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Watch It Bend Disc Golf Course Design

Tim Kopacz - Professional Course Design Bio

Having relocated Marquette, MI recently, I am proud to be a part of the disc golf scene, and passionately excited to engage the community in this growth spurt at our grassroots volunteer level. We are making a huge push to bring great disc golf to this wonderland and make this a disc golf destination and second nature activity to the locals. I am a course designer member of the professional disc golf course designers group along with some of the most talented, innovative, groundbreaking, and dedicated designers in the country. Professional design group membership provides assurance and confidence in our club as we quickly move forward as pioneers in the area and will help us with our efforts within the community. I also plan to contribute my unique design philosophy and opinions to the group. We can all help the sport evolve away from carryover old school design concepts with wide open greens and very little risk/reward concept, and present quality courses over quantity of courses. I’m confident that formal membership as a professional designer will help referrals for local parks departments and anyone considering building a course. It nearly breaks my heart to see a prime piece of property under-utilized, haphazardly and unskillfully thrown together in a lackluster design without thought of skill based tee and target placement, or even worse designed in an unsafe manner.

I have begun working under “Watch It Bend – Disc Golf Course Design”. This is a play on words, watching not only the disc “bend” as it travels through the “airways” I created, but also pushing the envelope in course design (and watching that envelope bend).

My design concept is to scout out a property for a period of time and get a good feel for the natural terrain and beauty. Problem spots are identified and avoided early. Interferences are minimized while maximizing use of natural beauty and showcasing unique natural beauties like vistas, rock outcroppings, water features, and unique or majestic trees. Tee boxes and/or greens are identified first based on setting, view, natural lanes/alleys, and then I design the hole backward or forward from these natural features and alleys, adjusting the ultimate pin location to maximize visual aesthetics as well as risk, and adjusting the tees based on natural shot shaping elements and player-skill based hole design. I attempt to create a layout of around 15-21 holes or so and fine tune from there for a typical 18-hole layout with two tees (typically Blue and Red level), a primary pin, and possibly an alternate pin. Flow to and from the starting point is a concern, however longer walks across “boring” terrain are not frowned upon in an effort to showcase all the natural beauty of the property and design a better hole. I design mainly for Blue level as it challenges most recreational players to the fullest, yet provides fun and mental challenge for Blue level players. Red tees are vitally important in my concepts and mission to introduce disc golf to more people and make it more mainstream. Red tees allow new players, friends, family, wives, kids, etc to tag along and also have lots of fun without as much frustration (frustration often involved in my designs that punish bad shots). I prefer to leave room within the layout and design to install longer and more difficult gold tees as the course progresses and opens up. In my opinion, courses only get easier – trees die and are removed, undergrowth is kept at bay, erosion widens fairways, etc. – so starting out with an overly difficult design is not frowned upon as long as skill based statistics show the design can be matched to probable player skill levels.

Professional courses I’ve designed and installed…

I was solely responsible for design, construction, and day to day maintenance of 27-Hole Winter Park in Kewaunee, WI since 2004. This is a course boasting superb variety and honest play considering skill level based tees. Accuracy is rewarded highly, both in “airway” horizontal and vertical control, and also distance. I’ve played well over 100 courses throughout the states, and am a course snob who seeks out the best, most demanding, and often sadistic courses, and Winter Park still takes the cake as far as variety of hole design and featured terrain and topography. The one lacking element was true par 4/5 holes because the entire course was designed from a Blue level perspective as all par 3 holes. A subsequent push was made to add Gold level tees which would serve as par 4 holes for Blue players. However since these were created and installed within the framework of an existing course, the execution was less stellar than if they had been part of the clean slate design.

I led the design of the current Tailings course in Iron River, MI. I was called upon due to my experience to help a friend who recently moved to the area, and inherited an incredibly poor design compliments of a grant to MSU students taking a GIS mapping class. I designed and/or adjusted every hole to introduce more risk, introduce better course flow, and align tees appropriate to Blue and Red skill levels. This is a grueling and intense course with horrible rough and a fairly long layout for a Blue player. This SSA pushes the limits of an all par 3 18-hole Blue round. My intent was to stretch out the course and begin designing true par 4/5 holes, but physical and political constraints drove the need to downsize. I did the best I could with some amazing terrain to create a tough layout.

Recently I was part of the redesign for 9-Hole Silver Creek in Harvey, MI. This is a complete redesign of a poor course which had 5 of 9 holes with crossing fairways (Hole 1 crossed the fairway for both hole 3 and hole 4, and it played diagonally across a church playground area!!), 4 holes around a church playground, and tees that were placed within 5’ of the previous basket. The new course is physically constraint due to size of the property and existing other recreational uses at a township park, but I have maximized the natural features, physical terrain, and available balance and variety of holes including tight woods, partial woods, open fields, elevation, and varying distances. The new design was sure to include “short’ red tees because of the course location amongst residences and recreation areas with a high potential for newcomers. I have completed scouting and preliminary design for expansion to an 18 hole layout, complete with dual tees and alternate pin placements.

I designed River Park (Powder Mill Disc Golf Course), a new 18-Hole Course in Marquette, MI. This course has been scouted, drafted, flagged, preliminary construction started, “disc chucking” trial round played without baskets to get a feel for errant throws, problem areas, tree removal, and fine tuning of distance based tee and green locations. We have been given approval and authorized use to develop the disc golf course on the land. Construction is scheduled in fall 2012 with a possible preliminary opening in late October, and a grand opening set for spring (U.P. spring) 2013. The course will feature predominantly wooded technical holes with appropriate length to width ratios, a good use of the natural rock outcroppings and rock ridges that traverse the property, utilization of some historical features around the area, and a great variety in distances from 150' to 475'. While some holes may push the limits of par 3 design for a Blue level player, true par 4 holes including landing zones and shot placement requirements may not necessarily be required by more skilled players with good accuracy in their distance as well as horizontal/vertical drive through the "airways".

Design is underway for a new course at Pioneer Trails in Gladstone, MI. This will be an 18 hole course nestled in a gorgeous wooded park along the Escanaba River. Design goals are to include dual tees – recreational tees for newcomers in this metro area relatively new to the sport of disc golf, and professional tees meant to challenge true disc golf fanatics and draw travelling players to the UP and surrounding area courses. Long term intent of this course will allow us to utilize this course in conjunction with other Watch It Bend courses throughout the UP, and realize a goal to promote disc golf throughout the UP and host a “UP Disc Golf Series” set of events and tournaments. Look for 24-36 holes of unique wooded terrain, river crossings, and manmade ponds and obstacles in this wonderful park.

Design consultation has been initiated on a new 18 hole course in Republic, MI. Fine tuning and adjustment may be made based on the existing plans, utilization of the property, and incorporation of professional design concepts for recreational players and skilled veterans.

On my property I designed an 18-Hole course using 12 various baskets. Flow overlaps and intersects, and some baskets are played to from different directions, but interferences and intersection were only minimally considered, as this is my private course, maximizing only the unique terrain on my 13 acres. Intersecting holes were placed such that a small event with shotgun start on every third hole should keep overlaps to a minimum. I’m working with all the homeowners on our private road to spread an 18 hole course (Hidden Creek Course) throughout the properties. However, this would even further restrict public use and crossing multiple landowners.

In Two Rivers, WI is where this passion started. I worked with the designer on the layout and installation of an 18 hole course at Picnic Hill. The course was short lived and faced numerous obstacles and opposition along the way which shaped it into the 9 hole course it is now. We started with 18 holes utilizing all of the wooded areas and punched out, around, and into a dogwood upland prairie area. Sale of the upland area, and complaints from other park user groups in the wooded areas eliminated 14 holes from the original layout which created a scramble and some very creative re-routing to build some new holes, maintain adequate flow, and settle on a 9 hole purely wooded course on 1/3 of the property. The challenges we faced and need for creative re-tooling of the course jump started my interest in designing courses, and shaped my vision and mission to communicate the need for dedication and commitment from parks departments and property owners who establish disc golf course. After all, the decision to build a soccer field is carried out with dedication and the area is committed to the soccer field usage, why shouldn’t the same be expected of disc golf?

Additional designs and concepts that I have scouted and drafted, or draft concept only…

New 18-Hole course at Al Quaal Ski Area in Ishpeming, MI New 18-Hole course in Gwinn, MI on an old abandon fit-strip course New 18-Hole course at Maribel Caves County Park in Mishicot, WI New 18 hole course at Bruemmer Park in Kewaunee, WI

As far as my playing experience across the country, and courses that I have reviewed, I feel that checking out my profile and contributions on DG Course Review website is most concise and I keep this up to date with my current course played list (username: superberry, ). I have played 143 courses in 10 states, reviewed over 80 courses, and contribute meaningful and often provoking and non-mainstream thought to discussions. [This course review site is exponentially better than reviews. It is also far better and more statistical and fair than Disc Golf Scene – IMO we need to link between the course designers group and what the public masses and dedicated hard working ‘career’ reviewers think of the courses].

Please email or call with requests for additional information. Thank you.

Tim A Kopacz

Watch it Bend – Disc Golf Course Design: Founder 906-236-0682

Disc da U.P.: Club Vice President

Winter Park Disc Golf Club / Promoting Disc Golf Always organization: Founder and President