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Disc Golf on “Ball Golf” Courses

June 4, 2018

With the addition of Mission Bay Golf Course, we now have three local “ball golf” courses that have baskets and allow disc golf play:  Mission Bay, Colina Park, and Goat Hill Park.  If you expand your view out to all of SoCal, there are even more choices: Colton Golf Club, Lake Forest Golf Park, David L. Baker Golf Course (Fountain Valley), DeBell Golf Course (Burbank), Desert Winds (29 Palms), Mission Hills (North Hills), Van Buren Golf Center (Riverside), and Weddington Golf and Tennis (Studio City).  That’s a lot of courses where disc golf baskets are side-by-side with golf greens (and sometimes foot golf holes).  In fact, the greatest proportion of our local disc golf expansion has occurred on ball golf courses, not in public parks or on private property.

2018-06-04 17.34.13

Local Pro Mike Slonim, navigating the tricky fence that guards basket number 4 at Mission Bay

Many of us who play disc golf have little or no experience on ball golf courses, whether it’s because of the cost or the fact that we have felt that traditional golf just doesn’t fit our attitudes and lifestyle.  But adding baskets to existing golf facilities has become one of the most viable ways to create more places for us to play disc golf, so you can expect to see more of these “hybrid” facilities in the future.  Unfortunately, the transition of disc golf from public parks and remote wooded areas doesn’t always gone smoothly, and that has become evident from the types of comments (and sometimes complaints) that the managers of these golf courses have made to those of us who design/install courses and run events.

If you’ve been playing disc golf for a while you might have had a chance to play disc golf at Emerald Isle Golf Course in Oceanside.  EI is a middle of the road executive-length ball golf course, a bit rough around the edges, but it was a superb disc golf course, with ample distance shots, tight pin placements to OB greens and bunkers and seven (yes, 7!) holes that played over or along water hazards.  Never got a chance to play EI?  Well, you can give thanks to knucklehead disc golfers that caused the baskets to get pulled because they drove the golf carts like dune buggies, drove carts across greens, rummaged in the backyards of neighboring homeowners for lost discs (sometimes climbing on roofs!) and did other things we won’t mention that homeowners would rather not have happen in their backyards.  Bad disc golfer behavior caused the homeowners association to vote the baskets off the course.

Now, times have changed and those of us that lost miss Emerald Isle have done a lot of education to newer players to try to keep these same things from happening at our newer hybrid courses.  Consider this article to be another round of education.  Here are some hints and tips that you should follow if you want to maintain (and even increase) our disc golfer access to ball golf courses:

  1. Respect the facility – treat it with care.  Ever wonder why golf courses charge higher rates for us to play that our disc golf only pay-to-play courses?  It’s because they spend a lot of money to maintain the facilities!  Whether it’s the TLC (and armies of workers) that go towards maintaining the greens, constant mowing and watering, or extra amenities like benches, water coolers, bathrooms, practice ranges…these things cost money.  And golf course managers don’t need to have those costs increase because of damage.  Also, these courses are typically pretty litter-free, and want to keep it that way.
  2. Stay off of the greens!  For a golf course, the putting greens are the most expensive and most valuable asset that they have.  Many ball golfers will refuse to play a course if it has sub-standard greens.  Disc golf typically treats these greens as OB areas, in order to minimize damage.  Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
    1. If your disc lands on a green, don’t play your next shot from the green.  When you plant your foot to throw, putt or jump-putt you are likely to cause damage by depressing the soft ground or grinding the grass.  Play your next shot from off the green, where you crossed OB.
    2. Walk around, not over the greens.  Once again, heavy footsteps, especially if you’re carrying a heavy bag or pulling a cart can cause damage.  Just take a few extra steps to go around the greens.  Maintenance staff that see you walk around the greens will appreciate (and remember) it.
    3. Carts should NEVER drive near a green, much less on one.  This is a sure-fire way to get thrown off of a course.  Keep carts at least 20-30 feet away from greens, or on a cart path.
  3. If the course you play offers carts, remember they are NOT go carts or dune buggies!  Forget the videos you have seen on YouTube – carts are not playthings.  They are for transporting you and your gear from hole to hole.  If cart paths are available, try to keep your cart on the path.  Keep carts off of greens, tee boxes and steep hills.  Just because you have a cart doesn’t mean you have lost the ability to walk – you don’t need to drive your cart right next to tee pads or baskets.  Minimize the chance you’ll run into baskets, signs, tee markers by keeping a safe distance from them.
  4. Stay on pace with the ball golfers – don’t try to race through other groups.  Disc golf is generally a faster sport than traditional golf, so you may find that you “get stuck” behind ball golfers on a regular basis.  But one of the common complaints we hear from ball golfers is that disc golfers push to play through, sometimes without asking.  Ball golfers hate this – not only are we infringing on their space, we’re being annoying about it – and we’re paying less too!!  Cool your heels.  Try to see it from their point of view.
  5. If the course sells beer and you want to drink beer, buy theirs, don’t bring your own.  Some of these courses stay afloat financially through their beverage sales.  Help them stay in business.  Yes, their beer prices are a bit higher than what you paid at Von’s, but you are a guest on their property.  Follow their rules if you want to continue to be a guest.

That’s enough ranting for now.  I hope you get the picture.  The standards for behavior and etiquette at ball golf courses is a bit different than the typical disc golf course.  Dress codes are sometimes stricter and are enforced.  There’s not as much yelling and loud swearing at the ball golf course – note that I didn’t say there was none – but there’s generally a bit less.  It’s kind of like visiting your grandmother’s house, or at least, MY grandmother’s house.  But we’re playing disc golf, so there’s more fun involved.

I organize and run a lot of tournaments and have run quite a few at these golf courses: Goat Hill Park, Colina Park, Sun Valley and Emerald Isle.  I feel like the best events I have run have been on these courses because they’re always in great shape, have ample facilities that make tournaments easier (pro shops, seating areas, restrooms, greenskeepers, etc.) and have staff on hand to help make things happen smoothly.  And it looks like the ball golf course trend has hit the big disc golf tournaments, too:  the Las Vegas Challenge, Glass Blown Open, Masters Cup at DeLa and San Francisco Open have all moved at least part of their play to traditional golf courses.  Let’s face it – our form of golf is growing and theirs is shrinking, and they have the land.  It’s going to happen more and more.  Let’s do our best to make it work.

And one last tip:  don’t call it “ball golf” around a golfer unless you want to make them angry.  Especially, if they manage or work at the course you want to keep playing.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Glenn Duncan permalink
    June 5, 2018 3:54 am

    Excellent write up, Allen! I miss Emerald Isle too!

  2. Micah permalink
    June 4, 2018 7:03 pm

    Good info for everyone. I loved Emerald Isle and that was a huge loss to us.

  3. Cheeky permalink
    June 4, 2018 6:49 pm

    So proud of the San Diego disc golf community to make this happen. Took longer than i expected but knew it would come to fruition.
    Maybe more expensive than we thought- and there will be haters-nothing positive comes without negative idea people- who dont ever contribute anyway. Cant wait to throw there. Grow Disc Golf San Diego!!!

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