A tale of two courses, both of which could be better
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: If you follow the directions listed on this site/your GPS to get to the Porcupine Mountains disc golf course, you will pass a road sign stating that the end of the earth is only 2 miles away. Don't worry - by the time you get here the sign may feel accurate (you are a full hour's drive away from the nearest town large enough to have chain restaurants) but your drive was not for nothing. The course is only a half mile after the sign on your left.
This course is seasonal and makes use of a ski area with the same name. The signage here is very well done. There is a kiosk at the front of the course with a large color course map, as well as distance and par for every hole. All 18 tee signs show the map/distance/par for the hole. Kudos to Ryszard Olszewski who is credited with making this signage for an Eagle Scout project in 2019. There are also nice Next Tee signs in the places they are needed.
The 18 baskets are all present and in good condition, but they are the wheeled/seasonal variety so they are not necessarily level.
The course plays as two very distinct 9 hole experiences that start and end at the same point (same tee area is used for hole #1 and #10). The front nine is mostly flat and short, and plays along some fairly tight dirt/gravel paths through the woods. This front nine has some holes that would be suitable for beginners or families just looking for something different to try in the area. The back nine is much longer and plays up and down the ski hill, with wide fairways (often the ski slopes). From a couple of the back nine tee pads you get a great view of the ski chalet down the hill and Lake Superior in the distance behind it. On hole #17 you throw down the slope the chairlift is on, again with a view of Lake Superior in the background. I would say this back nine caters more towards "serious" disc golfers.
Cons: Course maintenance appears to be minimal. The fairways on the back nine are mostly tall grass, with some muddy areas when I played. The rough is also thick throughout the course. There is real possibility of losing a disc here.
Pin placement and hole design is pretty unimaginative. It looked like the designers chose to mostly use existing pathways (front nine) and existing cleared slope areas (back nine) rather than clearing any new areas for the course. Most baskets are just in the open, other than a few that are placed right next to the thick rough. There is good variety in length, but probably not much challenge for a "serious" disc golfer even on the back nine.
Natural/gravel/dirt tee pads.
Other Thoughts: This is not a "pay to play" course per se, but you need a current State of Michigan Recreation Passport to enter the state park where this course is found.
There is no cell service here, so plan accordingly.
Thanks to the state and others involved in putting in a disc golf course here and giving visitors to this area something else to do besides hiking and camping. That said...I honestly left this course somewhat disappointed. This was my first time vacationing in the Porkies (Porcupine Mountains), and I'm pretty sure there isn't a boring trail in the park based on the ones I hiked. The entire region is absolutely beautiful, and this ski resort area is no exception. Yet, this disc golf course manages to have a front nine that is entirely unremarkable and a back nine where several holes feel like they aren't worth the trek up and down the hill. There are probably at least a couple of individual holes here that players of any skill level would find interesting and accessible. But, I don't really feel like the course as a whole would be fully satisfying to anyone. Some of the front nine holes will feel like throwaway holes to a serious disc golfer. A family might skip the entire back nine.
The land here has "destination course" written all over it but this current course design mostly fails to take advantage. I think with a significant redesign and some regular maintenance the land available here could become a 5 star course, but right now it falls far short of that. I am glad I played the course, but honestly unless you are vacationing in the Porkies it's probably not worth the drive.
If you do decide to make the trip to play this course, don't leave without continuing up the highway to take in the view at the Lake of the Clouds overlook!
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
6 Helpful / 0 Not
Fun, but underwhelming
Pros: -Scenery - plays through nice shady woods, and up ski runs, with a gorgeous view of Lake Superior
-Mach V baskets with the deep cages, looked nearly new
-Gravel tees on every hole with plenty of run up space
-Signs on every hole, showing number, length and hole layout.
-Good variety of open vs. wooded
-Good distance variety - no par 4's or 5's, but all different distances from 180' all the way to upwards of 450'.
-Straight, left, right, flat, up and down holes
-Challenge - hit your line, or get into the thick rough
-A pair of signature downhill holes (14 and 17). You can rip the fairway drivers and watch em' glide on these two, but don't get too crazy cause there's high potential to fade or turn off to the side into the thick brush.
-Navigation - very intuitive, the only place that seemed to need a next tee sign, there was one present.
-A darn good workout
Cons: -Long grass on back 9
-Flow - the front 9 feels essentially like a completely different course - mostly wooded with a couple more open holes, lots of short ace runs. The back 9 is basically all open, following decently wide ski runs up and down. A lot of the front nine seemed linear, with the tees being right in line with the last basket, seeming to follow one straight line. Just a little weird.
-Repetitive and below potential back nine - basically every hole (with the exception of 16) plays along the middle of open ski runs. They're not a mile wide, but wide enough to feel like you're playing the same hole over and over again, just going up and down. Basically 7 of 9 of the back holes are the exact same width, and it gets boring.
-Basket locations - it seems they tried to make them precarious, but it just didn't jive. The only thing they did was put every other basket literally a foot or two from the edge of thick trees and bushes. Otherwise, they were just in the open. Many baskets were leaning and not level.
-Gravel teepads - I liked them, but will list as a con as well. They can get a little shifty at times, had a few friends slip while throwing; they hated them.
-WASPS AND HORNETS - I know we can't control nature, but this needs to be listed. I have never encountered so many wasp/hornet nests in my life. It is partially due to the time of year we visited, but we had two seperate occasions where two different people from our group were stung by ground nests in different spots (hole 16 left side and 17 right side). There was a MASSIVE nest on a lift tower on 17, and on holes 1 and 10, you throw by a maintenance type shed, and there were swarms of wasps flying in and out of the grate on the front, and tons of smaller, very active nests along the edge of the roof. There were multiple on the edge of the roof of the chalet, including another large, football or bigger sized one. It would be nice for someone to do some spraying or extermination, cause it felt like everywhere you turned there were wasps. Be careful out there.
Other Thoughts: This place is very scenic, and a great round no matter what, but there seems to be a lot of missed potential. There are so many cool holes that could be made, but they settled for just plopping baskets and tees at the end of already made ski runs. The front 9 is a lot more technical, and in my opinion better than the back. I feel like I would just rather loop the front 9 multiple times than do a full 18. The only real exciting holes are the big downhillers on 14 and 17.
Nonetheless, it's nice to have an 18 hole course on such a gorgeous ski hill, in front of the most gorgeous lake in the nation. Will always make for a pleasent day of discing.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
Beautiful woods and interesting shots
Pros: A neat setting in the beautiful Porcupine Mountains, right next to Lake Superior, the course plays on and next to a ski slope. The slope is used well with elevation changes that are creative, interesting, and difficult.
There are variety of hole distances and a mix of somewhat open and tight wooded shots. I wouldn't call any hole there a wide open shot. Some holes have some very interesting design elements, like hole three that shoots up hill with a low ceiling and up a path for the first part of the hole and then there are two structures that you have to shoot between before arriving out in the open to find the basket.
The teepads are only pea gravel and actually work alright. There was only one instance where a "next tee" arrow would have been helpful, I think between holes 13 and 14. Otherwise, navigation was pretty self-explanatory.
I was there in mid June and there were some wet spots on the course, but they were not difficult to navigate around. The first eleven or twelve holes were mowed nicely where they needed to be.
Cons: While the pea gravel teepads worked alright, I am also going to list the pads as a con because a hard concrete or paver surface would have been nice to have on some of the longer holes where I wanted to really rip hard on a drive.
This course doesn't quite know who it wants to cater to. Maybe it is trying to cater to large a spectrum of skill levels. The five sub 200ft holes just don't work with the rest of the course that has more distance. The shorter holes are somewhat neat and would be great for beginners, very casual players, and families, but those players would not enjoy the rest of the course. Conversely, someone looking for more of a challenge will look at the shorter holes as throw away holes.
The last six or seven holes were not yet mowed. I assume it is because there was still some mud and wet spots on the slope that a mower could not yet get to. Very easy to lose a disc in the tall grass. It seemed like there were plenty of dryer areas on the ski slope. There should have been some better planning of space use on the slope with an eye towards staying away from the wet spots. The tall grass made a few holes close to unplayable. Some of the earlier holes could also do for some mowing close to the baskets. It is never a good thing to have your drive land 25ft away from the basket but you have to spend 4-5 minutes kicking around ferns and other giant leaves to find your disc.
Some of the tee signs may not be exactly accurate, but the only one that I thought was glaringly inaccurate was hole 18, which I think is shorter than the 498ft listed. The baskets look like they might go in a slightly different spot from year to year and perhaps the basket for hole 18 got moved closer.
Other Thoughts: There was no one at the chalet when I was there on a Sunday. I don't know their hours or if you can get into the building to use the facilities or to get water.
Summer in the Porcupine Mountains is one of the greenest places you will ever experience. Autumn time is also amazingly beautiful in this area. This course is definitely worth the stop if you are vacationing in the area, but some work would need to be done for this to be a destination type course. Better teepads, more mowing, and some re-design, but the space is certainly there.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 0 Not
Brand new course
Pros: The course is well laid out and has a nice flow to it. The signage is pretty good, the tee pads are pea gravel. The front and back nines start at the same place in front of the ski chalet. The front nine is an ace run with short, easy holes designed for beginners and tourists who don't play very often. The back nine, which is situated on the ski hill, brings you up gradually over a few holes so you're not trudging directly up the mountain. It's a little more challenging and has some longer downhill holes. The scenery is just magnificent, and the views of Lake Superior from the top of the course are gorgeous.
Cons: Most of the holes on the front nine were well under 200' and not very challenging. There are two long downhill holes but both were under 500'. It's in a very remote location and looks like it hasn't been played very much, and it is brand new and needs to get beat in a little. Some of the tee pads on the hill are sloped either up or downhill, and some are already eroded. It's also a disc eater, we lost a couple in the buffer zones between the ski runs.
Other Thoughts: It's a nice, easy course in a very beautiful location. We drove three hours to play it, and I probably wouldn't do that again, but if I were in the area I would definitely hit it again. I think it was mostly designed as a course for campers and tourists staying at Porcupine Mtns. State Park. It is a very sparsely populated area, even on July 4th weekend we hardly saw any cars.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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