printed in the Disc Golf Journal 1991
Santa Cruz (Mellowtown USA) was made famous back in the 60’s when the “BEACH BOYS” made reference to it in their hit single “Surfin’ USA”. Through the years Santa Cruz has also gained international fame for its inordinate share of natural disasters ranging from murderous mudslides, floods, forest fires and not least the “Great Quake of ’89”. And though not yet on the lips of your everyday Joe or Joess, Santa Cruz is fast gaining recognition for being home to one of Disc Golf’s premier courses: *De Laveaga*
De Laveaga [pronounced Dih-Lah-Vee-Egg-ahh] referred heartwarmingly by the locals as “DAY-LA” is part of an over 1200 acre park situated within the Santa Cruz city limits. The park’s name comes from the family which willed the land to the city to be used as a multiple use recreation area. The park’s current uses include picnic areas, lighted softball fields, an 18-hole “killer” ball golf course, miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, an archery and shooting range, “no 4-wheeling”, and of course the Disc Golf Course. Disc Golf in Santa Cruz was originally played at the “University” course, located near the west field house at the University of California-Santa Cruz. As the sport grew in the early ’80’s it became apparent that play at the University began to conflict with the normal university activities, and in 1984 the need for another course was recognized by local disc ‘guru’ and future hall of famer Tom ‘Trick’ Schot. Tom approached the local parks & rec department searching for an alternative location for a disc golf course & was given ‘limited’ permission to upper Day-La. This limited perm meant that Tom (with help from the locals) would have to design, construct, & clean the trash strewn landscape at his own expense, and that the homestead would be temporary as the future plan was to expand the adjacent ball golf course.
Not diswayed, the trash was removed, the blackberry bush and poison oak fairways gave way to the sickel’s edge and De Laveaga was a child. The course is spread out over a vast unimproved portion of the park, which includes a variety of terrains, flora and fauna. There are wide gradual sloping meadows, steep hills, cavernous ravines and ‘desert’ areas. There are panoramic views of the Bay, which on a non-foggy day you can see to Monterey. It is not uncommon to see a family of deer tear across the fairways or hear a Great Horned Owl hoot in the close of another day. There are thick forests of gigantic Eucalyptus, Fir, and Oaks surrounded by sprawling bushy oak trees which love to eat disc. At certain times of the year you can see bright red mushrooms (amenita musceria) with caps the size of a disc. And not least in importance the ever present: Poison Oak.
Poison Oak is an annual fact of life at Day-La. It’s green-red waxy leaf has been the nightmare of many who come in contact with it. Few who traverse the area have escaped it’s tell tale itch and it’s capacity for making life miserable. However, if you take the necessary precautions you can avoid it’s grasp. First, avoid it. Do not shank your throws into the rough. Easily said. Second, wear appropriate clothing, i.e. long pants and shirt. Thirdly, after every visit to Day-La, immediately wash in cool water. For those who will, a dip in the frosty waters of the Monterey Bay, barely a mile away, will do the trick. Lastly, invest in several over the counter pharmacuticals such as Calamine Lotion; Hydrocortisone creams; Benadryl; and if you are really scared an immunization shot is commercially available (consult your physician).
For those who do not live in Santa Cruz it may be hard to conceive of a place where you can play year round under nearly ideal weather conditions. Tempered by the Pacific Ocean and isolated by a small mountain range creates an atmosphere void of high temperatures and humidity. It is wise to dress in layers, for the cool moist coastal fog can appear or disappear at will. When it disappears the heat of the sun can escalate body temperatures rapidly and when it appears, a sweat shirt sure feels good. This does not necessarily mean that the air gets to hot for the average ambient daily temperature in Santa Cruz is around 68F. The inhabitants of Santa Cruz due sacrifice though. There are basically only two seasons-Wet or Dry, and for at least the past 6 years there has been only one season-DRY! This dryness demands that all who enjoy Day-La must take extreme caution with FIRE. Abstinance is best. Though situated barely a mile from the Bay, the wind is not often a factor when playing at Day-La. This is due in part to the shelter by Ben Lomond Mountain and to the natural break created by the trees surrounding the course. It has been known to gust though, just ask those who played the day before this year’s Masters Cup. The ‘crash’ of an 80 foot tree near the parking lot was felt by all.
Since its’s inception, De Laveaga has held a local monthly tournament on the first Saturday of every month, with records dating back to December 1984.. In 1986, the more active players decided to form a club, and the De Laveaga Disc Golf Club has maintained the course ever since. The over 130 member strong club has generated the funds through the monthly tournaments and private donations to afford 19 baskets ( 20 if you count the one destroyed by a 4-wheeler), and regularly pays to mow the course and remove the trash. At the end of each season a Club sponsored discnic is held in which awards are presented for the Club Champion, most improved player, and biggest ‘Whiner’, among other awards. Club president, David LeVan, was recently appointed to the Santa Cruz Parks & Rec Commission, and now with someone on the inside the course may receive the respect it deserves. It was also recently revealed that the proposed ball golf course expansion has been withdrawn, and the future of the disc golf course has never been better.
Day-La has seen many changes since it’s start. The original 18 hole object course has kept its basic form, however, Mach-III baskets are now enjoyed on 19 holes. A shorter 18 hole course has been incorporated (though it rivals most other courses in size), and an additional 9 holes have been devised for tournament play (using portable baskets). There are also alternate pin placements on several of the holes. The length of the current course will be determined later this year by a survey class at the local community college. Until then check the enclosed map and legend for estimated distance and direction. The course itself is a disc-golfer’s dream. Incorporating long open fairways, vista shots, tight alleys, tree guarded baskets and elevated pins, it has it all. Following are the views by several of the most respected golfers who have ever played the game on just a few of the holes:
Hole #7 Johnny Lissaman #2008 “Hole seven represents a classic example of intelligent mastery, behind the Day-La course. The tee pad starts on the left side of a narrow fairway protected by huge redwoods and pines. If you make it through this fairway, your downhill upshot of 70 yards must be low since large low hanging pine tree branches reach out and block any regular shots. Finally, you find the basket nested on a fast hard packed hill. Holes like this, take alot of skill and planning to master.”
Hole #2 Glenn ‘vapor’ Whitlock #3573 “Though not one of the longest holes I feel it is the toughest riddle to solve. It virtually defies a safe par line, so the aggressive drive will probably deliver the best, though potentially the worst results. Right off the bat your jammed by the tee which is cut into the side of a steep hill; there are no foot faults here for the line is a 2 foot high vertical plane of ground. Those with very low release points can be intimidated. The tee faces straight up an alley on a tree dotted hill with the pin approximately 40 meters perpendicular from the levelling off point(50 meters from the tee). This was the preferred route when the original pin placement was 20 meters closer, now however, the preferred lane takes you diagonally across and up the hill, where there is a definitive gap to shoot for between the strategic fat pines that line either side of the fairway. Woe to any hard shot that bounces off a tree because there is very little to stop a downward descent on the nearly featureless stick hard pan which is another piece to the puzzle, the difficult side hill stances produced complicate the upshot into a very treacherous green(also the “puffing” produced by the ascent) I’ve seen many strokes created for decent or even great drives, birdie runs or lay-ups which hit the ground, kick and roll down-down-down sometimes into the road 100 meters below the green. There are 3 entrances to the green; the right side is wide open but only helpful if you have rolled away; from the usual center lane landing too much angle is required to get around the large pine guarding the right side for it to be viable, the middle is guarded by a small bushy but strategically placed tree that harries ups from all but the best drives. Here you must chose between a low sliding shot thats very touchy or a high dropping shot that must land flat or you face the consequences. To the left of that and slightly closer are 3 sentinel trees with a dangerous mound at their base. Although small there is only a meter between effectively blocking any left to right shot from the fairway. This brings me to the almost totally neglected back door to the green and my manner of playing the hole.You must use the original fairway-straight up. The way is essentially clear except two large pines at the top. A good drive will leave you on flat ground for your upshot looking thru the sentinels at the pin. The tempting shot is a high R to L over the bushy tree but I believe the “safe” play is a fair sized hole to the left of the sentinels that comes out above the pin onto flat ground. Again it is certainly the only way to have good footing for your up and putt. What you have left is not for the faint of heart, because the door opens above the pin; it is difficult to put it in gimmie range so you look down the yawning abyss behind the pin. Take it from me, a golfer,who always looks for the safe par, on this hole, there isn’t one.”
Hole #10-Geoff Lissaman#2007 The Clint Eastwood Hole “This hole starts on a mound, the hole is somewhat straight ahead except you have to get through two big disc grabbing trees over a bush infested valley, if you make it its about 270 feet, if you hit a tree you fall deep below in a dark jungle of doom, thats the direct shot. You could also go around to the left which is also a long tough shot where good players mostly get threes or fours. So ask yourself “do you feel lucky, well do you punk”! Last year I didn’t feel lucky and took two 5’s.”
Hole #8 Ralph Williamson #010 (Head Geezer) If 50 people were asked to single out a favorite hole at De Laveaga Disc Golf Course, barely a hndful would not pick the “Top of the World: hole #3. At 529 feet from top to bottom, it is an experience of pure joy to watch the disc glide clear into forever-no matter where it lands! Even the most feeble Geezer can reach the basket on a narmal day because of the staggering height of the tee and the downhill lay of the land. Although not a power shot for most to reach, it does, however, require more than a modest amount of accuracy because of the almost constant swirling cross winds. Once, again, “trying to explain the growing popularity of disc golf begins with one central fact: throwing a flying disc with power and accuracy is a marvelous sensation” (from the introduction of the rules of the sport of disc golf, page 4). Since most people would choose hole #3 to critique, I have chosen hole #8, which has it all. Because of the nice average length of 350 feet, more than average trouble you can encounter and the general shape of #8, this was my hole. One glaring quality lacking in disc golf which is always enjoyed in ball golf is a completely unobstructed tee area. In an effort to make disc golf “more difficult” many unaware course designers have placed tee locations where there is no room for run-up, where overhanging branches obstruct your backswing or follow-through, and have not leveled out the tee areas, some of which have water erosion, small ditches to throw your timing off and so on. But, #8 has a nice spacious tee with none of the previously mentioned tee hazards. A street for the entire length of the hole is out of bounds on the left and in back of the basket where, if you charge your up-shot just a little too much, you will be either OB or be required to putt through some fairly massive evergreen trees. I saw more than one open player bogie #8 because he caught the downslope behind the basket causing the disc to slide or roll and result in a difficult 35 footer coming back through the trees. On the drive, trouble lurks on the right where a heavily forested thicket grabs any kind of turnover shot. The fairway slopes down to the right and seems to push your drive toward the thicket unless it lands completely level or has a slight hyzer at impact with the ground. Although #8 is almost stright, the drive must penetrate a neck about two thirds the distance to the basket where there are large trees on the left, a low ceiling and a sloping drop-off on the right leading down to the eucalyptus forest at the famed 7A basket. Number 8 will not accept a roller under any circumstances, forcing an air shot for everyone, whether backhand or sidearm. In short, hole number 8 did have it all.
Hole #10 Victor Malafronte #002 (Worlds Original Frissbee Champion) For me, Hole #10 seems to encompass all the geograhpical features that nature has provided at Day-La. When a player approaches this hole, they will ascend a stair way which is cut into a 45 foot hill side. Once on top, the immediate surroundings are usually covered with dried out bushes, shrubs and a well beaten path to an elevated tee area. While standing on the tee, a player can not help but notice the veritable terrain. A winding plateau to the near left, a seldom used dirt road, the once mighty “Widow Maker”, a small patch of green grass, the dry sandy lake bed of I-5, or the mini forest covered with tall trees and underbrush-directly in front of the pin. In order to successfully complete this potential birdie hole, every player is confronted with a most difficult decision. Do I go around the trees to the left and take the safe-in most cases-route. or, if you really came to play, do I go down the middle throught the narrow air way between the two tallest trees. Your disc will be travelling high over a ravine which is 150 feet deep and covered with a dense growth of trees and large bushes. Keep in mind that no one can see the pin, even from the tee. Hole #10 has a long history of separating the strong and daring from the meek and cautious. The rewards can be exciting for the entire group, or a disappointing double or triple bogey for the individual. Not to mention that a high tech disc can be lost, never to be seen again. But who can complain. For you are playing in the most natural, challenging and country club atmosphere where usually the only sounds and sights you will experience are that of mother nature or another disc golfer expressing disappointment or joy-so take me back to DeLaveaga, I want to try that shot again, and again and again.
Hole #11 (I-5) Tom “trick” Schot #3303 After nearly 7 years of play, I know of only two birdies on this over 550 foot hole-Fort Felker & ‘Crazy’ John Brooks, and I witnessed “Crazy’s”. The hole is so long it has taken on the name “Highway 5”, in rememberance of the long straight interstate linking Northern & Southern California. The Drive- All kinds of room for 110 yards, however your lie and position is really important. You can really be in trouble if you don’t set yourself up. The Approach- After a monster drive of everything you could possibly have on it, you still have 75 yards under a low tunnel of oak trees or an attempt to go the high route over the pine trees. Makes no difference, all who have played this hole know what I’m talking about. If your approach shot gets you a putt consider yourself fortunate. Hole #11 is by far the toghest hole at De Laveaga, if not the country. P.S. There are three pin placements, we use two in the Master’s Cup. The 3rd position is still to tough for even tournament play.
Hole #3 Sam Ferrans #2872 If you were describing disc golf to someone who never of the game before, hole three at De Laveaga would be the perfect explanation. The disc golfer throwing this hole will be challenged usually by a headwind or a right to left crosswind, for the tee has nearly 200 feet of elevation, and the pole-hole lies 500 feet below wtih OB just behind. Golfers usually prefer the “straight down the middle shot” which requires throwing the disc with just enough power to set the angle, yet, with enough finesse to float the disc into safe territory. There is a high percentage of OB with this shot. Players may alos choose a more powerful “hyzer route”. This shot demands a great deal of power in order to clear a number of giant pines on the right side of the hill. The hyzer route is a potentially treacherous option, but, can be very scenic (not boring). Hole Three proves to be one of the most challenging and beautiful holes on the course. It’s the perfect disc golf hole which tests a golfer’s finesse, as well as, power.
Hole 15A Snapper Pierson #691 This year’s Master’s Cup featured nine new temporary holes added to the traditional 18 hole layout. For the most part the new holes were much shorter and required very accurate or very lucky throws in order to duece. a particular favorite of mine was hole 15A. The hole was 198 feet of treachery situated along the left edge of a deep valley. The first 100 feet were open, then thick pines protedted the routes to the hole. Near the hole the ground was soft with a thick bed of pine needles; deep in the perpetually dark forest. There was no outside hyzer route available. The three options attempted most often were to thread the needle of a 12 foot wide fairly level fairway with a slight righty hyzer. The pine trees lining the fairway being very unforgiving to the feint of heart who couldn’t hold a good line. The Poison Oak although everywehre is always worst down in the valley off the beaten fairway where a disc tends to MAC if it hits a tree going this route. Additionally, the hole was situated such that if you went long you also went down into a valley although not as deep. The most prevalent route was to dive in towards the hole having gone wide to the left either aiming between the third and fourth big pine tree’s or the go high outside around all the pines, but, underneath their canopy back into the hole. If you were long you were down in the valley if you were short you were putting with the valley looming as your punishment for errant putt’s. This hole was a catch up hole for some and a confidence crusher for other’s. Truth or dare time.
Hole #6 Matt LaCourte Jr. #4218 How does one choose a favorite hole at Day-La? You don’t, you just randomly pick one and go from there. Hole #6 lies 396 feet from the tee, slightly downhill and seemingly downwind. As one selects a flight path you have to choose to the left or right of a utility pole situated in the irght hand hyzer route about 100 feet off the tee. Though an open fairway teases you into thinking birdie, the pin is guarded by two large pine trees that dictate a low approach to bag a buece. Otherwise, you are putting around or thru tree branches. Get a long drive off and you are looking at the street (OB) that lies 35 feet behind the basket. The alternate pin placement lies adjacent to that same street but fortuantely I have never played it there. It’s a good idea to birdies this hole as the bogie monster awaits your arrival on Holes 7 & 8.
Hole #18 Leonard Muise Some great disc golf holes provide incredible challenges, and the DeLaveaga course has an almost sadistic abundance of these. Some great holes offer spectacular sights; number 3 surely ranks among the best. But from a competitive viewpoint, the well designed golf hole presents an opportunity to save a stroke if played better than decently, without quite demanding perfection. In this regard, DeLaveaga’s #18 is an ideal test of skill-a test which I’ve passed and failed in dramatic fashion over the years. Number 18 is a medium length hole over a slight, gradual upslope, a fairly “straightforward” left to right shot from a short, sunken tee. Though there is a narrow tunnel route of about 260 feet straight to the basket, most players prefer the 290-foot route out and around a dense cluster of tall pines, turning sharply down a corridor about 30 feet wide. The pine branches spread out to protect against higher shots comng in too tight. Lower shots turning the corner wide, however, are likely to find two small round trees-one invisible from the tee about 60 feet from the basket, the other spreading out to within 10 feet of the chains. The swirling wind, often hard to judge from the sheltered tee, normally blows from 11 o’clock and sometimes can be harnessed to assist the disc’s push around the corner. The increasing sharpness of the turn after clearing the corner of the pines, combined with the effect of the head/cross-wind, can make disc selection interesting for right-handers. One approach suggests an understable disc thrown a bit high and outside, penetrating the wind before reaching the corner, where it turns over rapidly and flies to the basket. The other approach, especially popular on windy days, employs a more stable disc for a lower and tighter shot, landing part way down the ocrridor and sliding up for a good putt.
As you can see the Day-La course is respected by some of the most respected people in the game. According to this year’s Master’s Cup Champion, Glenn Whitlock, “you are better off to forego the 50 plus foot birdie runs, and play for par”. Current World Champion, Ken Climo, remarked “there are no gimmee birds here”. Basing scores on the original 18 hole format, the best per round Open scores are within a few strokes of par either way. Sam Ferrans and Scott Stokely hold the old 18 hole tournament record of 7 under par 47’s, while the current longer 18 hole tournament record was just set by Ken Climo at a 5 under 49 (Steve ‘pop’ Tufty holds the current course record of 48, shot in a local monthly event). The 27 hole tournament record is a 4 under par 77 shot by Sam Ferrans. The best advanced(amatuers) shoot in the upper 50’s to mid 60’s for 18 holes, while most beginning players take it on the chin at Day-La, shooting in the upper 60’s to 70’s. If you are interested in competing professionally at Day-La you best get in shape for the 27 holes use up over 8000 feet of distance with the veritable terrain taking its toll. The Santa Cruz Master’s-Open Cup has been played for 6 years, with the past two being part of the PDGA’s prestigious Super Tour. This year in October, another PDGA event has been added, the Fault-Line Open (to commerorate the 1989 Earthquake) will decide the 1991 California State Singles Champion. This tournament will also culminate the 1991 Nor-Cal Series with a 9-hole $1200 skins event for all the Nor-Cal series winners and leading point getters. Don’t forget the monthly on the first Saturday of every month, plus when the day’s get longer a weekly random doubles game can be found every Wednesday about 5PM.
Day-La is not the only happening disc phenom in Santa Cruz. Several world class free-stylers make their home here, while the current collegiate national ultimate champs hail from the university. This year the World Seniors Flying Disc Championships, as well as, the 1991 World Flying Disc Federation (in conjunction with the infamous U.S. Open) championships will be held in Santa Cruz, with De Laveaga being the site for the golf events. If disc was not enough, Santa Cruz is also home to one of the last remaining oldtime Beach Boardwalks (check out the rollercoaster) as well as having some of the best surfing breaks along the entire West Coast. If you know wind surfing then you have probably heard of Waddell Creek just north of Santa Cruz. This is just a no boring town.
With the course completely basketed, the future at De Laveaga will include benches on every hole, trash cans on every hole, a recycling area; the club will also attempt to promote disc golf to the local community via the schools and future fund raisings. In fact, the most recent May monthly tournament raised $100 for the Endangered Wildlife Species Foundation, in appreciation for their rescue of a downed baby Great Horned Owl found on Hole #10.
In the past year the number of people playing disc golf at Day-La has increased dramatically. It is not uncommon to find 30 plus vehicles in the parking lot on the weekends. Most are locals, however, an ever increasing number come from “over the Hill”, ala the Bay area. With the only other 18 hole course in the Bay Area being the Aquatic Park in Berkeley (save for a seldom publicized object course in Monterey), there is a great need for more courses to satisfy the growing demand for play. In any event, if you have ever played at De Laveaga, chances are you will want to always play it again.