Every disc golfer has a home course where they learned the game. In the very beginning, it’s where you learned to keep the disc level, and throw straight (some still haven’t learned that lesson!). It’s where your first impression of a hole gradually changed from seeming impossibly long to just being a gimmie shot with a Teebird. For me, that course is Pye Brook Park in Topsfield, MA.
Thankfully, Pye Brook was not the first course I ever played. If that had been the case, I may have never kept with it long enough to have fun. The first place I ever played was a tiny pitch n’ putt nine hole course in Minneapolis called “The Wabun Picnin Area.” The holes were so close to the tee pads that you only needed two discs, but for a beginner this was the perfect place to get hooked. Within two days I was throwing ace-runs- and within three days I was bored.
In any case, when I got home to Massachusetts I searched for the closest course and found Pye Brook. By comparison to other courses in New England, ‘Lady Pye’ is much more open and expansive. You need to learn to control your discs in the wind, and you need to learn legitimate distance if you’re hoping to throw any birdies. Even with this ‘open’ feel, there are a handful of tight wooded holes (The Bird-muda Triangle) as well as some longer par 3’s that will always be a challenge to birdie.
As with every course, even the top-notch pay-to-plays, there are always a handful of complaints or criticisms that come up. At Pye Brook, my biggest problem when I started was the tee box conditions. The course was actually built on an old landfill that was capped off and turned into a town park for baseball, soccer and football. This fact prohibited any digging deeper than twelve inches (not that I’d want to anyway!), so the tee boxes were prone to divots that rarely saw much in the way of permanent repair. However, this spring of 2011 some funds were freed up to pay for material to fix all 18 tee boxes (hole 19 tee’s off from a field hockey field) and the course director Bill Stewart, with local John Dickison, coordinated a total rebuild. The design for the tee boxes used the existing timber frames, and avoided any possible problems with digging. The weekend they were repaired was a sight to be seen- with as many as 20 locals there at a given time lending their trucks to the task, pushing wheel barrows full of stone and stone dust, tamping down the dirt, and fastening new rubber mats to the timbers. Some guys even worked full days both Saturday and Sunday without coming up for air. The condition of the tee boxes is now always excellent, and what was once a problem for most, is turned into a course highlight. This is a course where the open space, and the lack of trees really get you excited to grip it and rip it as far as you can. With the addition of new, durable tee boxes on all the holes, you’re given a virtual launching pad to throw a drive from- with nothing to worry about except your form and execution. No longer are you forced to look down to make sure your feet made it into the four inch deep divots left by the players before you, and after a rainy day there is no reason to fret about stepping into a giant puddle either.
I also find that the ability level on each hole at Pye Brook is varied enough to keep all skill levels interested. The top players can go out on a given day and aim for a legitimate -10 down feeling that they earned it, while the beginners don’t have to step up to every hole and feel intimidated (and for brand new players, there are AM tees on most holes as well). This doesn’t mean it’s an inherently easy course, as many of the baskets are located on the edge of a hill (hole 2 for example) or are well protected from any sloppy drives and approaches (hole 9). I’d say that any player who throws under a par round in a tournament at Pye Brook is a good disc golfer. I suppose my opinion of this course will always be through rose-colored glasses though since it’s where I learned the game. Maybe the fact that when I get out of work, I drive straight to Topsfield to play an 18 hole round for free every weekday I can creates an unfair bias towards the course? But so be it- everyone has a home course.