Next up in our Q & A interview series is Kip Taufer. Kip Taufer is the brainchild/designer/builder of Megiddo at Westwood and is one of the co-designers of Northwood Gold. Kip is also the co-designer with Nate Heinold of the new course in Morton, Kennel Lake, that will debut at this year’s Ledgestone Insurance Open.
1 - You are well known in the Peoria area but not as much outside of the area. That changed when Nate Heinold name dropped you at the Pro Worlds opening ceremony. How did you come into disc golf?
I am not sure how well known I am and Nate never pronounces my last name right anyway. I am fine flying under the radar but I’ll be honest that it felt good to be recognized by some MPO and FPO players for the work that was put in at Northwood Gold. When people acknowledge the time spent away from family to make something for others to enjoy it helps with not getting burned out. I got into disc golf after some friends got me a disc for my birthday. I was 34 and an avid traditional golfer but slowing down with young kids at home. At first I was terrible so I started watching some YouTube videos and started to get better. As with many people I fell in love with the game and started to play quite a bit. I always wanted to design a golf course but that was a pipe dream so I talked to a good friend on the Morton Park District Board and asked if there was any land available. It turned out that there was 20 acres of woods in the park I grew up playing baseball not being used. I approached the park director at the time and asked about another course being built in Morton. Thankfully, since Greg Nettles paved the way with the original Northwood Park course, they allowed me to begin at Westwood Park. Since that time in early 2013, everything has been a blur.
2 - The first project you got involved in was Megiddo at Westwood. How long did that project take to design and build?
The original design took about a month of walking and going on GIS looking at every possibility of what was available. Once the construction began in June 2013 I decided to add a hole so I could make hole 4 a par 4. Nate decided to put the pressure on and schedule a triples tournament for April 2014. We were able to get the baskets in a week prior but the tee pads had to wait until June. I worked almost every Saturday, December-February during slow months at work and many other days during the year. After three straight years and a lot of hours logged I felt comfortable to slow down a bit. To this day we are still adding bridges and stairs to the property.
3 - Nate mentioned that he was your sidekick. We have never heard Nate defer to anyone else (laughing). How would you react to that?
Yeah, that’s pretty funny. I would say I do the design/build and Nate helps coordinate workdays and gives feedback on design. I have seen him pick up a few sticks over the years and throw them on debris piles (laughing). Actually, Nate puts in an incredible amount of hours into disc golf and I think both of our wives are saints for letting us do what we love.
4 - What is your design philosophy?
Honestly, I look at God‘s beautiful canvas he created and try not to mess it up! Then I try to create holes where good shots are rewarded and bad shots are punished with opportunities to save par with a great recovery. Hole 12 at Northwood Gold might be an exception where one bad shot makes par pretty difficult but still possible.
Note from Nate: One bad shot on 12 makes par IMPOSSIBLE.
5 - Do you get to play disc golf anymore?
I have not thrown a disc yet this year and I played one round last year with Nate and Bob Julio from Discraft and Patrick from Ultiworld. I’m terrible, but managed a couple pars, I think?
6 - Your largest project to date has been the expansion at Northwood. Nate mentioned that when he first won the bid for 2019 Pro Worlds that he met you and others at Northwood to talk about the idea of expanding Northwood into a tougher course. What was your first reaction to that idea?
I loved the idea and was honored to be asked to help on the project. Greg Nettles did a great job on the original course so I wanted to make sure he was OK collaborating together. The park director, Joel Dickerson, is very supportive along with the entire Morton Park Board and none of this would have happened without their backing. After the initial excitement I started to freak out thinking about the short timeframe and how much work we had to get done before Pro Worlds. The Lord provided the right help at the right time and I’m very thankful for that
7 - Hole 12 at Northwood Gold....we heard that was your fault. Isn't that hole a par 6?
I guess you could say it’s my fault. It was originally a par 4 but I remember walking up the hill and thinking it might work to get some more distance. The overgrowth was so bad I couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of me so I had to rely on GIS to see what kind of distance we could get. Greg and I discussed it and decided to go for it so I showed Nate and remember him saying that it would be an epic hole and he was all in. Watching James Conrad birdie it at Pro Worlds was very cool to see in person and proves that three great shots will put you in position for birdie.
8 - We have to ask about the bridge on Hole 12. How long did that bridge take to build?
The 120 foot bridge on hole 12 took a long time to build. Thankfully I was able to find a couple 43 foot long beams to make the main span across the creek and then decided to keep stretching it out. Had a lot of good help and a friend who donated his time and excavator to set the beams in place. All I can say is I don’t want to build one that big again anytime soon.
9 - We heard a rumor about a "black" level course being added to Northwood. Can you talk about what the future holds for Northwood Park?
I want it to be a challenge but still fair while making more room for spectators so the rough won’t be as thick along the fairways. Ultimately there will be two separate courses at Northwood Park with the original course and the new one, including the new holes from Pro Worlds. Greg Nettles is designing two new holes to add to the original course since we had to connect the north part of the of park to the southeast portion. In doing so we needed to take out two original holes. The new course will basically wrap around the original course starting by hole one of original course and it will end by the main parking lot.
10 - Nowadays its common for disc golfers to light up the scoreboard and shoot double digits under par every round. Birdie is expected while par is frowned upon. Does this need to change?
I don’t know if it needs to change but I personally don’t like to watch tournaments where it is a hyzer birdie fest. I prefer to watch shot making in the woods with specific landing areas where mistakes won’t lead to birdies. The pros will still get a lot of birdies but I’d rather not see double digit scores very often.
11 – Anything else you want to add?
I want to say thank you to my wife and family for the support through it all so far. The small group who have helped fairly regularly; Stu, Brent, Dave, Tim, Johnnie and a few others. The Morton Park District for believing in me and helping in many ways. Nate for all his hard work doing everything and Greg for allowing me to help with Northwood Gold. Most importantly, I thank the Lord for His guidance and protection through it all.
Thanks to Kip for all of his work helping build our area courses and for taking part in this interview. Stay tuned for our next interview! Still to come we have Paige Pierce, Paul McBeth, Dan “Stork” Roddick and others!