DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

After taking a bit of a break from work this morning, to cruise around the course directories of UDisc and DGCourseReview, as I do a few times per day…partially as part of my efforts to try and keep the various disc golf course directories current, partially as a chance to day-dream about the new places I might try and play in the months and years to come, I noticed something new at DGCR: Two new courses with fewer than nine holes in Olivia, Minnesota…about a 45-minute drive North of me.  And upon further exploration, I was able to confirm that Olivia has recently opened six-hole and three-hole courses in two different city parks, designed by Cale and Paul Leiviska.

Olivia has been talking about installing disc golf for at least the past decade.  Always rumors, or “maybe next year.”  So I was surprised to see that disc golf had finally been introduced into the community.  Surprised that I (and a few of my friends) hadn’t yet heard anything about it.  But with my wife and daughters still away from home for most of the day today, I thought I would make the trip North to check out said designs.

When I saw that Cale had designed the course, I was excited, as I know he did a terrific job with the Afton Alps course in Hastings, Minnesota, as well as with a handful of courses up on the Iron Range in Northeastern Minnesota.  But the courses in Olivia were “garden variety” recreational courses, at best.  With a few suspect hole designs, at worst.

View from the Hole 4 tee at Henton Park in Olivia, Minnesota.

Hole 4 in Henton Park, for example. A right-to-left flight path, with the basket tucked in the trees behind the left field fence in an adjacent ball field.  Any lefty (like me) or a RHFH player is going directly over center field and left field from that tee position…and if you miss short, and there is any type of ball game happening on that field?  It’s a problem.  I suppose they could make the light pole (visible in the photo) a “mando” right of said pole!  But even then, a LHBH player is still going to be tempted to throw an S-curve to cut that corner (what I did off that tee) …while a RHBH player with a big enough arm, who misses their line a little high or short?  Is going to land their disc in the outfield.

Christmas Morning for a Course Collector: Tonn’s Travels

View from the Hole 9 tee at Sunrise Park in Olivia, Minnesota.

There were several holes in the two parks where the design just felt a little unnecessarily close to potential trouble.  A good, smart player?  They’ll never land their disc in a neighbor’s yard, or into a ball field, or ???  But the designs seem as though a significant number of discs will be flying over fences, into neighbors yards, etc.  Hole 9 out at Sunrise Park was a little like that (the three holes in that park are numbered 7, 8 and 9).  A good player?  Won’t come close to the neighbor’s yard on the North, or the shelter to the basket’s West.  But less skilled players?  Players who might be playing under the influence of a few beers with their buddies?  Let’s just say I didn’t like it.  The hole SHOULD be safe!  But I can think of numerous situations (wind, player skill level, players “under the influence,” etc.) where there could be problems.

That said?  I will happily add two more “surprise” courses to my course collection on a sunny Sunday morning!  Two more new courses than I thought I might be able to sneak in before I head down to Kansas City in a couple weeks, to take part in Board meetings with the Disc Golf Foundation.

Magic Number = 623 (1,377 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Christmas Morning for a Course Collector: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Christmas Morning for a Course Collector: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

While needing to travel up to the Minneapolis St. Paul metro today for work, I found enough time to be able to play a relatively new course at Nelson Park in Long Lake, Minnesota. By far the closest fully open and playable course to my home that I had yet to play. An extremely short course (1,698 feet over nine holes), with little information about said course having yet been added to UDisc, DGCourseReview or PDGA, I was expecting to likely yawn my way to an 18 or 19 on the card. However, upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised (and honestly, more than a little nervous) to see that water came into play along seven of the fairways. Not to mention having water inside the circle on over half the holes.

View from the Hole 3 tee at Nelson Park in Long Lake, Minnesota.

As you’ll see in the above photo, even though the holes on this course are short?  The rough is unforgiving.  And within five or ten feet of said tall weeds?  Lurks small ponds and a lake.  A recreational two-some was playing ahead of me, and from Hole 2 to Hole 5 alone, one of them lost two discs in the weeds/water, while finding a third disc with no name on it.  They said they just heard about the course’s existence, and that it was their first time playing it. They were having enough fun, despite losing plastic in water and weeds taller than they were, that they decided to play a second round.

Minus the incredibly tall rough, it reminded me of playing a much shorter version of The Links of Springfield in my home town (the first course I ever designed, with the help of Chuck Kennedy and Steve West).  Incredibly easy to par!  But par is boring to most players…who want their ace runs and deuces.  And running chains or trying to park one’s tee shot, with that much water and other OB/hazards lurking, is a recipe for going home with a much lighter bag.  I thought about offering a little advice to those two players, telling them to worry more about being smart/safe than running chains.  But I know many people don’t like to receive unsolicited advice on the course, so I kept my mouth shut and simply helped them look for a few of the discs they were throwing off the fairway.

Water Water Everywhere: Tonn’s Travels

View from the Hole 6 tee at Nelson Park in Long Lake, Minnesota.

Hole 6 was the scariest of the holes at Nelson Park (photo above). Deep rough and water lurking on both the left and right sides of a fairway less than approximately twenty feet wide, with the ten-meter circle around the basket being more water and tall weeds than grass. I decided to live to fight another day…throwing my tee shot to the mouth of the dogleg right, so I could park the approach and drop-in for par.  But with a hole that is only 192 feet long? Well, let’s just say that there will be dozens of discs that meet a watery grave on that hole…as ego and/or testosterone will keep many/most players from laying up and playing it smart.

As a course design, I thought this was an incredibly interesting, smart use of a small park footprint. And for a course that only averages 189 feet per hole?  I think they’ve done everything possible to provide challenge to players of all levels. I think it is a course design that will frustrate beginners and advanced players alike, for the simple reason of losing plastic if you miss the fairway by 7-8 feet…even landing tee shots inside the circle around the basket! But as a place to learn both accuracy and self-control on the course? I thought it was fun.  One of the more fun SUPER-short courses I’ve played…as most nine-hole courses under 2,200-2,300 feet allow you to yawn or sleep-walk your way to a score of 18-21. I managed to shoot a 23, playing it extra-cautious in the wind!  Posted pars on this course were ridiculous (three par 4s and one par 5…sigh).  But other than Holes 8 and 9?  There really were no gimmies on the course, with severe punishment for missing your lines and landing zones off the tee.

Magic Number = 625 (1,375 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Water Water Everywhere: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Water Water Everywhere: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

Chicago, Illinois and its 70+ disc golf courses in the greater metro area have been an area within a long (eight-hour) day’s drive from home that I have thought could present an opportunity for me to play a LOT of new courses in a hurry, with the right combination of time off work, a working vehicle, good health and good weather. Though the couple times I have found myself in Chicago in recent years, be it for work or play, forces have seemed to work against my ability to explore more disc golf courses in the region.

This weekend, I found myself presented with what I thought would be a golden opportunity to play several courses in Chicago!  I needed to head to Chicago, after a bit of work and play in the Madison, Wisconsin area, to complete the purchase of a new (used) vehicle for our family, as one of my aunts no longer drives as much, and had a Toyota Camry that was eight years newer than my current Toyota Corolla, with 200,000 fewer miles.

I made it to Chicago just fine!  But it took a few hours longer to complete the transaction than we had anticipated.  And if I wanted to still make a hotel reservation that our family had booked along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border that evening?  I needed to spend most of my Sunday behind the wheel, instead of on the course.

View from the Hole 1 tee at Leo Leathers Park in Mundelein, IL.

I did manage to sneak in one more course in Chicago before I waved the white flag of surrender!  Leo Leathers Park in Mundelein.  A nine-hole course, not too far down the road from my aunt’s place. Your typical, run-of-the-mill nine-hole recreational course in a city park! Not great, not terrible.  Just a place to stretch your legs and throw a little plastic.

One of these months/years, I’m going to get dozens of courses played in the Chicago metro! This recent trip was yet-another trip, however, where the “course collecting gods” seemed to be conspiring against me.  Preventing me from really having time to explore said region.

Magic Number = 627 (1,373 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

A bit of Course Collecting in Chicago: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

A bit of Course Collecting in Chicago: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

Over the years, I’ve created ten disc golf course designs across Southern Minnesota and Southeastern South Dakota (eight entirely solo, and two others with a bit of help).  Mostly what folks might consider to be Red or White designs, focused on casual/recreational play.  Giving beginners and players who are just a few years into their disc golf journey places to play that will hone particular skills and work accuracy, work their mid-range/approach games. Forcing players to learn how to be able to make their discs follow particular flight paths, versus merely playing “bomb’s away” with the biggest, fastest drivers they can find…where missing one’s optimal flight path off the tee by 50-75+ feet, left or right, inflicts little to no damage on one’s scorecard.

Designing those ten courses, and playing another 1,300+ courses over the years?  I’ve thought I have encountered just about every type of course imaginable!  That said, I was approached earlier this year by a land owner in Wisconsin, asking if I could help design and install an eighteen hole course on some land they are hoping to develop (along with a brewery and event center).  The one caveat?  There is not one single tree on the entire property!

Using the tree canopy to force hyzers, anhyzers, and faster “low ceiling” shots off the tee is central to my course design experience!  So having ~35+ acres without one single tree to work with is a new one for me! But the more I thought about it, the more the challenge has excited me. The more I realized that it will FINALLY be my chance to implement a “bunker” concept, like sand traps in golf, that will present a substantial challenge to players whose discs find their way into said features.

There are (or at least will be) some cool features to work with on the property!  A several acre holding pond, shaped/constructed to my design specifications, will be a critical feature of the course!  That, and some gently rolling hills will provide some interesting elevated tee and basket positions.  But the “stars of the show” will be those bunkers.  And if they turn out how I envision them, I think it will become a feature that many course designers adopt in the future.

View from the Hole 1 tee at Collipp-Worden Park in Portage, Wisconsin.

As part of my on-site research for the course design work this weekend, I also promised the property owner that I would play the five closest courses to their location.  All five courses were new to me, and included:

A New Course Design Challenge: Tonn’s Travels

View from the Hole 3 tee at Lodi Middle School in Lodi, Wisconsin.

The middle school course presented probably the most similar experience to the holes we will be able to create at this new property. Gently rolling hills, with few/no trees to contend with.  That said, this new course will have a tremendous amount of water that comes into play on numerous holes.  Keeping players extremely honest off the tee, specific to accuracy.

Magic Number = 628 (1,372 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

A New Course Design Challenge: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

A New Course Design Challenge: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

Before I start, let me just say that it has been a LONG three weeks! Over ten inches of rain and serious flooding on the course I hold most near-and-dear to my heart here in Springfield (Minnesota). So bad, in fact, that we might not be able to enjoy disc golf in our community for the rest of 2018. That, coupled with a busy Summer season at work, along we me being talked into running for elective office for the first time here in our county (www.derektonn.com), and it has been tough to find time to sneak away to play some new courses.  Although when the planets aligned this morning (my wife and youngest sneaking off to have a day to themselves, while my oldest wanted to hang out at home with our cat…in between naps (for the two of them, ha!), I was finally able to head up to Gaylord, Minnesota to see with my own eyes the long-rumored course on the Northeast end of their town.

Gaylord DGC was a project that was entirely designed and managed by locals, right down to the installation of homemade baskets.  Baskets that I was disappointed to find will usually drop your putter out the bottom after every made putt.  The tee pads are also interesting, being about 3′ x 2′ squares of gravel…some of which are placed mere feet from the previous basket (as in the photo below).  But I am guessing that the course doesn’t get a tremendous amount of traffic, so for locals to have a place to let a little plastic fly after work or on the weekend?  It’s okay.

View from the Hole 8 tee at Gaylord Disc Golf Course in Gaylord, Minnesota.

Not having been able to play disc golf in over three weeks (flooding, work and/or campaigning did their collective best to conspire against me), I expected to struggle.  But I was throwing my Undertows and Squalls like I’d been playing hours per day, every day, during the entire month of June!  I mis-fired off the tee on Hole 5, and I missed a 25-foot putt for deuce on Hole 6.  But other than that, I was able to collect my deuces on every hole…even giving the Hole 8 basket a VERY close-shave off the tee.  It’s a course where good players could shoot an 18 without TOO much effort!  But I was plenty happy carding a 20, rust and all.

I’ll need to get rid of all that rust, as I’ve got several disc golf trips planned in the months ahead!  Madison, Wisconsin on July 20-22.  A nice driving trip to/from Kansas City, Missouri for a Disc Golf Foundation board meeting from August 15-20.  A driving trip to/from Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 26 to October 4.  And a driving trip to/from Norfolk, Virginia from October 13-23.  Lots of opportunity to play new courses over the next four months!  Hopefully work, campaigning, health and weather will cooperate.

Magic Number = 632 (1,368 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Back in the Saddle Again: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Back in the Saddle Again: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

After being named as a State Delegate for one of Minnesota’s political parties back in February, learning that their Convention would be held in Rochester, Minnesota the first weekend of June, I was excited to hopefully have the opportunity (health and weather permitting) to check out a few new courses in Southeast Minnesota.  The only region in Minnesota, South of Fargo-Moorhead and Duluth, where I have yet to play every course available (apart from two new courses that have recently opened in Southwest Minnesota).  And, after months of looking forward to the dates that were circled on my calendar, my health and the weather did not disappoint this past weekend!

View from the Hole 9 tee at Lion’s Park DGC in Kasson, Minnesota.

I started my weekend checking out a newly re-designed and re-opened course in Kasson, Minnesota: Lion’s Park DGC.  DGA sold the City great new baskets, and we also had the privilege of producing the tee signage for the course, so it was fun to see all those signs and baskets in action.  The course provided an interesting mix of long and short holes in two different park areas with short (mowed) grass.  However, miss the fairways and you might be searching for your discs for quite a while.  I say that as a good thing…as it takes a relatively tame recreational course and gives it some teeth.  Keeping you honest, and making you think about if you REALLY want to go for those chains or parking your disc off the tee.

I then drove from Kasson to Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, just West of Stewartville, Minnesota, where I was greeted by Bob Bardwell and given the grand tour of the Ranch.  Bob is doing amazing things with Ironwood Ranch, providing a great space for kids and families who are dealing with cognitive and physical disabilities to just have fun.  Upon our arrival at the Ranch, staff made me feel at home while I waited for Bob to finish-up another project.  And after Bob drove me around the the property, showing me the layout of the disc golf course and some of the other spaces they’ve developed over the years, they invited my last-minute travel companion to lunch while I made my way around their course.  Sending us home with nice coffee mugs.

Ironwood is doing SO much good, touching SO many lives in positive ways.  For example, they will be hosting the National Wheelchair Sports Camp this coming weekend, a camp that encourages “youth and adults with physical challenges of all levels to participate in a variety of sport-themed activities in a supportive and inspiring team environment. Campers are challenged to look beyond their disability, while being coached and mentored by world-class Paralympic athletes. Campers will be amazed and encouraged to things they felt never possible, while building relationships with others who face similar challenges.”  Thank you, Bob, for all you are doing!  I hope my sharing a bit of information about your ministry might touch the lives of a few others out there who were not previously aware of the amazing work you do.

After our political convention adjourned on Sunday, I snuck up to Mazeppa, Minnesota to squeeze in one more course that was designed by Steve West, a friend of mine, at Herb Vik Field. Upon arriving in Mazeppa, I was greeted at the park by an incredibly friendly man, who asked what brought me to their town (maybe they don’t see a lot of red-heads with bushy sideburns around Mazeppa?  Ha!).  I told him that I was there to check out their new disc golf course that Steve West had designed, so I could tell people about it as a part of my role as DGA Ambassador.  He then rolled out the red carpet, sharing lots of information and thanking me for making the trip up from Rochester before heading back home.

Playing New Courses in Southeast Minnesota: Tonn’s Travels

View from the Hole 6 tee at Herb Vik Field in Mazeppa, Minnesota.

What a fun little course!  Less than 2,200 feet over nine holes.  I wasn’t a big fan of Hole 1, a wide open “prairie golf” shot off the tee, and Hole 7 was a bit scary as a lefty…throwing down a hill at a fenced-in ballfield left of the basket.  But the rest of the course put a big smile on my face.  It honestly reminded me of playing other fun recreational courses in Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin.  It’s hard to explain, but I felt as though holes such as 2, 6 and 9 were paying their respects to other fun nine-holers I had played in the greater region.  Nice work on that course design, Steve!  Folks around Mazeppa should enjoy that course for hopefully many years to come.

Magic Number = 633 (1,367 Courses Played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Playing New Courses in Southeast Minnesota: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Playing New Courses in Southeast Minnesota: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

Today I once again had the honor of playing a disc golf course that does not exist.  Or rather, two of the three major disc golf course directories (PDGA.com and DGCourseReview) say that said course is either extinct or is merely a figment of my imagination.  But since UDisc recently added (back) in Northwest Park DGC in Madison, South Dakota to their directory, a course that was first installed in 2003 but was labeled as “extinct” years ago?  I thought I would make the 100+ mile drive over to Madison and put any confusion about the status of that course to rest.  And, thankfully (so as to not completely waste seven gallons of gas and four hours of my life), I was rewarded with a very short, recreational course to add to my course collection.

View from the Hole 1 tee at Northwest Park DGC in Madison, South Dakota.

All but one or two holes are essentially par twos, well-under 200 feet in length.  But there were just enough trees and a touch of water (and a place that looked like prime habitat for ticks) that it kept me honest on the tee.  Carded a 20, which I thought was okay.  Two rock solid tee shots on Holes 4 and 7 should get most good players a score of 18 on this short course!  But since my name is not “McBeth” or “Lizotte?”  A 20 was solid.

I’ve played probably 40-50+ courses over the years that “do not exist.” They absolutely DO exist, of course!  But either nobody has taken the time to add their information to PDGA.com, DGCR or UDisc, or property owners purposefully lie about the course no longer being there.  So as to try and discourage players not affiliated with their property/organization from attempting to play said courses.

I’ve never liked that.  Property owners lying about a course not existing.  When all it takes is one player who has seen or played said course, making one social media post and/or telling a couple friends about seeing baskets on a property to create ten-times the confusion and trouble. I think a much better, more honest approach is to add said courses to the various directories out there.  With said directories then making it painfully obvious as to whether the general public is permitted to visit said property and play the course.

Church or YMCA camps are a common problem in this regard.  People can see baskets from the road as they are driving by a property, or others who have been permitted to play the courses in the past…adding them to the various directories.  Only the church or YMCA camp will later decide they don’t want non-campers or non-employees playing.  But instead of being clear in the directories about who is and is not allowed on the property?  They will simply ask to have the course labeled as “extinct.”  Or have the course record removed altogether.  But in the weeks and months that follow?  More people will see those baskets as they drive by the property.  More people will post/share about playing disc golf on said property.  So more players will visit the property…not knowing that their presence is not desired/allowed unless someone on-site alerts them to that fact.  A hassle, both for landowners/employees, and for players who did not know they weren’t supposed to be playing disc golf on the property.

This was not the case in Northwest Park in Madison!  My guess is a previous version of a course had been pulled from the ground a few years ago…only to have disc golf re-introduced to the park in 2018, with new baskets (very nice DGA baskets, I might add).  But it has been an ongoing problem in all of the major course directories for as long as I have been volunteering to help scrub them for accuracy (around the past decade or so).  I think the solution is to list all courses in all directories, then flag the ones that are not open to the general public with crystal clear instructions and information about permissions attached to their directory listings.  But until that day?  I guess I will just keep playing more “courses that do not exist.”

Magic Number = 636 (1,364 courses played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Playing Courses that Do Not Exist: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Playing Courses that Do Not Exist: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

After playing 1,300+ disc golf courses across North America and portions of Europe, you develop a feel, almost a “sixth sense,” for how course designers of varying levels of skill and experience will often approach the position of tees and baskets on a property.  That comes in handy, as many courses out there have no numbers on their baskets.  No tee signs or marked tee areas.  No course map. In those instances, one tries to channel their best inner Robert Redford and know what the horse…I mean COURSE (designer) was thinking while technically enjoying a “safari round.”

Poster from the movie The Horse Whisperer, starring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas.

It sounds a bit silly, but when I encounter courses such as these while out on the road, one of the first rules of thumb I generally apply to the likely flow of a course is: “What would a right-handed player/designer do?”  For a left-hand backhand player such as myself?  It becomes painfully obvious that if 93% of the planet is right-handed, then approximately 93% of the people designing disc golf courses are right-handed as well.  And since many/most designers like to design holes that they personally like to play?  That best suit their particular strengths as a player? You’ll see 2-3+ fairways that go from right to left, for every one fairway that goes from left to right.  And when it isn’t clear how a course will play, from basket to basket?  One can usually figure out a lot of holes by understanding that many (most?) designers won’t put water, O.B., buildings or other potential hazards, left of a fairway. Most course designers will also choose to begin and end a course near the parking area most players will use.  And combining these two typical characteristics of many/most designs on the planet?  Can help you at least make an educated guess as to how a course will play.

I needed to put these skills to use earlier this morning, traveling to Worthington, Minnesota to play a new nine-hole course at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.  Using UDisc to successfully guide me to the course, I could see nine baskets spread across the Southwest end of the campus.  However, none of the baskets had hole numbers on them.  And there were no tee areas defined (not even simple flags or spray paint to mark the tee locations).  So I thought: “If I were a right-handed player, one who probably has not designed a lot of courses, where would I likely want the tees to be located in order to make nine fun shots off the tee?”

The Course (Design) Whisperer: Tonn’s Travels

The fifth “Safari” hole I played at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota.

It was actually more difficult to try and figure out than other similar courses I’ve played.  Though I finally decided that the designer must have established a clockwise flow from hole to hole, based upon the fifth, sixth and seventh holes I played. Notice the position of a fenced-in ball field to the left of the likely fairway on the fifth hole I played (above). Most right-handed players I know would not like having a fenced-in ballfield (O.B.) to throw a hyzer over off the tee, if the course played in the opposite direction. There was a remnant of a football goal post right of the fairway too! But that should be far enough away from the tee area where it would be easier for right-hand backhand players to avoid.

The Course (Design) Whisperer: Tonn’s Travels

The sixth “Safari” hole I played at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota.

Follow that hole with the next logical tee area, with all-sorts of trouble (and private property) left of the tee.  This has “righty hyzer bomb” written all over it…versus coming at the previous basket from my next basket (requiring righties to either throw an anhyzer off the tee or throw over private property, O.B.).  I highly doubt that, unless the course designer was left-handed, they would have 93 percent of players throwing anhyzers or throwing over private property.

The Course (Design) Whisperer: Tonn’s Travels

The seventh “Safari” hole I played at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota.

The only thing that gave me pause, related to a potential clockwise flow to the course design, was the seventh hole I played (above).  An inflatable building on the left, with water (O.B.) on the right. I hope that inflatable building is temporary (commencement?), as if it is not, I could write a few paragraphs about how concerned I would be about safety on this part of the course.  But that issue aside, I finally decided that a course designer (93% chance they were right-handed) would probably prefer throwing over the water to dry land (right to left), punishing us lefties via throwing over dry land toward water (left to right). Facing South, with the campus experiencing moderate to strong wind from the South or Southwest a majority of the time throughout the year? This presents a scary shot for left-handers, at least with that inflatable building in the way of a hyzer line. [sarcasm] But we’re used to it…sigh. [/sarcasm]

I will be curious to learn how close to the actual flow of the course I got while playing my safari round on campus today. But regardless of that, I was happy to add one more new course to my bag/collection this morning. One of fewer than ten new courses close enough to home to not require a night in a hotel.

Magic Number = 637 (1,363 courses played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

The Course (Design) Whisperer: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

The Course (Design) Whisperer: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

After calling it a night in Chillicothe, Missouri, my plan was to drive into Southern Iowa today.  Playing 5-6 courses, finding a hotel, and then playing 3-4 more courses tomorrow on my way home.  However, I woke up very sore from the previous three days of disc golf.  And being sore, combined with the fact that the wind was absolutely howling out of the South (making disc golf not even fun, if one can believe it), I decided to wave the white flag of surrender and push for home a day early.

As folks who know me will attest to, however, I am stubborn.    And I was not going to miss playing at least a couple more courses on the way home.  Trenton, Missouri was my first stop, and considering the wind?  I played it well.  -6 (48) over 18 holes.  I thought: “Maybe I can still gut it out…wind be darned?”  However, any thought of fighting through the pain and wind was quickly beaten out of me on my second course of the day: Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.  7,460 feet over 18 holes, and even a 7-8 foot putt was an adventure in the wind.  My score of 60 wasn’t actually that bad, all things considered!  But it was the polar-opposite of a fun experience.  Not because of the course, but because of the wind. And if “the player who has the most fun wins?”  Copyright: Steady Ed Headrick?  I lost.  So I decided to call it a day.  Although not before putting on my private investigator hat and checking out one more rumored nine-hole course in Iowa, to confirm it actually existed (different course directories had different information): Cedar County Park near Creston, Iowa.

Heading Home: Tonn’s Travels

View from the Hole 1 tee at Cedar County Park Disc Golf Course near Creston, Iowa.

I was expecting a typical “prairie golf” course at a county park in Iowa: short, mostly open, few challenges apart from the wind.  However, the course was a pleasant surprise!  Right out of the gate, you’re asked to carry water off the Hole 1 tee.  Holes 2 and 3 were fairly boring/typical of other courses in the region.  But then the rest of the course was surprisingly wooded/technical.  With water coming into play again on Holes 5 and 9.  A fun little recreational course…and a nice way to finish my disc golf for the weekend.

As I was getting ready to tee off on Hole 5, I heard grunting and “oink, oink” behind me.  I turned around to see a pig walking up to me, nudging my leg with its wet snout as if to say: “hello…will you be my friend?”  I’ve seen a LOT of things on disc golf courses over the years, but this was my first pig.  I told it “hello” and gave it a friendly pet on its head.  And it proceeded to grunt and oink, keeping within 15-20 feet of me the rest of my round.  Giving me a sad look when I finally got in my car and left the park.  Thanks for the company and friendly “conversation” during the last half of my round, Mr./Mrs. Pig!  You shall forever be remembered via being the featured image for this post.

Magic Number = 638 (1,362 courses played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Heading Home: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

Heading Home: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

DGA | Disc Golf Association DGA | Disc Golf Association – The Founding Company of Disc Golf!

Photo by Erika Witzke, CTA City of Columbia (Missouri), Parks and Recreation.

Well today was a day to remember at A Grand Disc Golf Experience in Columbia, Missouri. Getting to rub elbows with some of the most influential people in the sport (including John Houck and Dee Leekha) at a C-Tier commemorating Mike Harrington playing his 1,000th course, as well as wrestling with some of my own competitive demons. And, in effort to get the less fun stuff out of the way first:

THE UGLY

  1. My putting.  In short, it was embarrassing. I missed five putts inside of 20-25 feet during the 18-hole event.  One of which resulted in a roll-away that created a SECOND missed 18-20 footer, for my first three putt in longer than I can remember.  Not sure if it was nerves, as today was my first sanctioned event in years!  But it was brutal.

THE BAD

  1. My 79 on the blue (long) tees at Harmony Bends, the world’s top rated course, was about 20-30 rating points lower (922) than I am used to shooting (940s-950s).  Though one of the local players, after he asked for my score, said that he knows very few players who can crack 80 off the long (Blue) tees.  Still, all I could think about were the five missed putts being the difference between not only shooting my “typical” rating…but being the difference between third place and winning my division (four off the lead).

THE GOOD

  1. I had an absolute blast playing with Mike Harrington, Steve West, and Ted Keith.  Such a great group of guys, who made the experience a fun one.  And I had such a good time talking with John and Dee…even taking a few minutes to take some selfies with Dee.
A Mixed Bag: Tonn’s Travels

Dee Leekha and I having a little fun after the C-Tier celebrating Mike Harrington’s 1,000th course played at Harmony Bends disc golf course in Columbia, Missouri.

  1. For how bad my putting was today, I was consistently running gaps with my Undertows, Hurricanes and Squalls that showed that I do actually know how to play this game!  A Mixed Bag: Tonn’s Travels  Including an impossibly tight alley with my Squall that just missed the Hole 18 basket from a couple hundred feet out that John Houck caught on film.
  2. After the round, folks added up the scores and showed that I finished fourth in the MA40 division.  A testament to just how difficult the course’s long tees play (that a 79 over 18 holes could place).  But after Mike (Harrington) re-checked scores, it showed that his 77 should have actually been a 79…putting us in a tie for third in the MA40 division.  But with the incorrect score, he said he needed to assign himself a two stroke penalty, which would technically give me third place in MA40.

  3. I got my “couple seconds of fame” on Columbia’s ABC news affiliate after the event, as they were at the tournament interviewing Mike on his big day.  Look for me about 23 seconds into the news story here: http://www.abc17news.com/sports/disc-golf-extraordinaire-makes-history-at-columbias-harmony-bends/736378603

  4. I was able to play another one of Steady Ed’s designs in Columbia from 1979 after the tournament with Steve West (Albert Oakland Park – Upper), as well as two other courses as I headed toward my hotel for the night.  63 more holes played today.  Though I was feeling it, even before Harmony Bends, having played 238 holes over the past 72 hours.  Anyone have a Rascal Scooter or hospital bed I can borrow?  Only half-kidding.  Ha!

Magic Number = 641 (1,359 courses played)


About Tonn’s Travels

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >> A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re our “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

A Mixed Bag: Tonn’s TravelsDerek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow Derek Tonn on his Travels.

A Mixed Bag: Tonn’s Travels Derek Tonn

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