You can find the full top 10 of the World's Best Disc Golf Courses 2021 and links to their feature articles at the bottom of this post.
The rankings for World's Best Disc Golf Courses are based on the over two million ratings of more than 11,000 disc golf 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.
Though it hasn't altered the course, it's worth mentioning that Spring is now the Tour Director for the Disc Golf Pro Tour, and Nick Hover is the current Operations Director for Smugglers' Notch Disc Golf Center.
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.
Recent & Planned Developments
Hover told us about the latest disc golf goings-on at Smuggs, which include the never-ending mission to improve the resort's two courses.
"This summer, Smugglers' Notch Disc Golf Center will be completing a two-year project to update and standardize all of our Pro and Advanced (Gold/Blue) tee boxes on Brewster Ridge to patio stone style pavers," Hover said. "As with every year, we will also be continuing improvements to fairways, walkways, and bridges, with multiple projects planned for both Brewster Ridge and Fox Run Meadows."
Smuggs' Disc Golf Center has also started offering disc golf lessons, so if you're looking to up your game during a stay at Smuggs, reach out to the center.
We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention Hover's shout-out to everyone doing the hard work that's put Brewster Ridge in our top 10 of the world's best disc golf courses for two years running.
"Each year, our hard-working staff strive to continue editing and improving our courses with the goal of setting the standard for what a top-rated disc golf course should be," Hover said. "This award is a credit to the hard work, dedication, and pure love for the sport of the entire Smugglers' Notch Disc Golf Center team."
What Golf Can I Expect?
Along with its setting in rambling Vermont 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 a number of 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:
- Though a few overlap, there are four different sets of tees for each hole, making the course accessible for all skill levels
- Benches on every hole
- Water coolers on the course
- Another world-class course (Fox Run Meadows) on the same property that offers up an entirely different type of disc golf
- A newly expanded pro shop that, along with disc golf equipment and plenty more, sells local craft beers you can drink there or take with you during rounds
- The resort itself, which offers a place to stay, restaurants, a country store, activities for non-disc golfing travel companions, and more
Events and Leagues
Events: The biggest event of the year is the Green Mountain Championship. But if you're not a top-level player, that event is better to spectate than compete in. In 2021, there are also the Brewster Ridge Open on June 18-20 and the Vermont State Disc Golf Championship on October 16-17.
Leagues: In 2021, Smugglers' Notch will host The Notch League Series presented by Disc Golf Vermont. It's a 12-week series of PDGA-sanctioned events and will be done as flex starts, meaning you can play your round at any time of day. The leagues will be weekly starting on May 25.
Three Real Five Star Reviews
Three real reviews of Brewster Ridge from disc golfers on UDisc:
The Full Top 10 World's Best Disc Golf Courses 2021
1. Maple Hill in Leicester, Massachusetts: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #1 Maple Hill
2. Hillcrest Farm in Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island, Canada: Read World's Best Courses: #2 Hillcrest Farm
3. Krokhol in Siggerud, Norway: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #3 Krokhol
4. Blue Ribbon Pines in East Bethel, Minnesota: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #4 Blue Ribbon Pines
5. Brewster Ridge Disc Golf Course at Smugglers' Notch Resort: You just read it!
6. Flip City Disc Golf Park in Shelby, Michigan: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #6 Flip City
7. The Diavolo Disc Golf Course at New Hope Park in Cary, North Carolina: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #7 Diavolo
8. The Canyons at Dellwood Park in Lockport, Illinois: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #8 The Canyons at Dellwood Park
9. Idlewild in Burlington, Kentucky: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #9 Idlewild
10. Milo McIver in Estacada, Oregon: Read World's Best Disc Golf Courses: #10 Milo McIver