Disc Golf Course Design is many things... an artform... a puzzle... a technical challenge... a balancing act... but it's also a hundred more things! While a good disc golf course will be fun to play, show off the most beautiful natural features of the land, and have a great flow, a great course will do all of those things as well as think about things like safety, maintenance, sustainability, throughput, flora lifecycles, seasonal light, drainage, tournament play, business cases, and the list goes on.
"But why should we use a course designer when a local player will do it for free?". It's a common question because so many of our sports courses have been designed by avid players or groups of club players. The sad truth is that many of those courses are being pulled due to a range of issues such as safety concerns due to questionable design decisions, lack of traffic because the design is too focused on a certain level of player, interference with other on-site activities, etc. These are the kinds of things that a professional disc golf course designer has trained to avoid both in the short and the long term.
Here's a short list of some of the most important reasons to consider Fluent Disc Sport as your disc golf course design firm...
You'll see this repeated throughout our literature, and there's a good reason for it, if it's not a safe course, it's not worth building. To this day we see players or clubs choosing to design holes that may look like a great line to throw, but don't take into account the safety issues it introduces for players, spectators, bystanders or other users of the public space. What seems like a good obstacle for one player can actually be a real danger to those that are new to the sport, or those around them.
Holes that throw directly at or near private property, industrial lands, railways, roads or highways will force players into even more dangerous situations to retrieve errant throws. Fairways that cross paths or heavily used public spaces only end up creating conflict between disc golfers and others about who has the right of way, or who's at fault when something happens. Holes that through around other activities such as soccer fields, or baseball diamonds can have discs flying into groups of unsuspecting players.
There's no excuse for unsafe designs other than a lack of understanding of the consequences associated to design decisions. Designing safe courses doesn't make them less fun, or less challenging, it just takes more imagination to find the right solution and that's what Fluent Disc Sport is here for!
This happens to be one of the most important considerations because when you choose to have an uninsured designer, player or club design your course, YOU are assuming the risks and liability associated with their designs! It also puts them in a position of personal liability as the ones responsible for the design and installation, and it's an issue that will last the life of the course.
Fluent Disc Sport is fully insured for both our work, and our designs under two separate policies! We carry a $2m commercial general liability policy, as well as a policy specifically related to the design itself, ask us for more details! Be sure to ask potential designers what policies they carry before you make your decision!
Courses designed by an untrained player, or through "design by committee" most often end up being a collection of holes rather than a complete course. Courses designed this way often end up with a few good holes, and then a collection of "tweeners" to fill in the gaps. The focus often gets placed on the one or two "must-have" holes someone has identified, but then when it turns out that the continuity of the course is missing, or the quality of other holes has to be sacrificed to fit them in, that's where the process stops and the final product is less than ideal.
At Fluent we actually create a number of different routings, some forward, some backward, some with a specific hole in mind, some where we purposefully avoid that hole. In fact we continue to create new routings and layouts until ALL of the boxes are checked. As a professional designer, you can't get hung up on one "must-have hole", you have to be willing to sacrifice it to achieve the "must-have course". It's really hard to take what looks like a great design and push it aside, but it's a necessary step and only serves to get the creative juices flowing. The course, the players, and the owner all benefit from this process in the end!
A great course is a balancing act, it's finding a way to make sure that every player is going to find the same level of difficulty by avoiding bias, and there are a lot of characteristics that need to be considered! A great example is that when the person or group designing the course are all Right Handed for instance, the bias inevitably shows through in the course with more of one shot direction than another. A professional designer uses data and statistics we compile to ensure that the course has no bias, that there are an equal number of opportunities for right handed throws as there are left handed. It doesn't stop there though, we also balance forehand and backhand, straight and dog leg, open and tight, hyzer and anhyzer, and the list goes on. There are quite literally hundreds of characteristics we have to consider when ensuring what we deliver is a balanced course, and we've developed the tools necessary to ensure it happens every time, second chances are just too costly.
This is one area where there there is no comparison, clubs and players are focused on one thing, the course they want to play. But the reality is that the course that best meets the goals of you the property owner, may not align with what they want. Making a decision on the course length you need when you want faster throughput for instance, or why it would be important to design a "turn" between 9's or not, or even the terrain to use based on the intended audience, isn't something that will play into their decision making.
Fluent Disc Sport understands not only what makes for great courses, we also understand the business of Disc Golf, and we are most interested in the solution that creates an environment for success for our clients. Not every course type, feature, routing, etc. will work in every scenario, so as professionals that understand these things, we can help you make the informed decisions you need to make. While we will always endeavour to create fun and exciting courses to play, our end goal is to ensure that your best interests are served in the advice and information we provide.
Course design is so much more than simply finding nice lines, it is a meticulous craft that requires a knowledge and understanding of the balanced needs of the sport, the land, and the people responsible for it's upkeep.
At Fluent Disc Sport, we ask ourselves 3 questions every time we design a course that help us ensure your solution meets and exceeds all of these needs...
Safety is our baseline, if your course isn't safe to play, nothing else matters! Understanding spray patterns, flight characteristics, tee pad construction, traffic wear points, etc. all play a role in designing a safe course and minimizing your liability. While players may be exposed to some of the repurcussions of these choices, they don't always understand the root causes or how to avoid them at the design stage, which is why using a professional designer is so important.
Fun holes are a balance between challenge and fairness. A fun course has to balance so much more... left and right bias, tunnels and open shots, a wide variety of shot types, the right mix of hole lengths, and more, and it needs to do all of this for each skill level. A well balanced course ensures that every player can continue to grow their game, but always find something to love!
Land speaks, but you need to know what to listen for. Our process always begins with scouting the property and identifying the most inspiring views, the most impressive flora, and the most unique land features that call to us. Some are obvious, some take a lot of imagination, but our job is to see the big picture and have the vision to tie it all together in a way that makes every hole something unique and awe inspiring.
"Long Track" disc golf courses come in three levels: Recreational, Tournament, and Championship, each getting successivly larger with corresponding improvements to the overall presentation and amenities.
No matter the level, each is capable of catering to a wide variety of player experience levels through the installation of multiple tee positions. Similar to traditional golf, disc golf breaks difficulty down into rated divisions of players, and corresponding coloured tees; Red for novices, White for intermediate, Blue for advanced, and Gold for professionals. This means that even the largest courses are still approachable and playable by the broadest audience!
Where they differ most is on the finishing touches and attention to detail, and thus the higher the level of course, the more opportunity to draw a more discerning player, particularly ones that are willing to pay to play.
Long track courses require roughly 1 to 2 acre per hole for Recreational courses and upwards of 2-4 acres per hole on average for a Championship level course. The more space available, the more opportunity there is to design a mix of par 3, 4 and even 5’s while ensuring enough space for safety. There is no one size fits all, as factors like the density of your bush, the topography, routing of the holes, etc. will all have an impact on how much land is required, but we can help you identify what size of course is appropriate for your available space!
Limited property sizes don't need to stand in the way of your course. In fact, they can inspire some of the most creative holes. "Short Track" Disc Golf Courses represent smaller courses and come in a couple varieties: Compact Disc Golf Courses, and Skills Development Courses. These formats also work very well for Events and Temporary Courses!
Each type has its own focus and play style, and can act as a stand-alone course, or be installed alongside Long Track courses for practice and skills training, or to introduce new players to Disc Golf. Shorter courses allow us to introduce challenge and fun through more creative means like water features and islands without the water, hanging targets, artistic obstacles, and more, to help provide a unique, exciting and memorable experience!
Because these courses have a smaller footprint, and require shorter throws, they're able to be installed in closer proximity to other attractions or amenities while still maintaining safe buffers. While Skills Development courses can generally be installed anywhere, including small parkettes. Compact Courses can be designed into spaces under 10 acres and in some cases as little as 1-2 acres.
It's exciting seeing what a property has to offer during the first scouting, but the real excitement starts when you begin to see it take shape. The build phase for a project is where we take the vision in the design and bring it to life. Whether Fluent is providing you build services, or you prefer to do the work yourself, our team is involved at every step to make sure that you get exactly what we promised, and that your players get the best possible experience!