Course Design and Safety: Tonn’s Travels

By in Course Design, Tonn's Travels on March 8, 2018

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After enjoying four hours at “the Mothership” (DGA headquarters) on March 6, I headed North to try and play at three camps/campgrounds.  Successful on two, politely turned away on the third.  So this morning (March 7), I left Santa Cruz to check out courses down around San Luis Obispo, California for the first time.

I started out at Whale Rock, new DGA plastic in-hand.  Played it well, only one off the amateur course record (or so I was told).  It was a great course.  Well designed, well maintained, well protected.  But if I had to be fussy, I was a bit concerned about safety on Holes 16 and 17.

View from the Hole 16 tee at Whale Rock DGC in Paso Robles, California.

Hole 17’s tee is directly in play on Hole 16, and the Hole 17 tee is not visible from the Hole 16 tee.  I was out on the course alone this morning, so no one was at risk as a result of my tee shot.  But if I were that property owner, I would consider adjusting those two holes ever-so-slightly in order to make things a little safer out there.

After Whale Rock, I played an additional six courses on the day.  And safety at the courses seemed to steadily decline, the more courses I played.  The worst I saw was Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo.

As you will see in the featured image for this post, you have fairways crossing walking trails, crossing bike trails, running parallel to city streets, etc.  In the brief time I was playing the course, I witnessed one drive on Hole 4 land two feet from a man walking a dog (the player didn’t yell “fore” or apologize), a drive from the same player narrowly missed a person coming around a blind corner on the bike path on Hole 5, and two women walking dogs being narrowly missed by another group’s drives on Hole 7 (again, blind, coming around a corner into the fairway). All I could think of was Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, California.  A course that was pulled from the ground a few years back after a woman walking in the park was struck by a disc golfer’s drive on one hole, permanently losing her sight in one eye.  Sinsheimer Park is dangerous…and I could see a similar injury occurring on that course in the future.

I don’t mean to be critical of Sinsheimer or its designer(s)!  I only want to see the courses we all put in the ground be as safe as they can be.  We don’t want anyone to get hurt out there if at all possible.

Magic Number = 707 (1,293 courses played)

Course Design and Safety: Tonn’s Travels
Derek Tonn

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