Thunder Bay has four very nice courses for local players to choose from but there comes a time for most disc golfers when curiosity starts to build about what sort of courses might exist outside of their community. It’s not so much about being bored with the courses immediately available because there are always ways to switch things up to make even the simplest of courses fresh for any player. The need to explore and throw new territory is just part of the disc golf process for most.
Nearly anyone and everyone living in or from this area has spent some amount of time in Minnesota. Duluth and Minneapolis have long been very popular weekend getaway locations for northwestern Ontario residents. You name the reason; concerts, shopping, NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA, UFC, WWE and a million other things mixed with a short drive distance has always made the area a magnet. Heck, sometimes people just go for the food! Well, the next time there are plans to head down for any reason, we recommend that everyone pack their disc golf stuff.
When the borders open and travel becomes safe again, disc golfers from Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas have two full states next door packed full of some of the planet’s best and top-rated disc golf courses. What would you say if I told you that between Tbay and the nearby well-known Duluth MN, there are nearly 20 courses to play. Yes, that’s right, if you live in Thunder Bay, you have 20+ courses are just about a 3-hr drive away from your front door.
Moving outside Duluth and the 3-hr marker to within 6-8 hours drive distance, both states have some of the best courses in the world available. A list that includes top level professional level courses like The Airborn Disc Golf Preserve, Giant’s Ridge, The Valley, Highbridge Hills Disc Golf Megaplex, uDisc’s highest rated course; Blue Ribbon Pines and so many others. All these courses and we haven’t even touched on all the mid-level pro spots, recreactional 9-hole courses and others that can be found in the same communities.
These states and their courses are not legendary for only providing a disc golf experience for professional level players, that would limit their use to a small % of players. Every course mentioned has at very least short tees with some of them having three sets of tees or dual basket locations for a wide range of skill sets. Several of the properties mentioned also feature more than one course so the value of trips to these areas is very high for any level of player.
Disc golf road trips and vacations can be enjoyable for players of any skill range but it can also create a bit of frustration for any player if things aren’t guided. Not knowing the course alone can make any course a struggle for even the best disc golfer so taking on a brand new course as a beginner can be easier with some local assistance. Finding local players from the various areas to guide a round is usually pretty easy through various means of social media. Often times, local clubs and courses will have Facebook pages that can make reaching out for some help pretty simple.
PDGA-members can also get a lot more value out of their membership by registering for any one of the giant number of events that take place across the two beautiful states and their courses. Several players from our region have had a great time competing in events across the border. Anyone looking for a local perspective will likely find more than a few players in Thunder Bay that can lend some thoughts on course suggestions, places to stay near the courses and more.
Players from Minnesota have often compared the courses in the Thunder Bay region to the courses they see at home in their areas. This is mostly due to the very similar heavily forested environment that links the regions together across the border. As a result, the courses are for the most part a blend of tightly wooded to open and wooded designs. Thunder Bay’s courses provide local disc golfers with a great training ground for trips down to MN and WI.
Suggestions / Recommendations:
We talked to a couple MN regulars and a course designer about the region and while doing so we asked for some handy tips and suggestions. Having played the region ourselves in the past we also have a few things to share from a travelling perspective.
A major suggestion for trips to these areas is to ensure to plan and pack for tough terrain. Good footwear is simply a must for disc golf on any terrain in our opinion. The terrain and playing time on many MN and WI courses can be a bit tough on players so being dressed properly is always a plus. Packing sunblock, water, a snack, good quality bug dope and other things into a disc golf bag can be a little bit different for some players but these are all must-have items for long courses / long days.
BUGS! The bugs in northwestern Ontario are well known for being pretty tough to deal with at times but there’s something about the northern Minnesota insect population that just seems a bit more aggressive and active. Leave the skin-so-soft and other watered down bug repellents at home, they won’t be too effective. Instead, buy and pack the strong stuff or for those that want the moonshine of bug dopes, the USA is a lot more relaxed on deet content (please research deet before using).