Improper wayfinding in nature can cause stress and a disinterest in returning for many. One way to combat this is by varying techniques in designing the “ground plane” of a space. Design of a space is broken down into three simple components — floor, wall and ceiling. This article is going to focus on the floor component, which will be referred to as the “ground plane” herein. Taking advantage of designing the “ground plane” on disc golf courses can be an inexpensive substitute for signage, and a simple aesthetic that will keep disc golfers returning for future rounds.
When in conversation about disc golf course design, it is common for many to naturally think about getting down to the scale of individual holes, and designing them in such a fashion that players must exhibit a variety of shots to succeed in achieving par of the course. While there are several other facets of design — like the flow of the overall course, utilizing topography and change in elevation, connectivity to the surrounding context and minimizing your environmental impact, we urge you to think about the simplest of design techniques — designing the “ground plane.”
While you may or may not have a hand in designing your disc golf course, one components that is often overlooked is the “ground plane” itself. As a steward for the game and having the best interest of the park and disc golfer at heart, you and a group of volunteers may want to take it amongst yourselves to put the finishing touches on your disc golf course by ensuring that the design of the “ground plane” moves users throughout the course in a fluid manner, ultimately creating a sense of enjoyment and an interest in returning to the space.
In playing hundreds of courses across the United States, and speaking with dozens of players and touring professionals, proper signage has proven to be a common theme as an integral amenity missing from many courses. Of course there are signs at almost every course, but they vary drastically, and if there is a place to cheap out on signs, its on wayfinding signage. We understand that not every course has the budget for elaborate hole signage, but wayfinding signage can be handled in a variety of fashions.
Instead of spending money on small metal signs, course volunteers can design the “ground plane” by laying already downed branches and logs along a path. This simple technique is incredibly successful in moving users throughout a space, as it naturally catches your eye and guides you along to the next hole. When finishing a disc golf hole — with no wayfinding signage or obvious path directing a player that is new to the course — the disc golfer can become frustrated and uninterested in returning, or worse yet, continuing to play the sport disc golf.
This example may not be the common case, but if we want to continue to grow the sport, we have to know that newcomers to the game may not innately know how to get around their local course. Even if pathways are apparent, it’s in the courses best interest to still design the “ground plane” as it defines the corridor, and leaves little room for interpretation. This inexpensive technique can really help with wayfinding and moving users through the course; not to mention the simplistic beauty that it provides the otherwise undefined wilderness. User’s safety, well-being and interest in a space should always be the driving force behind any good design, as there is scientific evidence that humans make quick decisions about places that translate to feelings of fear or comfort, and those decisions are closely related to what they can see and the ease of movement through a space.