Maple Hill Disc Golf Basics
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History of Maple Hill Disc Golf
Steve Dodge has run the disc-making division of a major company, created the most well-known professional disc golf tour currently in existence, and successfully crowdfunded the manufacture of a disc golf board game designed by himself and his brother. But it's hard to know how many of those things would have happened had he never made the decision to move to Leicester to be part of the team that created Maple Hill Disc Golf Course.
For two weeks each summer when Dodge was growing up, his family would visit a farm in Leicester, Massachusetts, situated on land that had been in the family for generations. The name for that property is Maple Hill, and it's an idyllic slice of rural New England with rolling hills, crumbling stone walls, and ponds. It's also an active Christmas tree farm. However, it wasn't during a visit to the farm that Dodge got inspired to build a course there. Instead, it was his time in a part of the world that's the next door neighbor to one of the best small towns for disc golf.
"I went to college down in Virginia, and I ended up starting my own business there – started my own business so that I could play disc golf more as a matter of fact," Dodge recalled. "And one of the courses I played was The Blockhouse in Spotsylvania, Virginia, where a guy named Mike Trapasso had built a disc golf course on a plot of land he owned. It occurred to me that, wow, this would be a great thing to do up at Maple Hill in Massachusetts."
As it happened, Dodge's cousin Tom Southwick, who had lived at Maple Hill his whole life, was getting similar notions around that time. He was being inspired by a course, Pyramids, built down the road from the future site of Maple Hill's disc golf course by his and Dodge's cousin Jason Southwick. Spurred on by having someone who shared the dream of a course at Maple Hill, Dodge didn't take long to make the decision to pick up sticks and move to Leicester to team up with Tom.
But before settling down to work, he had some research to do. After selling his company in Virginia to his employees, Dodge, his friend Dave, and two dogs went on what Dodge called "a three month disc golf odyssey." During this trip they played over 150 courses across the United States. All along the way, Dodge paid close attention to the elements that helped make courses stand out from the rest.
"I remember signage was important," Dodge said. "A course with good tee signs was almost always a good course. Courses with pro shops on site with someone I could talk to or ask questions were few and far between but always a step above. And the courses that I personally really liked were aesthetically pleasing. I'd much rather throw off of a hill than throw next to a hill and have a really nicely-shaped shot. That's just more fun to me and looks better."
Armed with his newly sharpened perspective, Dodge made his way to Leicester to become part of the group that would design and build Maple Hill Disc Golf.
"I'm pretty ridiculous," Dodge admitted. "So I felt it could be one of the best courses in the world from the start. That was the goal, and I believe I can reach goals no matter how out there they are."
With this lofty ambition driving it, course construction began in the fall of 2003, and by the spring of 2004, the first iteration of the course was playable. And though the course's quality was clear from the start, the early 2000s was not a time when disc golf was huge in Massachusetts or the surrounding area. That meant a private, pay-to-play course like Maple Hill took a long time to command a sizable customer base.
"How long before it was clear that it could actually be a business? Probably 10 years," Dodge said. "It was about that long before we could hire someone to manage the course, before Tom and I could have been struck by lightning and Maple Hill Disc Golf could have gone on without us."
While on that slow road to becoming self-sustaining, Maple Hill was more rapidly gaining a reputation as a destination course among U.S. pros. The course's annual premier tournament, which became known as the Vibram Open in 2008 and has been dubbed the MVP Open since 2018, consistently drew many of the sport's best players, who were leaving the course extremely impressed.
Through a mixture of word-of-mouth and the growing availability and popularity of media covering pro events, Maple Hill has grown far beyond a local treasure or a haven just for pros. The quality and challenge of its holes along with the beauty of its location have helped it reach the status its creators were aiming for from the start: being considered one of the world's best courses. Additionally, it has been Massachusetts' most popular disc golf course for the last two years.
But perhaps there's no better proof of the success and notoriety that Maple Hill now enjoys than an anecdote Dodge shared when we spoke with him.
"My brother's a flight attendant, and he had a layover in London, and he went to the local course there and caught up with a threesome," Dodge narrated. "They said, 'Oh, you're American. We're going to America in a couple of weeks.' He asked why, and they said they were actually going just to play a disc golf course. He asked which one, and they said, 'Maple Hill, have you ever heard of it?'"
What's It Like to Play at Maple Hill Disc Golf?
It’s actually easier to make a list of what type of golf not to expect from Maple Hill. So, here it goes:
At Maple Hill, don’t expect…
…entirely open, ball golf-course style holes.
…completely flat land.
…to get bored.
And that’s seriously about it. If you want anything from your disc golf not listed above, Maple Hill offers it up. Small and big shifts in elevation? Water hazards? A wide range of distances and required shot angles? Tightly wooded shots? Shots over more open fairways that still have enough trees to make placement important? Check, check, check, check, check.
Despite this variety, Maple Hill never loses a sense of unity, and its many different tee pads and pin locations mean you can always play a layout suited to your skill or mood. Listed here in order of difficulty are the tees available at Maple Hill: red, white, blue, diamond, and gold. There's also an Old Glory layout that mixes the red, white, and blue tees. Other configurations share tee pads at times, too.
Maple Hill Disc Golf's Signature Hole
Maple Hill is a course built to such a high standard that almost any of its holes could be signatures if transplanted into the majority of courses. But we're stating here and now that hole 1 at Maple Hill is its signature.
Playing the gold layout, hole 1 features a huge water carry, Christmas trees, a chance to rip as hard as you want on a downhill shot, a finish in the woods, and picturesque stone walls. It's essentially a sample of nearly everything Maple Hill has to offer put into one perfect starting hole. Just listen to the praise it got from Jeremy Koling in the JomezPro coverage of the 2021 MVP Open:
And if you weren't convinced yet, know that even Dodge himself gave hole 1 the nod when we cornered him about it.
Recent & Planned Developments at Maple Hill Disc Golf
When we asked Dodge if the Maple Hill team had any plans for improving the course and its facilities in 2022, he responded with a smile.
"Besides new tee signs, baskets, a new monthly league, pro shop renovations, and the addition of indoor bathrooms, nothing I can think of," Dodge said.
Clearly, like every year, there's a lot of in the works that will make Maple Hill an even better place for disc golfers. Here's a bit more about each of the things Dodge mentioned:
- Tee signs: New signs designed by Disc Golf Pro Tour graphic designer Dustin Juliano.
- Baskets: New top-of-the-line baskets from MVP (which is what the course has currently) in what Dodge says will be "an eye-catching orange so they will be easy to see from all over the farm."
- League: Read more about the new league in the 'Events & Leagues' section of this post.
- Pro shop renovations: The pro shop has been insulated and now has heat and air conditioning. It's also now "a real retail space" according to Dodge.
- Bathrooms: There are now indoor bathrooms accessible from the game room at Maple Hill.
Along with these new developments, Dodge was happy to report that the course team finished adjusting some white tees (second-easiest layout) to be a more natural progression from the red tees (easiest layout) in 2021. Additionally, erosion control projects they started in 2021 will be finished in 2022.
Amenities at Maple Hill Disc Golf
Along with amazing disc golf and a well-kept course, Maple Hill offers visitors some great extras:
- Well-stocked, climate-controlled pro shop
- Game room with pool, air hockey, table shuffleboard, and more
- Multiple tee pads and pin placements appropriate for a wide range of skill levels
- Benches on every hole
- Hot dogs, drinks, and snacks available for purchase
- Indoor restrooms
Events & Leagues at Maple Hill Disc Golf
Events: Maple Hill hosts a large number of events each year, with the premiere one in 2022 being the MVP Open at Maple Hill, which is sure to draw a huge number of spectators and many of the world's greatest players in late September.
Leagues: Maple Hill will host a monthly league in 2022 on the first Friday of every month from April through October. It will be a flex start league. There will also be a women's league on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, women's rounds will be half price.
Three Real Five Star Reviews of Maple Hill Disc Golf
Three real reviews of Maple Hill from disc golfers on UDisc: