In our first two posts, Pandemic Project: Designing A Disc Golf Course Part 1 & 2 we discussed the process of reconstructing the backyard into a functioning disc golf course. In this post, we would like to dive deeper into of some of the challenges and pain points we have experienced since the completion of the project. We hope this information will assist you in having a better experience when creating a course of your own!
Maintaining The Home Disc Golf Course
The most challenging part of having a home disc golf course is trying to maintain what you have created to keep the fun times rolling. A lot of people in the disc golf scene take their local parks and recreation departments for granted, until they realize how much work goes into keeping a disc golf course playable and fun for those that are using it.
Constant Mowing: If you plan on having a disc golf course on your property, you better be okay with mowing grass on a consistent schedule - especially during the rainy season. A tractor-type mower was purchased after the creation of the home disc golf course to help try to keep up with mowing and to reduce the amount of time it takes to keep the property maintained. This is one of the most time consuming parts of having the course. Without constant mowing these fairways in the back of property would disappear quickly.
Tree Maintenance: When you have large trees on your property that are part of the course you should definitely expect them to produce some work for you. Storms are going to make large branches and sometimes full trees fall from time to time, so it is a good idea to have some sort of chainsaw handy and ready to go. This often leads us to having to do a large bonfire to take care of all the dead wood and fallen branches. Below you can see the sad pear tree that was a key tree on numerous holes on the course. Also pictured above is the giant bonfire pit that comes into play all too often on our par 5 on the course!
Undergrowth Removal: Speaking of trees, those suckers like to drop their seeds. Small trees and undergrowth will start forming on some of your disc golf greens. If your course does get a ton of foot traffic, this will start to become a problem in some areas. You definitely need a work session every once in a while to clear weeds, undergrowth, and whatever else decides to pop up on your disc golf haven. The video below shows how the undergrowth pops up quickly - if it's not taken care of in a timely manner it will become a problem!
Tee-pads: If installed correctly your tee-pads shouldn't need a ton of maintenance, but if they aren't (like a couple of ours) you are going to need to spend some time removing weeds around them or in them. They also will need to be swept whenever fall time comes around and leaves are covering them, and shoveled in the winter if you plan on playing. Nothing like a slick tee-pad to make the game a little more tough! Also if you start seeing a tee-pad falling apart, it may be time to do a reinstall....try to do it right the first time! We've also learned that temporary teepads made out of plywood and concrete board can be a good option as well.
Tall Grass: This is related to constant mowing, but when it comes to grass that is not on the fairway you probably don't need to cut this as short as the grass on your fairways. Having said that I would recommend still cutting this grass to a manageable length every once in a while and also make your fairways wider than you think! I can't tell you how many times we have had a shot get completely lost in the matted down tall grass that was off of the fairway by a foot or two . There is nothing worse than having to waste your time looking for a lost disc that is only a couple feet off of the fairway! As you can see below, Ryan is in the circle for birdie on this hole, but only a matter of feet away from a potential lost disc. Also note the weed wacking needed around the basket.
Make the Course Challenging
We would recommend leaning on the challenging side when making your disc golf holes initially and reassessing in the future if needed. It is significantly more difficult to make a disc golf hole harder than it is to make it easier. Once you cut that key branch down, or remove that bush, or cut down that one skinny tree...ask yourself - "Will removing this make this hole too easy or less fulfilling to birdie?...does it help my game more to have this obstacle to navigate." Absolutely think about course changes and get feedback from others before making a big change out on the course when it comes to key features such as trees and bushes.
Below is a good example of a hole that we have had to make a little bit easier over time. This line essentially forces you to hit a tight forehand gap that in reality was probably only a 3 foot by 3 foot window before we decided to open it up a little bit. The hole is still challenging with bogey being a definite possibility, but we are seeing some more birdie looks as a result of our changes. Did I mention there is sometimes water right off the tee too to make any initial tree kicks result in a water hazard stroke!
You also need to think about how certain disc golf holes play at different times of the year. A gap that might seem fair in the winter or early spring on one of your disc golf holes might be unnecessarily difficult during the summer. Most of our big cuts that were made on certain trees throughout the course were actually done in the middle of the summer when you can see the foliage and assess how tight some of the gaps truly are. Will these changes result in holes playing easier during the winter time?...absolutely, but you will not regret making that cut when the green of the spring and summer returns the following year.
I feel like too often we see park style courses that are very "birdie or bust" type of disc golf courses where it is almost expected that you be in the circle on each and every hole. While I think these types of courses are good for beginners, I think more challenging courses help improve your game significantly. This is another big part of the reason why we have tried to keep certain parts of the course on the more difficult side. If there is no potential to kick off the fairway or find yourself only in circle 2 off of the tee, it is going to be hard to improve your approach game, your scrambling skills, and your circle 2 putting. All of which are very important to take your game to the next level.
Invest in Good Disc Golf Baskets
Disc golf baskets are obviously a pretty huge investment when it comes to your home disc golf course. This is the main reason why we decided to go with Mach II baskets initially. In terms of durability - Mach II baskets are great, but when it comes to catching your putts like you would hope - they leave more to be desired. We have coined the phrase "I got Mach two'd" or "He/she got Mach two'd" out at the home disc golf course for good reason. Sometimes you will have perfectly dead center putts just slide right through the chains due to Mach II baskets having fewer chains than most. You will also sometimes be eyeing up a putt and all that you see is the pole of the disc golf basket staring right back at you because there are so few chains!
While Mach II baskets will do the trick for most backyard disc golf courses, I would recommend forking out a little more money to have a few more chains to catch those putts if you can swing it! We definitely have a little bit of regret when it comes to not getting something slightly better like Mach 7s. You will pay a little bit more money upfront, but the baskets will pay you back with more birdies. You get what you pay for sometimes.
Don't be afraid to buy additional disc golf basket sleeves to allow you to give your backyard disc golf course a face lift! If you play your backyard course often enough, you will inevitably get tired of playing some of the same holes over and over again. If you have the space and your property allows for it, installing additional sleeves into the ground so that you can move baskets to different locations can be a game changer. Having additional sleeves is a much more economical option than buying a bunch of additional baskets, which might end up looking cluttered anyways if you have too many disc golf baskets that are too close together. Take the time to plan where these additional sleeves will be installed to ensure that the new disc golf hole makes sense, is fun, and challenging. With a few additional sleeves in the ground, the amount of course layouts you can make will increase significantly.
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It
If creating a backyard disc golf course is something you are seriously considering - take that leap! Take the installation one step at a time and don't try to do too much all at once. You need to have the mindset that it will be a slow process, but it will be well worth it once you see things start to come together. Your home course is something that will continue to evolve over time, and it will be something you can take pride in and share with your friends and family. Not to mention it might give a little face lift to some of the land on your property. Recruit some of your disc golf buddies to get that project rolling - happy throwing!