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HouckDesign Blog

Tale of Three Cities

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

by John Houck

We took a road trip recently to visit three new sites in three states in three days, and it turns out that, after all these years, we can still be surprised. It was a hectic trip and we wished we had more time to enjoy the places we zipped through.

We almost never start design projects without a site visit first, unless it’s a Micro course or the land is simply flat and largely open. Even then, it’s interesting what surfaces when we meet with the client. It’s important to see the property, so that we can understand what’s possible on each piece of land. We also meet the client and understand their vision for the site and the level of course they want. Aerial maps and topo maps can only tell you so much. Typically, we do a complete review and feasibility report that considers numerous things. Dee's deep analysis with all types of data and projections are extremely useful for the client to understand the project at a deep level. I evaluate the potential of the land and challenges on the design side. These reports can be extensive and are unique to each project. They help the client make decisions on how they want to proceed.

In this case, we were headed out to a Parks and Rec Conference and we just happened to get multiple inquiries right around that time. So we worked out a route (we’re always routing something…) where we could at least make a short visit with everyone on one trip.

The first stop was the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association Conference, where we talked about the growth of the sport, the benefits to individuals, and the potential economic impact. In particular, we talked about principles and techniques for converting golf courses in to “real” disc golf courses. It went great, and we headed straight out to our first site visit.

The first park we looked at was enormous. In fact, it’s one of the biggest city parks in the country, at well over 1,000 acres. Who knew there were city parks that big? We had a good tour with the park manager and took a quick look at areas by the lake, their cabins/camping/RV areas, and by the baseball fields. Pretty much unlimited potential and a truly beautiful area. Not sure it’s possible for a park to be too big, but if it were, this park would qualify.

We spent the night and cruised on to the second city, where we looked at a college campus. And it was everything you’d expect (or more precisely, everything you’d fear). Buildings, sidewalks, streets, parking lots, even neighbors’ yards – this place had it all. The available area even included the President’s house, and our tour guide let us know that it would be wise to an extra distance away from that yard. It was definitely on the scary side, but Dee and I made sure to keep an open mind. After we got home, took a hard look at it, and evaluated what seemed reasonable, we let the client know that we just weren’t comfortable doing the kind of par three course they had in mind. That part of campus was just too small and too close to other activities. We couldn’t see doing anything bigger than a Micro Course, most likely with all the holes under 150’. Maybe the first step to the Collegiate Micro Championships?

Then a short drive out to a new state and a new park in the morning. And this park was… just right. Well over 50 wooded acres on a lake, plus some elevation to work with (about 50’ of elevation in the woods from the high point to the low point). The parks department is looking for something to cater to new and intermediate players, so nothing too big and no need to accommodate spectators.

It's a reminder of the great versatility, adaptability, and diversity of disc golf courses. These three sites could ultimately range in par from around 20 for a 9-hole Micro course to 68 for a Championship course, and holes could range from 50’ to over 1000’. You don’t see that in the golf world, and at this point in our sport’s history, that kind of flexibility, and the ability to surprise a player is a great strength.

Three new sites. Three states. Three very old beautiful and historic hotels. Three completely different types of design possibilities. The first odd prime number certainly made this trip oddly interesting.

Whoa! This is also my third blog.


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