- Courses should be designed with the safety of players and spectators in mind
- Courses should fit the land available
- Courses should be planned to serve the needs of the local community
- Courses should be designed for flexibility and growth as local talent grows
- Courses should be designed to support sustainability, to protect as much as possible the environment in which they are installed
- Courses should be adequately resourced (tee pads, signage, trash cans, washrooms, parking areas, vending)
- Maintenance should be intentionally planned (tree trimming, storm clean up, grass mowing, erosion control, vandalism)
- Courses should be attractive
- Courses should be designed to challenge all aspects of a players game (length, approach, putting, accuracy)
- Courses should reward good play and punish bad play
- Course equipment should meet professional standards for quality
The life of a course can easily stretch into decades. The oldest course in Canada is Winskill Park in Tsawwassen. Installed in 1976, today’s players are throwing on the same baskets and tee pads installed 40 years ago.
With careful planning and quality equipment, the life of a disc golf course can easily exceed 50 years, providing a substantial return on investment for municipalities and parks.
Courses should be designed with the safety of players and spectators in mind
The disc used in disc golf are not your traditional Frisbees. The drivers, while of similar weight, are smaller and denser, and can travel much faster and further (as far as 500 feet). As a result, great care should be taken to design a course that minimizes the likelihood that other players, or bystanders, will be hit.
Other park facilities (playgrounds, picnic tables, or paths) should not intrude on or around fairways. Fairways should not cross or extend into dangerous terrain within the park. Tee pads should not be placed close to putting areas or other tee boxes, and efforts should be made to inform casual park users about the course, its location, and proper etiquette.
Courses should fit the land available
Every designer wants to build the perfect course—one that is fun for all, yet tests the skills of even the best players. In many instances, designers are faced with competing goals due to differing player levels, serving all of the needs within the local community, and addressing players interests (from meeting with friends to formal competition). The perfect course takes all of these interests into consideration, but most importantly, it fits the land available. Where possible it falls within the existing flora and fauna; it does not sacrifice safety for convenience or hole count, and it considers the entire playing experience available, rather than emphasizing a signature hole or particular style of play.
Courses should be planned to serve the needs of the local community
Each course should be designed to meet the needs of the community in which it resides, with respect to land, play, and purpose. When a locality installs a new course it does so to serve the local player base, which will develop over time. As such, courses should be designed to be flexible and allow player growth. Courses frequently draw players to the community, and can serve as a substantial economic development tool if that is one of the goals of the community. A good designer takes the time to understand the needs of the client and community.
Courses should be designed for flexibility and growth as local talent grows
As with any sport, player development and growth takes time. The longer the course is in the ground, the more community members will explore the sport. As use increases, many community members will focus on more competitive play. A strong course is one that is able to challenge players across many skill levels, and help them progress for recreational to competitive play.
Today’s discs go much further and faster than the discs of even five years ago. As technology improves, a well-designed course will grow with the changing sport.
Courses should be designed to support sustainability, and to protect as much as possible the environment in which they are installed
As mentioned before, a well-designed disc golf course fits the land available for play and is designed to be long lasting. To do this, courses should take into consideration sensitive environmental areas, like wetlands and watershed, and minimize potential impacts on flora, fauna, and soil erosion. Well-constructed tee pads, fairways, and putting areas help blend the course with the land, rather than bending the land to the course.
Courses should be adequately resourced (tee pads, signage, trashcans, washrooms, parking areas, vending)
A high quality course considers all aspects of play. It includes signage to help players learn the rules and navigate the course, as well as educate casual park users about the game and ensure their safety. Trashcans and washrooms keep the course neat and clean. A designated parking area also keeps park users and neighbours safe, while increasing access. Where possible, municipalities can also generate revenue through food, beverage, and equipment sales, while also improving the player experience.
Maintenance should be intentionally planned (tree trimming, storm clean up, grass mowing, erosion control, vandalism)
Because the course fits within existing property, it can be tempting to minimize maintenance costs. While disc golf courses require much less attention than sports fields, regular mowing of open fairways (monthly) is needed, as well as trash removal, storm clean up, and erosion control (adding mulch around baskets, for example).
Courses should be attractive
One of the attractions of disc golf is the walk in the park aspect of the sport. Courses can be designed to include garden areas, waterways, and wooded paths. Many courses add works of art (sculptures, mosaic tee pads, benches) to the course to enhance the player experience.
Courses should be designed to challenge all aspects of a players game (length, approach, putting, accuracy)
The disc golf player community is a diverse community. It includes people of all ages, fitness levels, and skills levels. It even includes left- and right-handed players, whose discs fly differently. A well-designed course takes into consideration this diversity of ability and includes holes designed to meet the needs of all players likely to pass through the course. This means including short and long holes, with multiple approaches to the pin. Where present, waterways and elevation changes are used to enhance play, but are designed with accessibility in mind.
Courses should reward good play and punish bad play
A good course challenges the player while respecting their throws. A well-designed hole presents players with a clear set of throwing options that will bring a well thrown disc to the desired landing area. Players missing the line should find themselves with a more difficult path to the pin.
Course equipment should meet professional standards for quality
The PDGA has approved a large number of targets for play, and offers recommendation regarding tee pad size and construction. While inexpensive options can be used to facilitate installation of a course, short cuts in equipment will result in increased expenditures down the line. Natural tee pads and tone-type or locally sourced targets should only be used as part of a phased installation plan.