff off the front of the teepad, which is as high as 2-3 feet on some holes. Not only do the teepads throw players off mentally, but they also present a safety hazard. I have not fallen off the front of a teepad, but know players who have. It is quite conceivable to twist and ankle or suffer a similar joint injury with these poorly designed teepads. My hunch is that these might never evolve into rubber or cement in part because that would admit that this course is indeed permanent.
-The ground cover is very thick. Most of the course is covered with dead leaves and sticks. This is intentional for the well-being of the park's trees, but also can make it difficult to find discs.
Similarly, there are many small trees that are growing in and on the edge of fairways. I have heard the rule of thumb for a wooded disc golf fairway is to remove all trees that you can fit your hand around. Many trees were removed in the making of this course, and many more would have to be removed to meet that guideline. As it stands, the course feels minimally maintained for disc golf purposes.
-Similarly, at the time of this review update (6/11/19), PTP has many downed trees and woodpiles in and on the edge of course fairways. Many of the parks beach trees had to be cut down due to a disease that killed most of them. The County has cut many of them down, but full removal is still in process. In the meantime, be prepared for substantial brush piles including on #11 and #16.
-Holes #19-#24 feel like an afterthought, even with #19 being a great hole. They are less broken in, less played, and less maintained than #1-#18.
-Holes #25-27 will likely never be installed. It's a cool idea to play on the island in the river, but in reality it's more river than island most of the time. In 2019 we've had particularly high water levels. Lake Michigan is as high as ever up here, as is the Escanaba River that boarders PTP.
-As of the summer of 2017 PTP is now pay to play. Cost is $3 per day or $55 for a seasonal pass, neither of which is unreasonable to play a high quality course. That being said, it is currently unclear exactly where the funds from course entry fees will go. Will they go towards course improvements: better teepads, course maintenance, etc., or will entry fees go towards other improvements throughout the park? This is yet to be seen, but time will tell.
UPDATE June 2019: Course is still pay to play, but arguably not up to pay to play standards. Still a good course in design, but is in need of some maintenance.
-The summary of my complaints is that this a disc golf course within the confines of a county park and campground. Pioneer Trail Park is a county park and a campground first, and home to one of the best disc golf courses in the Upper Peninsula second.
-Furthermore, clashes between park management and the local club has created a situation where organized disc golf events are prohibited at PTP: no leagues, no clubs, only pay to play casual rounds. Definitely still worth checking out if you are in the area because it is a legitimately fun wooded disc golf course.
Other Thoughts: Don't be deceived by local politics that have negatively affected PTP. Judging the course solely on the merits of being a good disc golf course, PTP is a great disc golf course that with more love and care could be an excellent course.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 0 Not
Play This Course
Pros: This course has most every challenge you could look for except water. You need every shot in the bag. Long and short tees. Great signs are super helpful. For the most part flow is really smooth, not a lot to get lost on for a newbie. Nice visible baskets. Some of the best shot variety I've seen in a course. Amazing aesthetics. Love the tips on the tee signs. 24 holes is a plus.Camping on site for a good price.
Cons: Only minor complaints. More of a rightey backhand favorable course. Good flow but if you get off track you are lost. Not all tees are the best. Some blind shots where you have to go up to check it out
Other Thoughts: This course gets some bad reviews but i can't see why. This course may be the best i played in a tour of the UP. Great shot variety, good sinage and flow, proper chains. I think some people equate a challange to a negative rating. This course is forgiving enough for the beginners from the shorts and a challenge for the advanced player from the longs.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 5 Not
cluttered and unkempt
Pros: nice stairs going down to 8, camping available, free disc golf for campers, the rest of the park is very nice, it has a playground, a baseball diamond, a boat launch, walking trails and rentable pavilions and shelters. The course has a wide variety of throws with some nice elevation changes and a nice flow.
Cons: mosquitos are very bad, ticks in the park carry Lyme disease, lots of deadfall and clutter laying on the fairways, no leagues or tournaments allowed at the course, it's p2p. Gravel tee pads are dished out. It was supposed to be 27 holes but has only 24 and is still not finished after 7 years.
Other Thoughts: The course has been neglected by the county and has been pretty much abandoned by most local players. It's a great course but park management considers it an amenity for campers only and discourages play by locals and non-campers.
1 of 6 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
trees trees trees...oh look, a tree.
Pros: Aesthetic-- plays through the woods at a large campground on the shores of the Escanaba River. Area seems to be largely DG exclusive but I believe there are hiking trails that intertwine so be careful and watch for non-DG'ers. When the final 9 are installed, they are much more close to public areas... throw carefully.
Variety-- there is a wide variety of distances here along with many turnovers and left fades. There is never a monotonous moment here. This course will keep you guessing to be sure.
Elevation/Rollaways-- great use of elevation throughout with many holes following ridges and valleys in the topography. #8 over the road is a nice little ace run as is #9 up the hill.
Uniqueness-- While not installed yet, the last three holes that play to and from the island will surely be a unique touch to this course. I would be very interested to see how these turn out.
Teepads-- while they are natural teepads, they are level and without ruts. I really can't complain about them.
Dual tees-- I completely agree that the blue tees are challenging and the reds are good for newbies.. I would say, however, that the red tees are just shorter versions of the blue tees rather than offering a unique view of the hole.
Baskets-- brand new discatchers, highly visible in the thick woods...
Routing and nav-- easy easy. never once did I feel lost. Trails are fairly well beat in. Some next tees are helpful.
Cons: Amenities-- Benches and a trashcan or two would be welcomed here. While the course isn't crazy long, it's always nice to have something to put your bag on between holes. And, while pack in/pack out isn't bad in theory, in practice, it doesn't work...Garbage will build up.
Teesigns-- while I'm sure this change as the course continues to evolve, the current signs don't have anything but tee numbers on them.
Uncontrollables-- bugs bugs bugs.. holy crap the mosquitoes here are terrible. Maybe a few bat boxes would help?? The next 6 holes after 18 are apparently on much lower ground so water could be bad after the snow melts and after heavy rains. Also, the stink from the junk collector next door (along with his god damn rooster crowing) were a bit distracting.
Other Thoughts: Overall this was a great way to start our UP weekend. Excited to see how this course evolves over time!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
3 Helpful / 1 Not
Real UP disc golf
Pros: Tight, technical, long and punishing, and also short heart pounding ace runs. This course is just plain fun to play.
Two sets of tees are perfect for the area, un-accustomed to disc golf until 2013. The Blue tees are par 55, and sure to entice and appease the advanced traveling playing (SSA likely around 51 or so). The red tees are amazing for all the newcomers in the area and campers at the park to become involved in the sport other than at wide open city parks.
Plenty of risky greens and even fairways which traverse along pretty densely wooded ridges with sharp drop-offs.
OB in the form of a pond (blue tee water crossing of 275' or so), road, and private railroad property.
Variation of distances within this practically 99% wooded course range from around 195' to 490'+.
Punishment for a bad drive, all lines are fair and wide, but hitting a tree can kick you off course into some untamed rough. Sometimes playing accurate golf in the fairway is better than power golf.
The downhill floater off the hill across the road is a great exciting ace run and the one opportunity for relief from the trees on the front 18.
Cons: Right now tees are just natural, not even leveled in some places. The park staff is working on improving these, and likely utilize a stone base topped with Watch it Bend Pads (unless they can work out an arrangement for the labor and donation of concrete).
The island holes are seasonal and actually yet to be played due to water levels and politics. So, just a 24 hole 'mainland' course out of a 27 hole design.
6 of the 24 mainland holes were not installed in 2013, this makes them feel a bit less open and different from the rest of the course because they are not broken in.
The road noise on the highway is pretty loud, takes away from the secluded disc golf experience.
Permanent tee signs are actually not going to be installed until July 4th.
Other Thoughts: This course is very fun to play. The blue tees are well balanced and exciting, and for a change of pace the red tees are excellent ace runs, or beginner tees.
Escanaba area has just experienced a boom in disc golf. PTP gives the diehard players an excellent spot to enjoy, learn, and love the game. The two shorter 9ers in town offer ample opportunity for residents.
Level all tees, keep all signage up, and keep the island holes in for the complete 27 hole layout!
Visit the Days River trail area while you're in town. Imagine a disc golf course there and tell the State of MI DNR to contact Watch it Bend!
Make a vacation roadtrip up Hwy 41. Play PTP, then Silver Creek and Powder Mill in Marquette.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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