World's Best Disc Golf Courses is a 10-part series. You can find each article plus a list of the top 50 courses here.
The rankings for World's Best Disc Golf Courses are based on the over 1 million ratings of courses all over the planet by disc golfers using UDisc. However, we have done work to account for how regions and cultures tend to rate courses differently, helping to assure the courses that made and missed this list did not do so as a result of regional hype or hypercriticism. That said, the courses on this list earned their spots purely from their stats and not due to the opinions of UDisc's staff. Honestly, we were just as surprised and interested in the results as our readers.
The course grades are relative to how close each course was to a perfect five-star rating. No course on the list achieved a 100.
The backstories of disc golf courses come in many forms. Sometimes a small community of disc golfers puts in tireless, unpaid hours of design and manual labor to create something special in a public park. Occasionally an independent enthusiast sees potential fairways in their unused acreage, rents equipment, and goes at it. More rarely, the Vice President of Global Resort Development for an international hotel company tells a potential new partner resort that once a deal is struck, he'd like to see a good disc golf course on the property—soon.
Haven't heard that last one? Well, that's the unlikely origin of Brewster Ridge, according to course designer Jeff Spring.
Brewster Ridge is on the property of Smugglers' Notch Resort (known familiarly as Smuggs), a year-round family vacation destination nestled in Vermont's mountains. And in 2011, Smuggs and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts were working out a deal for Wyndham to manage some of Smuggs' real estate.
"That deal brought the VP of Global Resort Development Alan Litwack to the resort several times," Spring recounted. "He became aware there was a small disc golf course on site. During his last visit, they were discussing terms out on the disc golf course because Alan wanted to see it—he turned out to be a disc golfer."
Spring classified the course Litwack would have seen then as an "extremely short and un-designed course with little to no use or maintenance."
"Alan said, 'Okay, I think we’ve got a deal,'" Spring continued, "'but one thing you should do is upgrade your disc golf course.'"
Spring worked at Smuggs and, having heard about Litwack's request, took a chance to bring it up with Smuggs' owner at a staff event.
"Our owner didn’t know much about the sport, and I’d heard it through the grapevine that he was interested in learning more about disc golf," Spring said. "So at a company party at the end of the winter 2012, I went over to him and started talking to him. He mentioned Alan was interested in upgrading the course, and I let him know I was on the board of the state’s disc golf club and had been part of designing courses before. He said, 'Let’s get it going.' And in the spring, we did."
But if Smuggs' owner was going to build a course, he wanted it to be the best. Spring said the goal from the outset was to create a venue that could host a world championship, and he designed the course's hardest set of tees (it boasts four for each hole) with the world's best players in mind. In a testament to how well Spring met expectations, Brewster and Fox Run Meadows—a second course Spring and pro player Steve Brinster of Brinster Design designed on Smuggs' property—hosted the PDGA Disc Golf World Championships just six years after Brewster opened.
You can learn more about what that design entailed in the next section (WHAT GOLF CAN I EXPECT?), but one interesting aspect of Brewster that Spring pointed out is how carefully he had to plan it in regards to the local ecosystem.
Most development in Vermont has to meet guidelines set out in Act 250, a state law that Vermont's Natural Resources Board says is "for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont." It's a law that Spring said made designing more tricky, but also helped make sure his work lived up to disc golf's oft-used selling point of environmental friendliness.
"You see things on courses that you think would be cool to have, like a basket on a stream bank," Spring said. "But that causes erosion, and that’s just not allowed in Vermont because of the impact it has on the stream, the watershed, and habitat in the area. That makes our courses very in tune with the environmental impacts, not just because it’s law, but because that’s the ethic of Vermont. It also fits well with the ethos of disc golf because even for courses that aren’t as rigorously audited as ours, they have way less environmental impact than traditional golf courses."
This all means that visitors to Brewster not only get to play a course that's world-class, but can also feel a little better knowing it was designed so that their recreation will have as little impact on the environment as possible.
If you're interested in learning more about Brewster Ridge's history, you can check out an episode on it from the podcast The Inside Line from Mahmoud Bahrani.
Along with its setting in rambling New England countryside and crumbling stone walls, Brewster Ridge likely made this list because of Spring's primary concern in his designs.
"My first priority with Brewster and subsequent courses is fairness," Spring said. "I want someone to step up and understand through playing the hole what the designer is asking them to do and to have a fair route to do that. I’m not a big fan of randomness."
However, "fairness" shouldn't be confused with "ease." Spring believes good shots should be rewarded, but he also thinks imprecise shots should have their due punishments. An example of this dynamic can be heard in Nate Sexton's analysis of the landing zone for hole 2 at Brewster from JomezPro's coverage of the 2019 Green Mountain Championship:
That clip also shows another big part of what to expect at Brewster: trees. Though there are some relatively open greens on some holes, Brewster is a true woods course that constantly puts players' accuracy to the test. And since demanding "a diversity of throws" is also part of Spring's design ethos, players need to be deft at a variety of shot shapes at a wide range of distances to score well.
Spring pointed to Hole 10 as the standout at Brewster. Players taking on the course's most challenging set of tees start off their back nine staring down a 470-foot/143-meter par 3 that starts out in a tree-lined tunnel before opening to a basket nestled on, as Spring put it, "a beautiful apple tree green." Though there are many great holes at Brewster, 10 takes the "signature hole" title because its mixture of charming scenery and high level of challenge embody the primary aspects of the course.
You can take a look at the hole (and how reigning world champion Paul McBeth drove on it) in the clip below from JomezPro:
Being owned and maintained by a resort, Brewster Ridge has advantages it's hard to find on any other disc golf course in the world. Here are the highlights:
Events: The biggest event of the year is the Green Mountain Championship that's taking place from September 3rd-6th in 2020. But if you're not a top-level player, that event is better to spectate than compete in. For other players, Spring said the annual Brewster Ridge Open (the BRO) is a really popular event.
Leagues: There was a glow league every other Monday, Friday doubles, and PDGA Sunday Singles in 2019 during the right seasons. To see what's happening now, check out the "Events" tab on the disc golf section of Smuggs' website.
With Brewster some distance from a major population center, it's pretty easy to have a relaxed round there at any time on normal weekdays according to UDisc data. The times you're most likely to run into traffic are Saturdays around 10am and 2pm and Sundays from 9am-10am, so avoid these times if you want to beat possible crowds.
Rounds at Brewster typically last 2.5 hours.
Three real reviews from UDisc users. To see Brewster Ridges's latest reviews, visit its page on the UDisc Courses website.
Want to find out what course is #7? Click here.