This article originally appeared in issue #49 (Spring 1999) of Disc Golf World News
Welcome back, sports fans. On our last show, we opened a discussion of "two-shot" holes, holes that generally require a drive and an approach shot before you can even think about putting. We discussed how the majority of ball golf holes fall into this category, and we tried to make the case that two-shot holes bring a strong element of strategy to the game of disc golf. We claimed that two-shot holes add variety to the playing experience and encourage shot-making. We had a very positive response to that topic, so this time we're going to take it a little further. (If you missed it, pick up DGWN #48.)
The more I thought about it, it occurred to me that two-shot holes in disc golf fall into three categories: those with no landing area, those with one landing area, and those with multiple landing areas. Let's take a look at all three, shall we?
ONE LANDING AREA. We've mentioned before that the bottom-line job of the course designer is to locate eighteen tees and eighteen greens. But sometimes you find a spot that would make a great green and a great tee -- that's a prime spot to use for the landing area of a two-shot hole. The landing area is basically the spot where a good drive should land. It should be challenging to hit, but not too hard to hit, and it should give you a good look at the basket. There may be a spot on your home course where you could just remove a basket and make a good two-shot hole (diagram A).
On a reachable hole, the closer you are to the pin, the easier putt you'll have, in general. On a two-shot hole, the more precisely you hit the preferred landing area, the easier approach you should have to the green. Conversely, the farther your drive goes from the landing area, the harder your approach should be. And if you make a really bad drive, you may have no shot to the green at all. A good landing area is usually big enough and interesting enough that parts of it are better than others, and a great drive gets more reward than a good drive.
In ball golf, most two-shot holes are in the shape of doglegs. But as diagram A shows, the varied flight paths of a golf disc lend themselves to much more interesting shapes. If we use a few obstacles, we can make the hole even more interesting, as in diagram B.
MULTIPLE LANDING AREAS. By adding landing areas, we can bring even more strategy into play. As we saw with last issue's mythical hole #78, landing areas that are easier to hit should offer harder approaches, and again the converse is true: a landing area that's harder to hit should reward you with an easier approach. As diagram C shows, landing areas can be defined by obstacles, out-of-bounds areas, or terrain changes.
Holes with multiple landing areas are harder to design, because it's harder to find the right combination of elements to make it work. But if you're standing on a possible tee location and you see two good pin positions, you're on your way: you might be able to use those pin positions as landing areas. But now you'll have to find a new pin position that works from both landing areas. Don't forget that the pin has to be easier to get to from the tougher landing area and... the converse. Easier said than done, in my experience.
NO LANDING AREA. Anyone can design a two-shot hole with no landing area, but designing a good one is a challenge. One of my favorite examples that many of you have seen is hole #10 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock (diagram C).
A valley runs all the way down the left side of the fairway, and you pretty much don't want to go down there. So a right-handed player wants to throw a big anhyzer to avoid the valley. But the more you play away from the valley, the more you'll have trees blocking your approach.
And you can throw as far as you want, but the more you pump it, the harder it is to walk that line between the valley and an obstructed approach. Remember: we don't want to reward players who can throw far; we want to reward players who can throw far accurately. To make things more interesting, the green behind the basket slopes down to a creek, so a good drive is really important if you want to get a three on the hole.
My rule of testing two-shot holes is this: a good two-shot hole should always be made of two good one-shot holes. Hole #10, in fact, originally was two holes, with the first basket near the ridge, about 320' from the tee. As you can see, there are lots of spots that would make OK tee locations to the "second" basket. But none of them are very well defined, which is why hole #10 has no defined landing area. I hope you will agree with me that in this case the two-shot hole is clearly much more interesting than the two one-shot holes.
This hole seems to me to be a decent example of strategic course design (not the same as strategic playing), which we'll get into next time. We'll also talk about the principle of "diagonality" (I think I made that word up), which is well-known by ball golf course designers. But since you've been so good, I'll leave you with an example of a new three-shot hole we just put in: #18 at Circle R (Rolling Meadow course -- diagram D). Everything we've said about two shot holes applies to three-shot holes, but now we're adding one twist. On a good three-shot hole, which is a usually a par 5, a player who makes two awesome shots can actually have a putt for an eagle three.
#18 is a good hole, and with an extra obstacle or two it could be a great hole. Of course, it's much more fun when there's water in the creek. But I think you get the idea. So to sum up: we've now decided that the course designer's job is to find tees, greens, AND landing areas. The designer also has to know when an particular area will work better as a two-shot hole or two one-shot holes. That call will usually depend on how it relates to the rest of the course... a topic for another time.