90 days of disc golf: The grass in the neighbor’s yard.
One of the most common compliments you’ll here in disc golf is just how beautiful and amazing a course is and how lucky someone is to have it in their town. There are a lot of these courses around the country and it’s getting harder and harder for people to pick which is the best course around. When out-of-towners come to Kansas City, they say the same thing about our courses. Waterworks has to got be one of the recognizable courses in America, or so it would seem if you talk about Kansas City disc golf with a visitor. I’m surprised there are not more video clips of people playing the course on the internet.
The first big trip for a tournament was to St. Louis. I was told it was going to be impressive and nothing like Kansas City. I had to go. “Not to be missed,” they said, “you’ll learn a lot.” However, like me, when the courses were being described, they used terms based on Kansas City courses so I could understand what I was getting myself into. “Waterworks like” “Blue Valley-esque” “Wyco but flat.” and the most common, “Rosie with trees”
Here’s what I found in St. Louis…
It’s Wyco but flat. Actually that’s not true. It’s Wyco but flatter and longer. The course is built next to a lake on land which used to be track housing. In fact, you have to watch your step because bit parts of the foundations are still visible. Other than that, this course is a bomber course with lots of OB and unfriendly large trees. There isn’t much to see on the course, and the course is generally overlooked by locals because it requires too much grooming to maintain it. So if you play the St. Louis Open, you will get to play the course at its best.
It’s like Waterworks but much, much longer. This is one of my favorite courses in America. It has every element you could ask for in a disc golf course except for water: Tunnel shots, elevation changes, gang activity, difficult greens, lots of OB and trees. The course is built on an old military base (hence “barracks”) and is carved out of a section of the park with just enough trees to piss you off. The elevation changes rapidly and many shots require a bit of luck to stick near the basket. If luck evades you, your disc is going to roll, and not just downhill, but into a putt-proof thicket you won’t enjoy. This course is beautiful to play and if you can play it well, you are a ninja. Throwing shaped shots on this course is required. If you don’t have control over your throws, don’t make the trip.
It’s like a well-groomed Blue Valley. Actually it’s much shorter than Blue Valley but the shots are bit more challenging. The front nine of this course is played on a wonderful open rollling hills lay out. Six of the front nine are bomb shots in space. The other three are extremely tough uphill tunnel shots. Very rough. The back nine is what makes this course famous. The course was long on the front, but it gets longer on the back. The holes are almost all wide open, but the elevation changes are so severe it makes the course a brutal attack on your body. Three of the holes are drives straight up hill over 600 feet. Then there is hole 13, a SIGNATURE HOLE. It’s over 500 feet, but don’t worry, anyone can park it. It’s straight down. OB left, A mess of trees to the right, OB behind the basket. It’s a fun shot. If you’re not in a tournament, empty your bag on the hole.
This is a shorter course to most of the courses in town, but it plays harder due to the number of trees per square feet. It’s a forest on a hill side with a disc golf course in it. It’s a great course, but it floods often and it’s not always the prettiest course to look at. This is the Rosedale of St. Louis and the challenges here are plenitful. Lots of elevation changes. Almost every hole is a tunnel shot or shaped shot through a maze of trees. Hole 8 is the SIGNATURE HOLE on the course also known as the Blair Witch hole. It’s 400 feet of tunnel shot with a huge rut running down the middle of the fairway. The trees are thick and unforgiving and if you get off the fairway, you’re toast. Even though hole 8 is the one hole people remember most, the entire course is a challenge with very few birdies.
This is the newest course to the St. Louis tournament. It’s across the river in Illinois and it is incredibly rough. Their isn’t one hole which doesn’t rapidly change elevation with immediate danger surrounding the basket. If you miss your shot here, your disc will roll down a steep hill (which you cannot climb without a rope) and go OB. It’s everywhere. This is very challenging course not made for beginners. You need incredible accuracy and lots of confidence or you won’t score below a 70.
After St. Louis, I played Des Moines. People speak about Des Moines like Christians speak of heaven, or fat people speak of McDonald’s, it’s that good. The first year I played the tournament they had five courses which has since been thinned out to four.
It’s the course of courses. Of all the courses in the Midwest, this is by far the most picturesque. It’s a huge course and each hole looks like it was designed and built from scratch. There is water, tunnel shots, elevation changes, extreme drives downhill, uphill, into tiny gaps 300 feet away, to greens protected by OB, mean trees, and a hungry creek. This course has it all. There is no dark side to this course (unless you use tobacco, cause you can’t here) other than the drive it takes for you to play it. This is one of the best all around courses in America if not the world and if you are going to die in two days, make sure you play this course tomorrow. The course is well manicured but there is a lot of ways to lose discs. The tall prairie grass will swallow it. The dense thicket on the side of the fairways will swallow it. And there is just too much glee pouring out of your body to control every shot you’ll be asked to make.
This is one of the most deceiving courses of all time. It looks short and simple but it turns out to be a long and rough course to play. There are two sides to this course, a heavily wooded side made up of a long tunnel shots up and down hill, and a modestly wooded side made up of huge drives up and down hill. It requires a lot of patience to play this course. The first four holes are tunnel shots. Then you get four holes of 400 foot major elevation change drives through heavy woods. Then a few wide open bomber holes, which brings you to Hole 11. A SIGNATURE hole which many PROs dont know how to play. It’s 600 feet long with OB on the left the whole way. The fairway is very, very narrow with thick trees on the right side. It’s a major pain in the ass to play this hole. I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten a three on it, but I’m sure it has happened. It’s one of those holes that could be easier if it didn’t get in your head. The last few holes are more open, but for some reason, harder than the rest. Space can be deceiving. Space makes you misjudge distance and what looks simple becomes more frustrating. This course is just pure evil. It’s the Wonderbra of disc golf. It takes very little and makes it look like a lot.
I love this course. It’s mostly flat, with a few holes with slight elevation changes. Most of the course is long shaped shots on fairways carved out of a forest. The first time I played the course I shot in the 60’s, but the last time I played it I was able to play it near 50. So it can be played if you can let yourself get over the spectacle of it. The drives require lots of control. Six of the holes are long tunnel shots, six of the holes are big drives in space, and six drives are shorter drives in space. This course is built on a cliff side park overlooking a huge lake. Sadly, only one hole utilizes this cliff. And there is no water on the course. The trees are thick and resemble bamboo shoots, so keep it in the fairway and you’ll do fine.
My least favorite course but with the most interesting holes. The first 10 holes of this course are the same. The course is carved out of forest of those bamboo trees. The holes are mostly straight ahead shots, with a few which turn or are elevated, if just slightly. These holes are not creative, but a few are tough. It’s not until you play hole 11 that the course opens up. 11 is a beast. It’s 600 feet long. A narrow fairway with trees in the middle of it. To make this hole interesting there’s a hill you have to play over. The average score on this hole is a 7. A 3 is impossible in my opinion and a 4 is sign that you need to move up. The last few holes are interesting. They play along a cliff overlooking a lake. Each hole represents a new challenge with regards to that lake and each one of them is a butt clincher. For most people, these are the holes which keep them from shooting a 45 on the course.
This is a great course. The entire course is elevation. Every shot is uphill or down, and there are just enough trees to be threatening but not so many to annoy. None of the holes are huge bomber shots, but you do have to tug on them a bit to give yourself a chance. From people I speak with, outside of Pickard, this is their favorite course to play in Des Moines. It’s just fun golf.
These are our neighbors and we are some of the most fortunate people in the nation to have them so close. I love to play these courses but in the moderation it takes to make them special. I play Waterworks all the time and it can actually be dull to me after the third round there in four days. I’m sure people feel the same way in Des Moines and St. Louis of their courses, and probably wish they could play Waterworks everyday. Perhaps we could open some sort of exchange program…