My goal when you walk in through that front door at Sabattus is to make sure you have a good time and feel supported in disc golf. That’s the goal of anyone who is working at SDG.
Let’s talk about a problem we’ve recently been facing. Sabattus Disc Golf can get packed, especially on the weekends. If you’re a local you know that anecdotally we’re busy. If you have UDisc you can check the course's busy level on the app and it will tell you.
So the problem we’re facing is the course filling up. And it’s always the Hawk course.
Slow rounds hurt your score, take up more of your time, and they’re just not as much fun.
How is Sabattus Disc Golf working to take care of overcrowding?
I really enjoyed my final semester of college at USM in the business school. And learning project management, along with streamlining processes was a hoot.
Optimization can be exciting when you see it put to use in something you love. For me, that’s trying to increase the pace of play without minimizing the experience of the people playing disc golf. That’s for casual players as well as experienced folks, because we get people who might be rated 550 and 990 on the same course at the same time.
We’ve all zipped through a quick round on a day with no one on the course right? That’s easy. It’s the weekend days where everyone wants to play on their day off that it becomes a challenge.
Now I know that Sabattus isn’t alone in packed disc golf courses. I read Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Google, and Instagram posts from disc golfers all over the world. The influx of players has grown at a faster rate than new courses are being established. Tournaments that used to take months to fill, are now waitlisted within minutes. Every course is getting crowded.
After 2022 when our Hawk course became the busiest in Maine. I did a lot more thinking about how we could increase efficiency of everything that we do here.
The Wheel is more than just a way to have fun deciding what course to play.
If you’re unfamiliar with the wheel, it’s new and it’s a lot of fun to spin. It also encourages people to play courses other than the Hawk. It should also increase players on the Eagle and Falcon courses.
Not everyone spins the wheel, not everyone who spins the Eagle/Falcon chooses to play it, but some people do.
I’ll know after the season when the rounds are counted if the wheel works as intended. I predict that we’ll see increased play on the other courses. I ask folks which course they’re playing, if they tell me they don’t know I refer them to the wheel.
Many people just go with whatever they spin. Some folks hop onto the Eagle or Falcon if there’s a wait on the Hawk.
Hopefully this fun way to help people decide what to play encourages play on quieter courses.
We’re in the process of getting more accurate tee signs, with accurate par.
The old tee signs were made in house almost 10 years ago. The footage has changed on some holes, and some baskets have been moved. Some of the trees have been taken down by wind or by us at SDG.
Accurate signage should help players who are unfamiliar with the course to know where the hole is. This will lead to less walking down the fairway to find the basket and walking back to the teepad on blind holes.
Sabattus has always had “Maine Par”. I’m hoping that by lowering the par to a more accurate version we’ll be able to convince people that they should try other courses like the Falcon. Which may be easier to score on when you play true par.
Some folks never play anything but the Hawk course because they like shooting -3 to -5 but shoot over on other courses. I hope that folks consider playing other courses to get better and improve, and also learn that -12 is about even on the Hawk.
Allowing rental disc users to play the Falcon as well.
It’s always funny when people ask if the Falcon or the Hawk is a more difficult course. The Falcon is shorter and more technical, and the Hawk is longer but it’s much more open and the par has been more forgiving. So I guess it comes down to how far you throw.
Why didn’t we always allow rental discs on the Falcon?
People kept losing discs in the water on Hole 8. They often only rent a single disc, and they’re fairly far away from the pro shop. So they don’t come back.
We lose those discs and don’t have them for other people. And we still have to buy more discs for rentals. With the influx of new players we have a lot more people renting discs (and losing them) than ever before.
So we’re looking into getting different molds like the Dragon, so if a disc does go in the water they don’t lose it.
Adding a sign to allow for more space in between groups after hole 1.
This is probably the most counterintuitive one.
Starting further apart in time will allow better course flow.
While it might seem like the second the group in front of you clears the landing zone you’re aiming for, wait.
I can back this up using golf courses stats. They found that by adding distance between the starting times they were able to lower the amount of time it takes to play a golf round by 14 minutes.
Waiting for the group on Hole 2 to start driving is the way to ensure a better pace of play.
Hole 1 on the Hawk is easy to play. It’s 200ish feet, pretty wide open the whole way. Most folks can reach the basket in a single throw. Then it all comes down to who hit a tree on the drive and who can make a putt.
A group of 4 experienced players is going to take about 3 minutes to play Hole 1.
However, hole 2 is long and requires 2 shots to get to the pin before putting onto a sloped green.
Players take much longer on hole 2. So instead of driving on them the second they clear the basket, we ask that you wait until they’re teeing off on hole 2. That way they’ll be close to the end of their second shots by the time you get to teepad.
Waiting an extra minute for the players in front of you to get ahead is going to help everyone have a smoother round.
Then the group ahead of you is teeing off on 3 while you’re on your upshots on 2. So when you finish putting, they’re finishing putting and walking up the hill to hole 4.
Letting faster groups play through.
It’s always the way to go. It’s a courtesy in disc golf, and I’ve already written a blog about etiquette and when to let others play through. But it’s faster that way for everyone.
We even have a sign on the first hole.
I’ve been in slow groups where we let singles and duos through. And I’ve played through many times as well. It’s no indication of you or your disc golf skills, just the group you’re in that day.
The age old “Well there’s a group ahead of us” doesn’t matter that much to me. Letting a smaller group through is going to speed the whole course up. Larger groups might want to play the Eagle which is a much less busy course.
We’re considering employing Course Marshals during summer weekends.
One of the biggest issues we face is groups that are too large. I get that some folks want to play as a big family group, others want to hang out with all of their friends. Unfortunately that backs up the course significantly.
Groups of 5 are the largest allowed at Sabattus. If you’ve got 3 golfers and their 3 significant others not playing, that’s a group of 3. We don’t count non-players.
Now, if your group of 6 wants to play at 9am on a Tuesday morning. I’ll probably tell you it’s fine to go out on the Hawk. And to let smaller groups through.
If your group of 8 wants to play on a Saturday at 11am I’m going to ask you to split into two groups of 4. There’s no way a group of 8 will keep up with the pace of play, even if they let smaller groups through.
Course Marshals would be responsible for making sure that groups aren’t too big. If we institute marshals, who we hire, what the pay/perks are…etc. Those decisions are above me though. I just figured I would let you folks know about what we’re doing to make sure your playing is smoother here.
The problem of overcrowding has already been solved by other busy courses.
Ball Golf has been studied by countless people. You can even get a college degree in golf management.
They created tee times for that sport. It’s transferred over to disc golf as well.
Disc golf has some courses that use tee times to alleviate high volumes of people.
Maple Hill uses tee times
Pleasant Hill uses tee times
Smuggler’s Notch uses tee times.
I hope Sabattus Disc Golf never comes back to that. I always want disc golf to be spontaneous and to be available to everyone who wasn’t on their phones Thursday planning their weekend outing.
I guess in conclusion, I want to say that we hear you. We hear that the Hawk is crowded and becoming a slower play for folks.
We’re working on it diligently. We don’t want to make you rush your round on the Hawk in any way. That’s why we’re working to increase the attractiveness of our other courses, increase awareness of others on the Hawk, and to help alleviate the backups by suggesting waiting on your start and having more people watching for large groups.
Together we think that we can help smooth out the course flow.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397