Talking Design: Part 1
This is the first in a series of blog entries that are questions and answers with NEDGC course designer Chris Barden
Question of the day:
The “New England Disc Golf Center” is a ambitious name to give a new course. Why did you choose that name, and do you really see it as something more than just another course?
The New England Disc Golf Center was an ambitious name and we knew that going into it but we needed an ambitious name to fit our ambitious plan. The property was the inspiration for the name. We knew early on that we could do big things with this type of space. If we were working with a smaller space the I'm sure things would be different. With roughly 100 acres to work with we knew we could create a facility that represent New England style disc golf at a high level.
We had the choice to open for business only after Spoonwood Ridge was refined and amenities in place, but our board decided to open the doors early, last November. We were all having too much fun playing the holes even in their “rough” state and we felt like we owed it to the local players to give them an early opportunity to play it.
We opened knowing there would be a constant change to course over the next 5 years as we developed towards our master plan. We hoped that our customers would embrace the change, put up with a few brush piles off to the sides of fairways, watch the growth and grow with us. So far that has been the case over all.
Because we have a wonderful property to work with, the NEDGC can bring something to the table that New England players haven't experienced yet. We have the ability to create a golf course that will reach a par 72 and play at a championship level while also catering to all levels of play. Our goal is to set up like a traditional golf course with at least 4 levels of play that all co-exist. We want the championship level player to be able to play the tips (that's the back "pro" tees to you non-ball golfers) while playing with a beginner player that played the forward tees and they walked the same path and could even compete with each other.
With my 15 plus years working in the traditional ball golf realm I have been able to study the game of golf up close. I have worked with very talented course owners, managers, architects, arborists, and other professionals on some beautiful courses which have molded me into the disc golf course designer I am today.
Par fours and par fives create variety. Players must make shot decisions and have to re-evaluate risk-reward over multiple shots per hole. On par three, you stand at the tee, consider the shape of the hole, wind conditions, and maybe how you are feeling on that day. You pull out your trusty teebird, throw a hyzer line. After that, you’ll either be throwing putt/approach for birdie, or maybe having to scramble to save par, but in either case there is no decisions to make; you just have to execute the putt or scramble. If you play the course often and have had success throwing your teebird on a hyzer, you’ll probably end up throwing that EVERY time you play that hole.
With par fours and fives, you exponentially expand shot decision options. Did your drive make the first landing area? Good, now you can attack the basket and go for your birdie. Did it hyzer out a little early? Now you might want to throw a midrange up to the second landing area and play for your par.
Playing Spoonwood Ridge, with lots of par 4’s & 5’s, is always a fresh experience and new challenge. Ball golf course designer has figured this out long ago. I’ve heard players say that disc golf and ball golf are very different from one another and don't relate to each other. Having spent a lot time with both games I can say the concepts are the same. You just have to look past the equipment used. Let's not forget that disc golf derived from the traditional golf game. So why not emulate the already very refined version that's been doing it for over 200 years successfully?