This blog post was inspired by the ongoing number of conversations we’ve had with disc golfers that are adamant about the fact that disc golf courses MUST have 18 holes. While we’d love nothing more than to see every course have 18 shiny Innova DISCatcher Pro baskets, many locations just aren’t suited for that many holes. Some scenarios may be limited by budget, but more times than not, the amount of disc golf holes are typically dictated by the parcel, the owners of the land, or the overall interest in the project.
We spent the majority of last summer going on tour with The Mobile Disc Golf Experience which is a 3-6 hole traveling disc golf course whose primary mission is to make disc golf as accessible as possible to the general public. Once contracted for a fair, festival or event we scout out the property for the best location of a 3-6 hole disc golf course. After the site planning phase, we get down to the nitty gritty of course design, and follow that up with installation of the baskets. After the design, installation and signing of the holes are complete, we setup our vending booth and hand out free disc rentals for all to play the course.
As you could imagine, The Mobile Disc Golf Experience was a HUGE hit! We have been asked back by every single festival we were at in 2012 and are expanding our reach into the Southeast and Midwest for 2013. While the courses are designed to be beginner-friendly, they typically provide multiple technical shots for advanced players who should aim to birdie every hole. So while the 3-6 hole courses are new and exciting for beginners, they also appeal to advanced players as many are seen constantly making loops until they birdie every hole in a round. That being said, the majority of people playing The Mobile Disc Golf Experience have never played the sport, or are just beginning, and therein lies the success of it.
Don’t get us wrong, advanced players are very appreciative that a company would come in and setup a well-designed 3-6 hole disc golf course for a weekend, but would that be the case if the course was permanent? We ask this question because we have been hearing a lot of varying reactions to current projects at UMass Amherst and the town of Peabody, MA. While both of these courses are two different monsters, their similarities are the fact they will each have 9 holes, not 18.
The proposed course in Peabody, MA is situated on a 13 acre parcel of forested land where the course will be designed around a 5 acre retention basin. Is this the best parcel of land for a course? Probably not, but 9 holes is more than zero and we’re excited to see it progressing forward. On the every end of the spectrum, our design for the disc golf course on the UMass Amherst campus has been well-thought out, and utilizes 18 holes that connect to several significant on-site features that few, if any town residents and students even know exist. That being said, the initial installation of the disc golf course this April will be 9 holes, a closed loop section of the figure 8 course design that encompasses some of the most beautiful scenery on campus.
The reason the initial installation of the UMass Amherst Disc Golf Course will be 9 holes is the fact that the University wants to see how the students will respond, the safety of the overall design, and the maintenance requirements for Facilities Management, amongst several other things. Once the University sees the course utilized in a positive light, they should, in theory, give the green light for the other 9 hole section of the course to be installed. That being said, in our current situation, we hear from many in the disc golf community that they’d prefer 18 holes. Once again, we understand that, but 9 is more than zero, correct?
Earlier we said we’d love to see every course have 18 shiny Innova DISCatcher Pro baskets, but that’s not necessarily true. While pay-to-play courses need to exist in juxtaposition to free courses, we believe that 3-9 hole courses need to exist in addition to 18 hole championship courses. Think about a class of 5th graders — do they have the attention span to play 18 holes? Now think about a beautiful open park with a playground and basketball court in the field and nothing along the sliver of wood line on the edge of the parcel. While there is absolutely no room for 18 holes of disc golf, would you object to 3 holes that could provide a healthy outlet for children, all the while pointing them to the local disc golf course with 18 holes?
In summary, we don’t believe every course needs to be 18 holes, and firmly believe that integrating 3-6 hole “pocket courses” will be just as good for the sport, if not better, than an 18 hole championship design. We need to be thinking about the newbies and recreational players, not catering to those that already play the sport. We, personally, love 18 hole courses that provide the toughest test of disc golf, but that’s not going to grow the sport — scattering “pocket courses” throughout park systems, schools and other locations that help introduce players to the sport of disc golf will. Then, when they are ready for that tough test, they will head over to the championship layout, and hopefully have another group of youngsters take their place at the beginner-friendly “pocket course” at a local park that wanted to integrate disc golf into their community.