Here in New England, were now if the “coldest” part of the year… roughly the weeks from Elvis Presley’s Birthday (January 8) and Ground Hog’s Day (February 2). Climate wise, after early February, New England begins it’s slow warmup. This is a good time to sit down with Course Designer Chris Barden and talk about the what goes in to designing Spoonwood Ridge and the Meadows.
Chris, the property is your canvas, you start with just a piece of land, and carve it out into a playable layout. What are the challenges you face and how do you address them?
The biggest challenge to designing a course that can appeal to both casual players and advanced tournament players is creating a layout that plays to all skill levels and most importantly co-exist. What I mean by co-exist is an experienced player can play a set of tees suitable to them and a lesser skilled player can play the set of tees suitable to them and not interfere with each other’s play and flow. You see this model in traditional golf.
Where I believe traditional golf has goofed is by labeling forward tees ladies tees, or senior tees which causes the “common person” to play a set of tees that probably aren't suited for them just because they are labeled in a way that hurts the ego.
Although this mentality does seem to trickle into disc golf a bit I do see the mold breaking because people new to the game of disc golf aren't pressured by labeled tees that cause insecurities if they decide to play the forward tees. At NEDGC we simply label our tees in a color code and that's that. Play the course that fits your timeline or mood and have fun.
As an experienced player It's fun to play the forward tees it brings a different challenge to the course. I believe creating a course with coexisting skill levels that play on the dome track is important to the growth of the sport. It will create situations the appease all walks of skill level.
For example, if I want to introduce a new player to the game I could decide to play the back tees and my beginner friend could enjoy an easier time on the forward tees while the 2 of us are able to enjoy each other company and maybe even compete against each other.
The technical challenges to the design aspect is knowing your distances for each skill level and using these specs consistently throughout the course. This can be tricky. NEDGC uses PDGA as a guide line for this. Of course, we might smudge a few things to fit our fancy but PDGA offers a great guide to help.
Chris, What makes a great disc golf hole?
What makes a great disc golf hole is simple. Make it fun to play. Create a challenge but make the course exciting to play.
As a designer finding a line in the middle of the woods can be a challenge especially if the designer is restricted in what vegetation can be removed. So, in these cases I can understand why there might be that one tree in the middle of what would be a very fun yet challenging line.
In cases where this happens and the ability to remove anything necessary to create the hole I like to call this making it hard just to make it hard. This can tend to make the player feel resentment towards the hole and dread playing it. It’s far to challenge advanced players with some tight long lines, but when possible we need to give the rec player a “bailout” where the can still make par with good throws.
Making it hard just to make it hard is not the thoughts I want our customers at NEDGC to walk away from our course with. At this point in our development plan for Spoonwood Ridge we are taking inventory on each hole to remove these trees or obstacles that may create that "hard to be hard" presents. We want the player to be excited to play the challenge ahead of them. It might seem that making it more fun creates it to be easier and that might be the case. In my opinion that's ok. If the par matches up with level the course is set up for a player’s skill level, then it will all come together.
This is the beauty of having the New England Disc Golf Center… we can continue to innovate and evolve!