Aug 042003
 

De Laveaga


 

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.

Marty Hapner