90 days of disc golf: The lost episodes part 3.

90 days of disc golf: Do you have any rooms in this place where people can sleep?

The night before we played Toboggan for the first time, we spent the evening at Aaron G’s house. Aaron had recently moved to Michigan from Kansas City and was pretty excited to talk disc golf and play a few rounds. That night the temperature never dipped below 104, and the room he offered us stayed up around 120. It was so hot, we were only able to get maybe 20 minutes of sleep. After hours of roasting in that room, we decided to drive around and find some coffee. It was 4 A.M. and the nearest coffee wasn’t available until 6 A.M. but the AC in the car kept us company until the doors opened. 

When we got to the course and played it, we were delirious. There was no way to focus or to make good judgements. Minna stopped playing after hole 3. The evil of that course and the delirium were just too much at the same time. Aaron and I played on, and I had one of the best rounds of my life. Of course, I was playing it blind and didn’t know the dangers conspiring against me. After a full night of sleep, I shot 8 strokes worse on the same course. 

The tiny town of Woodstock, Illinois may not resonate with a lot of you, but if you do some research you’ll find that Woodstock is the town where they filmed “Groundhog’s Day.” The town is an hour outside of Chicago on the way to Rockport. The town looks just like it does in the movie; cafe, hotel, etc. The bed and breakfast where Bill Murray stays is a real bed and breakfast. It’s beautiful, it’s in a wonderful neighborhood and we didn’t stay there. Instead, we stayed in the part of town where you would find most people chasing disc golf glory – in a cheap motel. The door didn’t lock. The towels were antiques. The tv had a dial. You can sleep well in a cheap hotel because you know no one wants to rob you because people in cheap hotels don’t have anything worth stealing (except for our discs… which came into the room with us that night).

Somewhere in the Southeastern part of Minnesota is a motel where we spent the night. I don’t know where it is because we checked in the middle of the night during a torrential rain storm and we didn’t look up long enough to see what the name of the motel was called. I do remember that the motel was near the Mississippi river, somewhere north of Waubasha – the town featured in “Grumpy Old Men.”

Lemon Lake disc golf course is unique in America in that the entire state park is dedicated to nothing but disc golf. It has a white (easy), red (sorta easy), blue (hard), black (harder), gold (super duper hard), and a purple (who knows) layout. I think they may have others, I haven’t checked. The place is beautiful with all sorts of trouble to be found. To play most of it would require getting to the course at 5 A.M. and playing all day. In order to do that, we stayed with my friend Chad, who lived about 20 miles away, just outside of Chicago. Chad has a wonderful condo and he has a great job in Chicago. This allows Chad to collect discs. Lots and lots of them. So many discs that the guest room is actually floor to ceiling with plastic bins filled with rare, collectible discs. Thousands of them. It looks like a Disc Golf World for rich people. 

The night before we played Lemon Lake, it was so quiet I wasn’t able to fall asleep. I kept waking up and looking at the wall of plastic. There was a light coming through the window which was passing through the plastic bins, the transparent plastic of the rare discs and refracting all over the room. I finally got some sleep, but the next morning my mind wasn’t on the courses but the oddity of the refracted colored lights.

ALBION, MI
VICTORY PARK:
This is one of the best courses that no one knows about. Aaron wanted to show this course the second we pulled into town, so with 8 hours of driving that day under our belt, we stepped on to pad 1. It’s a serious challenge. The first part of the course is a very tall hill covered with trees. It takes a great deal of patience to throw up hill. After you conquer the hill, you get to play with hidden water. The next seven baskets are located next to a creek with no fairway. You have to make your disc stop on a pin needle to it wont skip in. You have six of these shots in a row. They vary in length from 250 feet to 650 feet. All dangerous. The last bit of the course are just a few holes to add the insult to injury. They’re long and heavily protected by bushy pines. This course is one of MOST BANG FOR THE BUCK courses. Aaron plays it often and should be the greatest player on the planet, but Aaron has a young baby and doesn’t get much sleep, so he has a ways to go.

ROCKFORD, IL
ANNA PAGE:
We left Woodstock and drove across vast expanses of wide open dairy farms to reach Rockford. Rockford is a dying town made famous in the movie, “A League Of Their Own” with the all-girl’s baseball team, The Rockford Peaches. After the girl’s baseball team left town, the town itself started to wane. On the west side of town is a huge park built on a hill side which had heavily wooded glens. There are two courses in the park, a hard one with a lot of huge drives, and another hard one, with shorter drives. Most people don’t think much of these courses. They kept telling us to visit a course here or a course over there, but this duo of courses just kept calling our names. Had we listened to other voices, we would have only played one course, with our decision, we had two. 

Anna Page is a groovy course. It’s wooded like Waterworks, but with rolling hills and glens. There are no easy holes on the course. Each drive is a tough uphill shot or a dangerous downhill shot. Then there are the wide open field shots which are longer than Blue Valley’s famous 17 and 18. Each hole isn’t just distance, the pins are all buried behind a bushy tree. 

There is room for one more course in the park and if people ever returned to Rockport, I bet that third course will go in. 

LEMON LAKE, IN
If you drive in from the Chicago side, there are sixty million red lights before you get to the turn to enter the park. It costs five bucks to enter the park if you’re not a resident of the county. To find this disc golf Mecca, it takes some driving skill. Indiana is mostly flat and covered with thick trees, so it’s easy to drive around blindly looking for the right “road” and still miss it. In fact, the more lost you get, the more you begin to doubt the quality of the courses. It’s so flat and there doesn’t seem to be many trees.

The courses are very much worth it. Even if your head is filled with visions of refracted colored light.

RED:
It’s not very long, but each hole is very technical. The trees are mostly lodge pole, or narrow and tall bamboo-esque trees which are impossible to get a disc through. If you can flick, you’ll need it. If you can throw a flat skip hyzer, you’ll need it. If you can throw a disc through a tunnel two feet wide and over 300 feet long, you’ll be happy. This course is just frustrating. Leave the big driver at home. Bring the midrange, the fairway driver and the putter. You will spend more time looking for your disc than you will actually playing, so keep that in mind when you plan out the trip.

BLUE:
Grab the driver and put it back in the bag. You might need two. Blue is twice the length of Red, but with fewer trees. However, the trees it does have are well-placed. There is even a sign which warns you NOT to play this course if you are a beginner. After you read the sign, you have to throw 400 feet over a lake of tall grass. If you don’t make it, go grab another driver out of your bag. Don’t waste your time looking for it. The first 10 holes are bombs. Huge drives. Then you get 8 holes of bomber shots which have to work through a wall of trees… and some water. 

If you can finish strong after BLUE, go home. It was a good day. Continue to play GOLD or PURPLE or VANILLA, and you’ll probably quit disc golf altogether. GOLD is three times as long as BLUE. You could build an entire Johnson Country subdivision on just one of the holes on GOLD. 

I would review WHITE but it doesn’t need one. IF you need a course for your toddler to play while you look for your discs on RED or BLUE, this is it. Enough said.

KALAMAZOO, MI
COLD BROOK:
This is the famous Iron Leaf course from Ken Climo/Gregg Barsby fame. If you have seen the video, Ken gets a 5 on a simple birdie hole after his drive hits an “Iron Leaf” and falls away. The hole in question is hole 17. It’s less than 200 feet and the basket sits on an steep embankment surrounded by trees with small diameter trunks. And that is the whole course; each hole is less than 275 feet, usually it’s a small tunnel shot, up or down a steep grade, with numerous trees (actually the holes at Smithville lake (gold?) are very much like this). There are a few big drives but not many. There is one SIGNATURE HOLE which has you teeing off at a lake side. If you opt for the hyzer route, you are carrying out over the lake and your disc must crash the trees and not bounce to the right, to be safe. If you go left, your disc has to stop short before the basket or it will skip off the fast green and into the lake. It’s a great shot. 

Also included in the 2008 Worlds was…

BATTLE CREEK, MI
OSHTEMO:
I have said it before and I will say it again, Michigan loves tunnel shots that turn to the right. Oshtemo is their crown jewel. It’s carved out of a thicket forest. It has a maze like feel while playing it and if you wander off too far from the fairway, you’ll be lost. I’m sure Jimmy Hoffa was playing Oshtemo and well, you know how that worked out. Emphasis on this course is on keeping it in the short grass. Rumor has it that Feldberg cut his teeth on this course and that’s why he was able to put up a 48 or something like that, during his title run. 

MADISON, WI
HIESTAND:
Madison disc golf has one major flaw – it closes down for the winter. As soon as the weather starts to turn nasty, they shut the courses down so the fairways don’t turn to mush and lose their grass. With that sort of care and concern about their courses, you know these people are pretty particular about keeping up appearances. This course is a great example of that concern. The course is built on an irregular shaped hill in the middle Madison. There is a LINE of people waiting on hole one to play. All being very decent and respectful of each other. It’s amazing that they would wait up to an hour to tee off, but when you get to play the course, you see that the wait is worth it. 

Like Oshtemo this course seems like it was carved out of a forest. Except this course wants you to play into the trees. Every pin is buried under a canopy and well protected. The trees will get in your head and so will the endless elevation changes. I’m glad they care enough about the course to stay off of it during the muddy months, their patience pays off. We were told this wasn’t the great course in the area, but it was just fine by our standards. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN
BLUE RIBBON PINES:
So many people talk about this course and if you ever play it you’ll know why. I think it’s worth mentioning that the STATE has put up a sign on the highway indicating that the BLUE RIBBON DISC GOLF COURSE is at the next exit. Built on a sod farm in the middle of flatland Minnesota, this is the course you dream of making if you ever won the lottery. It’s got a disc golf pro shop. A bar. A patio which looks out over half of the course. A driving range with the distance marked off in 25 foot segments. The grass is pure green surrounded by birch trees. The majority of the course is wooded tunnel shots. Most of them flat. There is water, which was PUT in to make the course harder. And there is hole 4, probably the most famous SIGNATURE HOLE in the Midwest. It’s 400 plus feet of tunnel shot. Wood chip fairway. OB LEFT. OB RIGHT. Birch trees in a perfect line down either side. The wood chips are a dark red and they are kept in place by paved stones. There are NO weeds here. 

One of my favorite holes on this course is less than 100 feet long. It’s 40 feet into a hallway, then a dramatic 90 degree turn to the right, and then 40 feet to the pin. The birch makes a perfect wall on both sides. The fairway is only five feet wide. You could not drive a golf cart down the middle of it. 

There are some of the toughest holes in disc golf on this course. The designer was able to modify the landscape to make it challenging. Imagine a narrow 250 foot long tunnel shots toward a lake, which you must carry over, then you have to curve around a wall of trees, carry 350 more feet, then go around another wall of trees, then another 200 feet, and find a wide open pin surrounded by wind. Par 3. It’s that sort of course. It’s famous for the grooming. It costs five bucks to play this 27 hole course for the day, it’s worth it. 

Also in Minneapolis…

KAPOSIA:
27 more holes. However, this isn’t flat. This isn’t wide open. This isn’t groomed. This course is all elevation. All super long and there is more blind shots, OB and thicket than on any other course I know. The course looks carved out of the woods. There are more challenging shots on this course than delaveaga. I know that is hard to believe, but the “shots” on this course have very little room for error. There is no SAFE shot on any of the holes. You have to go for it on each hole. Dela allows you short shots and lay ups, Kaposia has none. 

It costs five bucks to play this course too. But if you pay the five bucks at one Minnesota course in one day, you can play all the courses in town on that day.

HYLAND:
Pure evil. The course was built on a sky hill. Now this is Minnesota, but there are some serious hills there. Again, it’s 27 holes and most of them are 500 feet long or better. Hole 27 is 800 feet straight down. Most people can throw a putter on the hole and park it. The hill is sooooo steep you can not walk down the fairway. I think it’s important to point out that the hole you play to reach this amazing last hole is straight UP that same hill. It requires you to use your hands to climb the fairway to reach the pin. 

I don’t want you to think that this is all ridiculous heart attack hole after another, oh no. There are plenty of tunnel shots which are the same length, straight up or down that hill. If you need to lose weight, play this course a few times. I’m sure you’ll burn 2000 calories a round. There are NO easy shots on this course. None. If you’re not in great shape, don’t play this course. You won’t make it past hole 7. I’m sure I would change my opinion if they opened up the chair lift, or if they had an escalator. If you’re scared of heights, you should probably stay away.

A good night’s sleep makes all the difference in disc golf. If you’re not sleeping the night before, you’ll be sleeping on the course the next day.

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