Pros Weigh-In On W.R. Jackson Course Changes

Course flow earns high marks, timing does not

A look from the tee of W.R. Jackson’s new hole 5. Photo: Dalton Slantis – PDGA

In the build-up to the 2018 Ed Headrick Hall of Fame Classic, the PDGA and International Disc Golf Center announced a major new build-out.

W.R. Jackson, the IDGC’s most elite course and site of three rounds of action for this weekend’s HOFC, is debuting an extensive remodel for the event. The PDGA described the changes as follows:

“Six new holes, three more short tees, and the removal of holes 11 through 13 — previously known as the oft-maligned “Turkey Gulch” — highlight the main revisions to the layout, which ultimately keeps the par at 68 while adding significant distance to bring its new length to 10,485 feet.

The changes start early, as holes 3 through 6 are entirely new. The first in that stretch is a 726-foot par 4 that includes a short tee that brings the hole down to 594 feet. Hole 4 features one pad and a left-to-right fairway that comes in at 327 feet. Hole 6, meanwhile, plays uphill and boasts a split fairway for competitors to choose their line of attack.

It’s hole 5, though, that [course designer Zach] Shafer said is his favorite of the new section. A 432-foot (363 from the shorts) par 3 that he compared to Blue Ribbon Pines’ 4th, the fairway is carved by a natural dry ravine and is flanked by 200-year-old poplar trees.

Holes 11 and 16 will both be fresh, with righthand-backhanded turnovers required off the tee.”

Shafer, the IDGC Manager and HOFC Tournament Director, and IDGC Assistant Tom Lynch were the driving forces behind the transformation, and Shafer cited both sustainability and course flow as the main rationale behind the changes.

While an eye on progress is imperative, the timing of the decision has been met with some criticism from touring pros. One player summed up many of the arguments when reached out for comment.

“Turkey Gulch won’t be missed. But I’m not a fan of having an unproven course designer redesign the former no. 1 course in Georgia,” the Open player said. “They claimed that W.R. Jackson was the only IDGC course fit for professionals. If that’s the case then it seems like the logical thing to do would be to redesign one of the other courses instead of the one that was already ok.

“I think the biggest issue here is playing an untested course in a National Tour event,” they continued. “Just like Fort Gordon at Worlds last year, the new holes haven’t even been played in a C-tier. It just seems a little irresponsible that they don’t have a game plan for rolling out these kinds of changes.”

Other players had similar reactions to the updates and were also taking a wait-and-see approach before forming a full opinion of the new holes.

Paul McBeth, who made the rounds on the podcast circuit this week, including The Upshot, said of the changes, “They’re not bad. Four out of the six are good. [Hole 3 is] a par 4, they admit that it’s not that great but it’s a work in progress. They have more plans for it, it just isn’t ready yet. There’s another par 3 [hole 16] I don’t really like but I’m sure it’ll break-in in time.”

Hole 3 from the tee. Photo: Dalton Slantis – PDGA

We continued to check-in with players as they reached Appling to get more week-of impressions.

“I like how they took out the shorter “dinker” holes. It feels like luck isn’t so much a factor anymore with Turkey Gulch gone,” said Colten Montgomery. “I also like how the new holes make you shape your shots. Hole 3 — I think in the future it will be a great hole, but as of right now I think it’s a little too fresh. There is still a lot of brush and loose tree limbs all over the fairway. I love the hole because it gives you two different options off the tee, but the closer you get to the pin it seems like some trees might need to be cut down to give players a true fairway. I really like the new hole 5 and hole 11. Hole 5 requires a dead straight shot through some tight trees, and hole 11 is a nice hole where you need to shape your shot through the woods to get to the pin.”

Montgomery wasn’t alone in his appreciation of many of the changes. Sarah Hokom added, “I really like the changes. The new holes seem to fit the course better and seem to be more fair (less uncontrollable factors) than the old holes.”

She also noted that she believes the IDGC will take into account how the HOFC plays this weekend to alter the course for the future.

“With the valuable info provided through UDisc, I’m confident they will analyze the results and make appropriate adjustments next year,” Hokom said.

Dave Feldberg mentioned that many of the new holes, “provide a lot less scoring separation opportunity.” He did call them all fair though.

As for last year’s HOFC champion, Ricky Wysocki is a fan.

“I think the new holes fit the flow of the course much better than the old ones,” he said. “The old holes where to short and fluky. The new holes have great risk and reward distance tunnel shots that are challenging but fair!”

Between the healthy skepticism and positive feedback, the designer/director has one thing on his mind.

“I’m pretty confident most people are gonna enjoy the course,” Shafer said. “And that’s what the goal is.”

  1. Bennett Wineka
    Bennett Wineka

    Benn started playing disc golf in the '90s but has somehow never gotten any better. He lives in Decatur, Georgia and cares too much about Atlanta United and UNC basketball. Follow him on Instagram at @bennwineka if you never want to see any new posts.

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