Nikko Locastro, Nate Doss, Dave Feldberg, Avery Jenkins, Ken Climo. These are names of people that almost everyone reading this will know. You know their names, you may even know of their accomplishments. You may have even played a round or two with one or all of them. But that doesn't mean you know who they are. Most of us just know of the name and not the man. (If for some reason you don't know these names, this is the original line-up of the band BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE.)
A name can live forever. Long after the person is gone, their name remains to shoulder the weight of the fame. Each time the stories are told, they get deeper, richer, and a bit more colorful than the truth which spawned them. Until eventually the name takes on a life of its own. The man is gone, but the history lives forever.
SHELBY FARMS, MEMPHIS, TN
This course is Wyco with bigger hills. It's bomber hole after bomber hole with serious elevation changes. There is no other real challenge to the course, so if you need to practice 500 foot uphill shots, this is your course. It is very humid here, which will increase the need for dry towels. It's hard to play with sweat on your hands and in your eyes. Also, the course is next to a prison, so don't throw over the fence.
VETERAN'S PARKS, TUPELO, MS
Elvis was born 700 feet from this course. In fact, you can see his house from the back nine. This course is actually two courses in one. It starts with an 18 hole, very technical, wooded course that has tons of elevation changes. Then it changes gears and gives you 18 holes of wide open, bombers shots that play along a lake. The forest is pines and magnolias and every tree branch is a nest for spiders. The south is a tough place, you want to appreciate the beauty but it may poison you.
I had heard that the South was filled with super challenging courses and this wasn't considered one of them. This course beat me up so the specter of what was to come was unsettling.
GEORGE WARD, BIRMINGHAM, AL
Again! Steep hills, Tall pines, willows, oaks, magnolias, a million tiny bugs, technical shots, long open field bomber shots and almost two full courses acting as one. The course is a Waterworks starter course. It starts at the top of a hill and plays down a wash into an open field, then back up the wash and into a forest for some long tunnel shots. This course was not considered to be a tough course, which was surprising, it plays tough and someone playing it everyday would still have a tough time making it under par. And again, the heat and humidity is a big part of the course. Sweaty shot shanks... suck.
IDGC, APPLING, GA
This is the greatest collection of courses in one location that you've probably never considered playing.
The disc golf hall of fame is here. So is the disc golf "museum" and the headquarters of PDGA. There is a disc golf store with all major companies represented (something you don't see very often). This Mecca is hard to find in the Georgia woods, and it's not too far from where they shot the movie, "Deliverance." Just FYI. It is set deep in the woods, in a huge wooded park, on the side of a beautiful lake, THIS is our disc golf Xanadu. On site are three courses named for great innovators of Disc Golf. Each course a slight variation of the last. Three different designers. Oddly, the only thing wrong in Xanadu is that the tee signs are incorrect. Distances are FURTHER than written.
STEADY ED - Tunnel shots at the lake. Tunnel shots over the lake. Tunnel shots that you have never thrown before. Tunnel shots that need to go downhill then uphill, then to the right and then over the lake - on the same hole. It's also very, very quiet here. It's just chains rattling and giggles of glee. This place is for disc golf. It does have the evil sign warning of snakes, but they are disc golf snakes, so go crazy. If you die here, your soul is going to wake up here. I could think of worse places to haunt. You are going to smile on every hole. There are SIGNATURE HOLES everywhere. And just when you think that it can't get better...
JIM WARNER - More lake. Tighter tunnel shots and more grins and smiles. Harder angles and just as challenging. And then...
WR JACKSON - The daddy! Looooong tunnel shots - with elevation, snakes and smiles. If you can only play one course here, play Hendrick. If you can only play two, play Hendrick and Warner. If you never want to go home again, play them all. This is disc golf perfection. It's off the beaten path, but you can camp here, so you don't ever have to leave. 20 miles away is famous course where they play The Masters. You can't see that course, it's not open to anyone. This is where disc golf should hold their masters, and it's open to everyone.
WINTHROP, ROCK HILL, SC
I can only imagine what the conversation was like when the course designer approached the college about using their campus for a course.
COLLEGE: So how much of our campus do you want to use for the course?
DESIGNER: All of it.
COLLEGE: For 18 holes?
DESIGNER: ...Something like that.
If a course wore make-up it would look like Winthrop. It's ridiculously beautiful. The drive up to the course is beautiful. The trees are covered with flowers. The grass is thick, trimmed and deep green. There is a lake with fountains. And there is a permanent bamboo wall sitting around a basket. So very curious, yet very pleasing.
Of course, this isn't the "GOLD" settings but it's close, and if you know how to set the course to "GOLD" you can play almost all of it. As the normal non-gold course, it's okay. It's not easy to navigate from one hole to the next, but that's partially my fault for being too excited in the first place. Hole 1 is beautiful and simple, and from there it only gets better. The gold course baskets are in the ground but the mandos and OBs are not. Just play it as is and love it. Note, this is a very, very long course. Bring your big boy pants. [I left a disc on the course. The only one I have lost this year. If you find it, I would like it back. It's a Loomis Green Star Wraith. Thanks.]
Everything about this course was designed to make you think.
HORNET'S NEST/CHARLOTTE'S WEB, CHARLOTTE, NC
I fully believe that Kansas City is the premiere place to live if you want to play disc golf for the rest of your life... I did believe that. Now I think it's the second greatest place to live, after Charlotte. Not only is it just 15 minutes to Winthrop, it's also less than 3 hours to over 50 killer courses, AND it contains the hardest course I have ever played, and ten other very challenging "experiences."
Hornet's Nest, as many of the rest of the courses in Charlotte, is actually TWO courses in one. It has a simple course, which anyone could play and have a good time, and then it has a steroid version. The normal layout for hornet's nest is a tight, technical course with some elevated baskets which add a few strokes to your score. There is OB, water, and a fair number of drastic turns which you must make, in space, at very specific moments in flight. You have to know how to do that. I don't, yet. The course is still something you can play under par... Until you play for the WHITE baskets from the "special" tee pads. If you choose to do so, you will be playing CHARLOTTE'S WEB. An impossible challenge for even the most seasoned pro. For example: Hole 7 is a 700 foot anny, tunnel shot that travels 2/3 of a circle in the woods. Hole 16 is 750 feet. It's a tight tunnel shot that must travel 500 feet then turn sharp left, travel 250 feet up hill to an elevated basket on a mound. I don't remember which hole it is, but there is one hole where the gap is only 2 feet. 375 feet, up hill, elevated basket, OB behind it. Par 3.
(Did I mention this course will be used in Worlds?)
Hole 2 plays 675 feet across a field, into a grove of trees, to a basket on a mound in front of a lake. You have two feet behind the basket before you're swimming. There is no grass to stop your shot, just hard dirt, so the skip is going to happen. Just be ready.
This course is super tough. Real tough. We don't have anything in KC to compare it too. I was trying to figure out a way to practice at Waterworks to mimic some of these holes but there aren't enough trees. I guess a good example would be hole 4 or 5 to 9. Hole 12 to 13. Hole 3 to 4. Hole 7 down 6's fairway to 5. And then add a ton of OB. It's the real deal folks.
RENAISSANCE, CHARLOTTE, NC
I played as many courses as I could in Charlotte and a few of them were less challenging than others, but the end of my story ends here...
This is the hardest course I have ever played. And I almost skipped it.
Like Hornet's nest, this has two baskets and two pads. If you have a weak stomach, play the short pads to the gold baskets. If you want to challenge yourself beyond salvation, play long and go for white. Be warned, you will never feel more humiliated in all your life. If you can't play Waterworks under-par, don't even think about it. This course is 18 holes of humiliation.
Hole 2 - 300 feet to a gap in a wall of trees. The gap is four feet wide and there is a mando on either side. Just inside the gap is a four foot wide tree which you will have to get around if you're lucky. Then you must travel another 300 feet, carry a deep ravine filled with ivy and land on a three foot landing area. If you go long, a hill will catch your disc and send it down the ravine. Come up short, disc is lost. The basket is elevated over the edge of the ravine. There is a safety rope built around the basket to keep you from falling to your death. That's just one hole. Par 3.
The elevation is serious. 700 foot tunnel shot, straight up hill (down under hole 16 elevation) then a turn to the left, elevated basket hidden behind some tiny trees, next to a steep hill. Par 3. There is no way to describe to you how impossible this course is.
Hole 7. 600 feet. Right off the pad is a mando. It's a 400 tunnel shot, five feet wide. Down hill, with a creek to the left. The disc must land on a hill side, short of some trees. Then you must turn to the right, go UPHILL 200 feet to a basket OVER the trees to a basket on a mound. Par 3.
It goes on and on and on... Tunnel shots, elevation changes, direction changes, OB, elevated baskets, 1000 foot holes back-to-back-to-back. I don't have all the shots required for this course and it showed.
The last hole is 900 feet. You must throw 400 feet and land safely before the ravine of death. Then you have to throw over the ravine 300 feet and land on a tear drop shaped island, which is barely 30 feet wide, in the middle of the ravine. Then throw OVER the ravine to another three foot landing area, to another elevated basket.
Par for the course... 2000. It should be.
What you hear about someone is not always what you see. Sometimes hype falls short of expectation, but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it shocks us and fills us with colorful memories which are hard to share with others. It's in these moments when the reality gets bent a little bit. My experience will not be your experience. If possible, you may love these places more than I do. I hope so. For those of us who take disc golf seriously, it's very reassuring to hear that our passion for the game is shared with others.
NEXT: FINAL CHAPTER