Category Archives: Course design

What makes disc golf fun?

I recently posted on Facebook about a great weekend of competitive golf one a pop-up course at Fraserglen Golf Course for the 2022 Fraserglen Charity Open. The experience got me asking myself, why was that weekend so much fun. The bulk of the post follows, and, I think, will help me think more about course design issues.

Saturday was a singles event that I previously posted on, Sunday was a doubles event in the rain. Dennis Dreger (of Mundy Park fame) and I got to team up and take on two other teams in the Advanced Amateur division (Dennis was looking at maintaining his amateur status so we picked this division to compete in). We played well in the first round, 13 under par on the 20 hole course, leaving us one behind the leaders. Both teams slowed down in round two, where we finished nine down while our competition, Dayna Fitzgerald and Kieran Atkinson, finished eight under, leaving us in a tie for first. As it was a charity event, cold, rainy, and dark (by the time we finished), and we wanted to celebrate the great competition we had, we decided to leave it as a first place tie.

Round 1 in the books

But, that’s not the story I want to tell. The real story was that I just had a blast, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy disc golf, but on this course, at this time, I felt great freedom to just throw, create lines and strategy, and enjoy the flight of the disc. Even my mistakes left me intrigued by the opportunities for recovery. I’ll be breaking this down and reflecting on it for a while from a course design perspective, but here’s a quick take on what I think went right for me.

First, there was a fair amount of strategic OB on the course (greens and hazards). That said, these areas were placed to avoid, rather than to constrain. As a player, I had a huge amount of choice in how to attack the pin, with the freedom to lay up or run the pin in a variety of ways. That made it fun.

Tombstone, in look and feel!

Second, there was very little “convenience OB”. What do I mean by the term? I’m using this to identify OB put in place to facilitate speed of play (for example, to avoid having players delay the game by looking for lost discs, or to avoid complex recovery shots that take time to set up and execute). A lot of courses are using this these days (I’m looking at you Raptors 👀) but what that often does is kill opportunities for scramble. There were a number of times Dennis and I (and Kieran and Dayna) had to get really creative and make hard strategic decisions in our match based on drives that ended up off the fairway, under trees or behind bushes. That gave us opportunities to execute a great save or acknowledge that a layup was a better strategy and take an extra throw to get to the pin. Convenience OB takes that choice and opportunity away from the player, removes them from the rough and drops them back on the fairway with the one stroke penalty.

Third, as suggested earlier, there was no constraining OB–that is, OB leaving players with only one safe place to land, in a bit of a do or die approach to course design. Every hole seemed to have safe and aggressive lines to the pin so there was always a risk/reward opportunity, and that makes golf fun.

Finally, though “par” is largely an artificial concept, there were a fair number of what I would call soft-pars. That is, calling a 450 foot +/- hole a par four, largely due to the hazards that needed to be avoided. I need to think more about this, but what that did was give us a good opportunity to score and a lot of forgiveness if we didn’t. The end result was that I never felt beat up or oppressed by the course.

Ultimately, kudos to event hosts and course designers, Rob Workman and Jonathan Snys for an entertaining event on a great course and for a great cause (Archway food bank), and time for me to add an addendum to my Principles of Good Course Design post: Principles for Quality Play. Look for it soon in a bookstore near you 🙂. OK, on this website, coming soon.

Player versus the course… run the putt and risk the pond, or layup. This putt splashed into the chains for a birdie!

Mundy Park League Island layout

For all holes, if your drive lands OB, you have the option to play normal OB rules, re-tee with a one stroke penalty, or to proceed to the drop zone with a 1 stroke penalty. For all other shots, normal OB rules apply. The optional drop zone for a hole is the next hole’s tee pad. On or across all paths is OB. If uncertain whether a disc is OB, the group makes the initial call. If there’s a question, throw a provisional and ask the TD for a ruling after.

Hole 1: OB on or outside of the paths lining the fairway and putting area. Drop Zone is tee pad 2.

Hole 2: No OB. You’re welcome.

Hole 3: Must cross the path between the tee pad and basket to be in bounds. Water long and on or across the path on the left of the landing area is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 4.

Hole 4: Water and on or across the path along fairway 5 is OB (fairway 5 would be in bounds). Drop zone is tee pad 5.

Hole 5: Water and on or across the path along the right side of the fairway is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 6.

Hole 6: Water and on or across the path is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 7.

Hole 7: Sidewalks and on or across the paths is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 8.

Hole 8: Sidewalks and on or across the paths is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 9.

Hole 9: Water and on or across the paths is OB. Drop zone is tee pad 1.

Courses developed

While I’ve put together many temporary tournament course in BC (most of our permanent courses are only 9 holes), I’ve also lead design teams on two permanent courses in the lower mainland, the 18-hole course on Grouse Mountain and a nine-hole community course at Walden Park. You can find the original design proposal for Walden Park here.

Permanent Courses:

Principles for Good Course Design


  1. Courses should be designed with the safety of players and spectators in mind
  2. Courses should fit the land available
  3. Courses should be planned to serve the needs of the local community
  4. Courses should be designed for flexibility and growth as local talent grows
  5. Courses should be designed to support sustainability, to protect as much as possible the environment in which they are installed
  6. Courses should be adequately resourced (tee pads, signage, trash cans, washrooms, parking areas, vending)
  7. Maintenance should be intentionally planned (tree trimming, storm clean up, grass mowing, erosion control, vandalism)
  8. Courses should be attractive
  9. Courses should be designed to challenge all aspects of a players game (length, approach, putting, accuracy)
  10. Courses should reward good play and punish bad play
  11. 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.

Disc Golf Resume

Course Design


Designer, Disc Golf Course Designers’ Guild

Permanent Courses Designed

Grouse Mountain Disc Golf Course (with Leanne Fulton)

Walden Park (Original BCDS proposal | Disc Golf Course Review)

Tournament Courses Designed

2008 BC Open (with David Cowley)

2015 Disc Cellar Open (with David Cowley)

Course Consultant

City of Chilliwack

City of Hope

City of Surrey

PDGA Tournament Director Experience

BC Open (BC Open History)

PDGA Major/NT/A tier play:

PDGA Major/NT/A tier Wins

Other Playing Experience

BCDS Duck Golf Series

  • First Place, Advanced Masters 2005/06
  • First Place, Open Masters 2011/12
  • First Place, Open Grandmasters 2016/17
  • First Place, Open Grandmasters 2018/19

BC Provincial Championships

Canadian Nationals

Pender Island Classic

Team Events (International)

WFDF/PDGA Team Disc Golf World Championships

  • Team USA member (2017)
  • Team USA member (2019)

WFDF/PDGA Pan-American Disc Golf Championships

Team Events (National/Local)

BC Club Championships

  • Mundy Park Disc Golf Club
    • Team member 2021, 2022
    • Provincial Champions, 2022

Jim Brown Cup

  • Mundy Park Disc Golf Club
    • Captain (2011-16)
    • Team member 2005 – 2021
    • Provincial Champions 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17

Rocky Mountain Challenge

  • BC Team member, 2013
    • Team Champions, 2013

Doubles events

Professional Divisional Doubles at 2023 PDGA Masters Worlds

  • First place, MP55 (with Ted Moens)

BC Doubles Championship

  • First Place, Open Masters 2016 (with Dennis Dreger)
  • First Place, Open Masters 2019 (with Neville Collett)

Leadership Experience

Professional Disc Golf Association

  • Provincial Coordinator (BC), 2020-2024
  • Member, 2000 – present (Current rating)

British Columbia Disc Sports Society (Main Board)

  • Vice President 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013
  • President 2011; 2014
  • Outreach Director 2012
  • Past President 2015, 2018, 2019 (elected replacement)
  • Member, 2005 – present

BCDSS (Disc Golf Branch)

  • Secretary 2008
  • Tournaments Coordinator 2009
  • Member at Large  2010


RPM Discs: Parliament (2022)

RPM Discs: Tribe (2021)

RPM Discs: Ambassador (2020)

Team Disc Cellar (2014-2018)