I watched as my yellow Discraft Heat cut through the afternoon air. After about 7 seconds, it turned right and came down about 60 feet from the hole. Not a bad shot, I thought to myself, but I need to get this next one pretty darn close. I arrived to my drive, pondering my next move. I could either put my next shot close, all but guaranteeing a 3. Or I could fire a solid throw at the basket, giving me a chance at a 2, but also possibly jeopardizing my score. Thinking that the risk is worth it, I took out my favorite mid range, fired, and waited. CLANG! I heard the sound of rattling chains and I fist pumped, celebrating my shot.
Disc golf is a big part of my own life, so I went to four local courses and rated them based on difficulty, design, accessibility, and how they accommodate to different skill levels.
4th- Paw Paw Park – 6379 ft
Hole 9 is a simple straight shot to the pin, but there is one thing that really sets this hole apart: the large pond between the hole and the pin. If the disc gets to the safe landing area, everything is okay. Paw Paw Park was formerly a real golf course, so the layout of the DGC is similar to that of a real golf course. The fairways stand out from the rough. There are very clear maps near the tee pad of every hole that show where the pin is and where the next tee pad is. Paw Paw Park is right off of Business 196 going toward Zeeland, making it an easily accessible course, though there is Paw Paw Park East, and Paw Paw Park West, the DGC is at the east one. The course winds through the park perfectly, eventually completing the circle connecting hole 1 to hole 18. The layout circles from hole 1 at the parking lot, back to hole 18, which is also at the parking lot. The course should not be played by someone who does not have disc golfing experience. Although Paw Paw Park is high quality, the course is quite challenging. Along the sides of the fairway, there is a thick layer of foot tall grass. The grass is terrible in terms of being able to find discs. In fact, I went frolfing at Paw Paw once, and I lost FOUR discs. Finding discs is a hassle, but if people throw carefully, they should stay out of the grass. There are also some marshy areas throughout the course that engulf feet as they walk on them. Overall, Paw Paw Park is a decent course; it is well laid out, challenging, and well taken care of. In order to have a good experience, people just need to be careful and pay attention to where your discs go. Paw Paw Park, despite having outstanding holes and a good layout, is very difficult and there is a high chance that players will lose discs, so it is the 4th best course on the list.
3rd- Winstrom Preserve DGC – 3880 ft
Hole 14. The bane of my disc golf existence. Throwing the disc, I believe that my shot was great, “I will get a 2 on this hole!” I think to myself. SPLASH! My disc lands right in the river behind the pin. Despite the difficult hole 14, the rest of Winstrom Preserve DGC is relatively easy. Each hole at the course offers a short tee pad and a long tee pad, allowing for varying difficulty to suit anyone’s disc golf ability. Winstrom Preserve is located off of Ottawa Beach Road and 160th Ave. Ottawa Beach Road is a major road, so it is very easy to locate and access Winstrom. A major strength of the course is that all skill levels are accounted for. The long tee pads provide a more challenging and farther throw, while the short tee pads allow for a shorter, and easier throw. If someone is playing the short tees, they can use a mid range disc throughout the course; this is still the case for a few long tees, but for some long tees, a driver would be the best option for a first throw. A weakness of Winstrom Preserve DGC is the confusing hole layout of the back nine. At one point around hole 12, four tee pads can be seen in the same vicinity, which is quite confusing. Overall, Winstrom has limited space and short holes, but, it is very conveniently located 5 miles from West Ottawa High School, landing itself at 3rd place.
2nd- Lakeshore Disc Golf Complex – 4561 ft
My first thought as I approached hole 8 was, “Oh no, not another water hole.” Hole 8 is a 90 foot toss over a small pond, followed by another 100 foot shot to the pin. The pond is not too deep either, so if a disc goes in, it can be retrieved. The course has a really good layout; the front and back nine start and end . The course was sort of tucked behind a warehouse on Grand Haven Road and Wilson Road in Spring Lake, right off the highway, but it is sort of hidden and probably will require some form of navigation. The holes varied between straight shots, shots to the left, and shots to the right. For a somewhat experienced player, this course would be pretty simple, but for an inexperienced player, the trees and tall grass lining the fairway may be intimidating. Lots of the holes were aceable, and most holes did not seem too challenging. Some holes lacked a concrete tee pad, hindering the ability to get a good footing. The ground was muddy from recent rainfall, and there were some marshy areas. Lakeshore Disc Golf Complex lands at second place out of these courses; the course is well set up, it is hard to lose discs, and it poses a little bit of a challenge. Overall, Lakeshore DGC was a very good course.
1st- Shore Acres DGC – 5657 ft
Hole 4 is a medium length toss, but what makes hole 4 stand out is the fact that the tee pad is on top of a hill, and the hole is down at the bottom. The hill is about 40 feet high with a steep decline of about 45 degrees. Shore Acres DGC has two baskets for every hole, so if someone is up for two rounds of disc golfing, they have 36 holes, and a couple extra holes to add to the 36 existing baskets. The course offers a couple wide open shots and some narrow shots that take some strategy. The course is also located on the grounds of Felt Mansion, and right next to the Saugatuck State Park. So, if people spend a couple hours disc golfing in the summer heat then decide they wish to go swimming, there is a beach right next door. Most holes would require a driver for the first shot, then a mid range to finish the hole, but on a hole like hole 14, a driver may be necessary for the first two shots. This course does not have many weaknesses, it is well taken care of, it flows well, and there is a good mix of difficulty, but the course is primarily wooded, so there is an abundance of poison ivy. There are a couple holes next to a fence with tall grass; it is very possible to lose a disc on these holes, but if players can keep their shot on or near the fairway, they will be fine. Shore Acres DGC is all around excellent. The holes vary in length and difficulty, the tee pads are all nicely set up, the course flows well, and it is difficult to lose discs. Shore Acres earned itself 1st place on my list.