Rating West Michigan disc golf courses


Nathan Riley

Jr. Nathan Riley tees off on hole 13 at Shore Acres Disc Golf Course.

Nathan Riley and Tyler Berens

You stand in the middle of the fairway, considering your next shot after your yellow Avenger clipped a tree and fell to the ground. With only 250 feet remaining, you contemplate using your Mako3 but choose your Buzzz SS for the favorable shot path to curve around the next group of trees. Rotating your shoulders, you fling the purple disc with a crisp backhand. The disc arcs around the trees, fading slightly back to the basket. Clang! The chains rattle, signifying a made shot. You shout in excitement to celebrate your birdie. Here’s a list of the best disc golf courses near Holland.

Winstrom Preserve: 3/5

   Located between Perry Street and Ottawa Beach Road, Winstrom Preserve has an 18-hole disc golf course that starts next to the fire department. Positioned at the start of the course, a practice basket allows players to hone their skills before playing. The course also has short and long tee pads to ensure both beginners and experts can equally enjoy the course.

   The terrain remains relatively uniform with few hills throughout. The plethora of trees serving as obstacles impact the player’s score greatly. While serving as a frustrating part of the course, the trees can also turn a bogey into a birdie. On the third hole, the trees act as a backstop, keeping discs from overshooting. The sand also stops discs from bouncing past the basket.

    As the most challenging hole, the fifth comes after an easy first four, so players often come into hole five below par. The fifth poses the first threat to the low scores with the basket perched on an island that never seems large enough to land a disc on. Before reaching the basket, players must bend their discs around a cluster of trees. If the shot gets blocked, the players have an even more difficult shot, as overhanging branches protect the basket. The players who successfully avoid the trees risk sinking their discs in the river behind the island. 

   Winstrom’s back nine lacks variation between holes compared to the front nine. Holes 11, 12, 14, 16, and 17 all lack a distinctive characteristic that makes the other holes unique, resulting in a dull sequence.

  While not too difficult for experienced players, Winstrom acts as a place to hang out and play disc golf rather than a challenging course that tests their abilities. However, novice disc golfers can find their love for the game at a course that requires specific shots for success.

The Breakers: 3.5/5

   On 50 acres of Summit Church property in West Olive lies the Breakers, a dry and sandy course with a few baskets perched on dunes. Trees line most of the fairways but don’t obstruct shots, while the pond on hole 9 claims discs. The multiple shot paths on each hole allow players to use the shot that best suits them. With two par 4’s, the Breakers forces players to use nearly every type of shot.

   After a fairly straightforward hole 10 to start off the back nine, hole 11, players face a monster par 4, totaling 500 feet. Before teeing off, players only hope to avoid ruining their score. From the tee pad, an easy lay-up shot must reach a clearing before the barricade of trees that ends the fairway. Players must hope for a lucky bounce to land near a basket elevated by a stump. Missing the chains on a putt causes the disc to fly past the basket, making a layup on the approach necessary for damage control.

   Although the Breakers requires players to use varying types of shots, the holes themselves can start to blend together. The lack of terrain that departs from the pine trees and sand with the occasional rolling hill results in a course that has few holes that stand out.

   The Breakers successfully caters to both beginners and experienced players by utilizing short tees and long tees on most of the holes. The course also has alternative flight paths that create more challenging shots, but if executed properly, create easier putts. Because of the alternative shots, advanced players can lower their score even after mastering the easier shot path while beginners can still feel successful.

Paw Paw Park: 4/5

   Two miles east of US 31, Paw Paw Park provides a beautiful setting for a disc golf course. The Macatawa River cuts through the wetland landscape, providing water for the ponds that swallow errant throws. The rolling hills and open fairways remind players of the former Holland Country Club that the county transformed into the park.

   The open fairways of Paw Paw can deceive the players. While few trees obstruct shots, the dense rough consisting of leafy shrubs and tall grass absorbs discs. The course has a nice combination of water and lightly wooded holes, as well as varying distances with both par 3 and par 4 holes.

   Hole 9, a 420-foot par 3, highlights the course. From the tee pad, players must land their discs on a small island of grass protruding from the pond and wetland. The initial shot doesn’t require maximum power, resulting in difficulty gauging the distance correctly. The risk of losing a disc to the pond forces players to throw conservatively, resulting in a tough second shot. The next shot requires a short toss that fades to the right to give players a chance at par. 

   Paw Paw Park offers an exciting course that challenges players, but the combination of dense roughs and water holes results in a constant loss of discs, even for experienced players. Extremely costly to replace, new discs range from $15 to $25. The water hazards can deter players from the water holes, reducing the course to only 15 holes if they wish to save their discs.

   The challenge of keeping the discs out of the water can turn away beginners, but seasoned players enjoy the pressure. However, skipping the water holes results in a much more mellow course for casual players with various types of shots throughout the round so everyone can enjoy the course.

Shores Acres: 4.5/5

Shore Acres Disc Golf Course (Nathan Riley)

   Located on the beautiful Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Shore Acres Disc Golf Course utilizes a mix of woods and open meadows near Felt Mansion. The dunes provide elevation changes, requiring complex shots to set up for putting. Primarily set in the woods, the front nine features few open fairways, while meadows dominate the back nine. Two-thirds of the holes contain a significant elevation change that requires a new type of shot. While most of the courses in the Holland area consist of mostly woods, Shore Acres deviates from this standard.

   Compared to the other Holland area courses, Shore Acres has the most variety. The yellow and black baskets for each hole require unique shots, so players can play two rounds without replicating shots.

   Hole 14, a 593-foot hole, starts on the ridge overlooking the final four holes. The open meadow below invites players to try their maximum distance drives and test who has the furthest drive. A small wetland area traps discs, reducing the distance of shots if players hit the brush. The next shot once again requires maximum effort, often inducing a shot that curves more than expected. A cluster of trees protects the basket, resulting in an extremely tough par.

   Shore Acres lacks many of the flaws of the rest of the courses. Two baskets for most holes creates a new challenge while Winstrom and the Breakers lack variety. Unlike Paw Paw Park, players rarely lose discs because of no water hazards and the woods lack an underbrush. The distance to Shore Acres can deter players, but the 30-minute drive results in an amazing round of disc golf.

   As the most advanced course in the Holland area, Shore Acres requires very long drives, but the technical shots make the course so difficult. These technical shots often deter beginners, but once beginners become familiar with the course, they should enjoy playing. Advanced players can always find new challenges on the course that reinforce their love for the sport.