Signage can go a long way in making a course top-notch

It doesn’t matter what kind of sign it is — as long as there are signs to help people navigate their way around courses. (photo by Jenny Cook)

By Jenny Cook — Rattling Chains staff

Navigation issues on the disc golf course: How would you rate your home course?

Navigating a disc golf should not be difficult.

I once drove 400 miles eager to play legitimate par 4s and hole-shaping shots to test my game. After the first few holes at this course, my mood suddenly changed when I began struggling to navigate my way around the course.

If the obvious natural paths cutting through the trees and worn-down grass past the basket take me where I need to go next, then I’m a happy camper and no signage is needed.

Signs attached to the bottom of baskets can be extremely helpful. (photo by Jenny Cook)

For times when I look past the basket to five different and equally worn-down trails, with no indication of which one to take, I’ll use common sense of course flow to make my decision.

But I don’t always get it right on the first try, which means I’m obligated to try each one until I find the next hole. One or two holes of this out of 18 is not a bad ratio. It’s when the number of times I experience this increases throughout my round that I become frustrated — especially if the paths lead you to several different unmarked holes.

Now it’s time for technology — if you have a phone signal, that is. I pull up DGCoursereview.com on my phone to compare the hole I thought I should be on to the photos on the website.

But I was playing in the summer and I had to imagine no leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground, as compared to what the photos portrayed.

This almost made things more difficult.

All I wanted was a confirmation that I’m on the right hole and that I chose wisely to ensure I played the entire course the way it’s intended to be played. Unfortunately, technology can sometimes fail and so does the option of asking a local when I’m the only one out there playing.

Signs behind baskets pointing your way to the next tee can make it easy for people to navigate the course. (photo by Jenny Cook)

When playing an unfamiliar course, the last thing I want to happen is getting lost. The disc golf community is full of open-minded, kind and helpful people. It’s not so much you guys I’m worried about — it’s the wanderers in the woods with bad intentions and the minority of disc golfers with other intentions.

I realize the best solution is to remove myself from the situation. The next best thing — constantly be aware of my surroundings. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to stroll along the wrong path and end up far away from the course.

I do keep my self-defense class in my mind and mace in my bag, just in case. At the very least, it helps serve as protection against humans, as well as any threatening animals I might encounter.

Although the recent theft of a man’s disc golf bag while playing a local course of mine was an isolated incident, it serves as a constant reminder that we’re not always alone in the woods. Practice safe golf and follow posted signage, if there is any.

After installation, a course will go through many different stages of life. Often, the posting of signs take a back seat.

For locals of a new course, especially those who helped with the implementation of the design, navigating their way around a newly piece of land becomes second nature. It’s like your own back yard. It can be difficult to remain objective and imagine what an out-of-town golfer sees in your new creation.

I recently played at Foundation Park DG Complex – Champ 18 in Centralia, Ill. Signage was abundant at this course. For example, a solid black arrow on a plain white disc nailed to a tree by the basket. Maps were an option to take at the first hole, but on that particular day I was there, it was raining so hard that my map was wet, which made it difficult to use.

Simple or not, any sign is helpful. (photo by Jenny Cook)

Centralia has a fantastic course. I was grateful for signs and would give it a 10, not only because it was easy to navigate, but because of the aesthetics, true par 4s and the beautiful terrain.

I take it seriously when word of mouth tells me that a particular needs a guide, even if I’m playing with a group of people. I can’t help that I am attracted to those types of course as they intrigue me.

At the end of the day, at least the proper expectations have been made. It’s just too bad when an awesome course only lack a handful of extra signs. It would move the course rating up, at least in my book, and I’d be more apt to spread the word about it. Kudos to the designers and locals that take time to put up signage because it can go a long way.

Give me a course that’s rough around the edges, takes three hours to play and is humbling with water hazards. I’m up for the challenge. I just don’t want to get lost while playing it.

Jenny Cook is a women’s Open-division player based in Illinois. She can be e-mailed at jenny@rattlingchains.com. You can see some of her disc golf photography at her website.

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10 thoughts on “Signage can go a long way in making a course top-notch

  1. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign…

    I love to play courses with good signage. Especially if you’ve traveled to play the course. You waste a lot less of your precious time if there are signs. Distances, OB, obstructions and the next tee all make for an easy round. I’d rather spend my time throwing rather than searching. I spend enough time searching for my errant discs.

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  2. I love the simple, small signs that are installed at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, GA. The signs are yellow plastic with a black arrow, permanently installed on the base of each basket, at ground level. They simply point the way to the next tee.

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    • Thanks for reading and your response! I haven’t had the chance to play the DGC in Appling yet, but someday I’ll get there. They know what they’re doing 🙂 Nice and simple, I can appreciate that

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  3. I am with you Jenny.

    What I like most about disc golf is that it is an individual challenge and a game of constant adjustments. You could be adjusting your mental state of mind or compensating for that nagging sore shoulder or other physical ailment bothering you that day. Then there is course layout with all its challenges such as other park patrons, trees, water, doglegs, mud, O.B.’s, etc. Finally, there are the weather elements that must be taken into consideration and managed accordingly.

    My worst frustration on a disc golf course has never been managing the before mentioned. That’s the fun stuff! However, figuring my way through an unfamiliar course without the aid of a map or tee signs will distract and frustrate me. Yes, I have played unfamiliar and unmarked courses before that easily progressed in a logical sequence but I have also played those courses that didn’t. Sometimes just a simple “Arrow” sign mounted on the basket pointing me in the general direction of the next tee pad is all I need.

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    • Yes, I found the signage out there to be very helpful! Thanks for taking the time to make that a priority. Great course + fun to play!

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  4. thank you for the positive endorsement of our course. we (the club) have put a lot of time and effort into raising the bar at centralia. the signs you spoke of were installed just a couple of months ago, we needed to replace the wood signage that was worn, weathered and falling apart. plastic seemed to be a better, longer lasting way to go. we shall see…
    we also over this last summer received approval from the foundation (and also $$ contributions from players and friends) to install the concrete teepads on both the champ and rec courses. we held our very first PDGA sanctioned tournament on sept.8th. and right now we are in the midst of laying out a “back 9” for the rec. course. things are looking up for our little piece of disc golf heaven. even if it is waaayyy out here in the middle of nowhere. thank you again for the thumbs up on our course and glad that the signage made your round enjoyable.

    dave higgins
    president, centralia disc golf club

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    • Thank you for your reply; I only wish I lived closer to Centralia. My husband and I trying to plan a day trip to go down there and bring some friends to show them the course.

      We originally played it in the pouring rain. It was the kind of rain that had us soaked to the bone by hole #2. I stopped trying to keep my discs dry by hole #5. The water level along the stream/river rose so high that it almost washed away one of the bridges, and made it impossible to cross in certain areas -had to back track to get to the next hole. With that being said, I cannot wait to get back and play a dry round!

      The skies were clear when we played the Rec 9 course, which was fun to play! Congrats and good luck on getting the back 9 in – that’s fantastic!

      I just might come down next year for your next sanctioned tourney.. ..

      If the weather was better, I would have had a field day photographing your course, it’s a shame I don’t have a single photo from the day. I especially wanted to get a pic of the tree with the sign that read:
      “Right now, I’m in your head.”

      Brilliant!

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