This year’s Discraft Ledgestone Insurance Open will feature the newest championship layout in the Central Illinois Area, Ledgestone TD Nate Heinold announced today. Northwood Gold, built specifically for the 2019 PDGA Pro World Championships, will be used by the MA1 division for two rounds for the Ledgestone event. The beloved Northwood Course is one of the top rated courses in IL according to Disc Golf Course Review and has long been a staple of the Ledgestone event. The gold course will be a 9,300’ par 63 layout.
The original Northwood course was designed and built by Greg Nettles in 2002. There wasn’t a lot of knowledge about disc golf back in the early 2000’s in Central Illinois, so in an effort to put the course in the ground Greg paid for the course himself. In the winter of 2011 Greg redesigned the course and added some more difficulty and length. In 2015, with funding from the Park District and the Ledgestone event, the baskets were upgraded to Mach X baskets.
When the bid was awarded to Peoria to host the PDGA Pro World Championships, Ledgestone TD (and 2019 World’s TD) Nate Heinold made a quick call to Greg to let him know his intentions to use Northwood for Worlds. But there was a catch. “I remember telling Greg that I wanted to make it harder. I told him the layout didn’t need to be permanent, but I just wanted a gold option for Worlds,” said Heinold.
Within a few weeks Nate met Greg, the director of the local park district and landscape architect Kip Taufer at Northwood. Nate quickly gave the three of them the rundown on what he wanted out of the gold layout. When they got to the end they realized that only 13 holes were accounted for. That’s when Nate broke the news to Kip and Greg. “You need to build 5 new holes that way (pointing northwest). They need to be really cool and I would love a 1000’ par 5,” recalls Heinold.
Greg and Kip got to work on the new holes, while Heinold focused on the tweaks to the original course and fundraising for Ledgestone. Within a few weeks Kip and Greg had laid out some plans for the five new holes, including the desired 1000’ wooded par 5. By late winter work days were being coordinated by Heinold while Kip was busy working his magic with the tractor. By early spring Heinold knew that the project was really coming along. “I never envisioned everything working out as smoothly as it did. The park district was super supportive, the design process went great and the building process went fairly well,” said Heinold. While a core group of volunteers stepped up to help with a lot of the work, Taufer is the one who spent the most time working on the course. “It's probably not even close. I probably have 50 to 60 hours of work at the course, and I am sure Greg has more than that. Kip probably has 500 hours of work on the new layout,” said Heinold.
The park district liked what they were seeing so much that they greenlit another course at the property. Nate worked with DGA to get 19 new yellow powdercoated baskets, which were delivered in September of 2018. Five of the baskets were immediately installed for the new holes. A few others were installed temporarily for the Northwood Gold preview event that took place in October. The new layout will see holes 1 through 3 eliminated for the gold layout and will see the first big changes on hole 6. Hole 6’s basket will now extend beyond hole 7’s current basket, making that hole a par 4. Old hole 8 got a facelift with a new tee about 150’ behind the current long tee, making that hole a par 4 as well.
Old hole 10 will see a new basket location, while old hole 11 is being shifted over towards the cemetery with a new tee, fairway and pin location. Hole 11 is also the location of a raised boulder green.
Old hole 12 will be eliminated for the gold layout and hole 13 will see a new teeing area about 75’ behind the old tee. Old hole 14 will remain the same, while old hole 15 will see the pin moved back and to the left about 250’. After a short 75’ walk up into the pine trees, players will be greeted by an entirely new hole through the pine trees. This will now be hole 11 of the gold layout, a beastly 380’ par three through the woods. This is an area that was originally looked at when the course was originally built in 2002.
After this the real fun starts with hole 12. Hole 12 will be 1050’. It will be an initial dogleg right through a tight tunnel. About halfway down the fairway the hole will straighten out over a ravine to a clearing. After crossing Ledgestone bridge, players will then begin to climb sharply uphill to the last tunnel, about 250’ to the basket. This hole is sure to be one of the most important holes of the Ledgestone event as scoring separation will be very high. Based on early returns from the Northwood Gold preview event, it’s likely this hole will see a scoring average that starts with the number 6.
This picture shows the basket location looking back down the last tunnel on the new par 5.
Hole 13 will be a beautiful par 4 measuring 650’ with a deep ravine to the left of the fairway and nasty rough to the right of the fairway. This hole has a very clean (but tight) fairway line. This hole will reward the player who chooses to scale back their tee shot by not going too big off the tee. The key to this hole will be landing with the correct speed in the fairway and not throwing a wide rim driver that could skip into the rough.
This first picture shows the view from the tee of the 13th hole of the gold layout.
The second picture shows the view looking from the basket back to the tee.
Hole 14 will be the course’s top of the world shot, measuring in at 330’. The green will be treacherous with a creek right in front of the green and a barrier wood wall on the right front side of the green. The disc of choice for most players will be a midrange, while the longer throwers will be able to throw a putter.
The view from the tee.
Close-up of the picturesque green, built by Kip Taufer.
Hole 15 will be the last of the new holes, aptly called the peninsula hole. Another massive bridge was built for this hole and it will include a very tight fairway to a peninsula green. Hole 16 has been extended by nearly 400’, marking the second par 5 on the back nine. Holes 17 and 18 will remain the same. This year’s Discraft Ledgestone Insurance Open just got a lot more exciting! Registration is open NOW for those interested in sponsoring a hole or those who purchase a set of the Les White Swirly Buzzzes. For more information check out this link: lisopen.com/register