COURSE REVIEW: Dekalb Memorial Park, Atlanta, GA


Dekalb Memorial Disc Golf Course, (henceforth “DKM”), simply doesn’t fit in the usual Venn diagram that we would use to describe exemplary courses.

Let’s start there, with y’all gasping.

What I mean to say is this:  When someone asks us that impossibly broad question about the “best” course in the area, our brains like to jam a couple of familiar descriptors together in order to form an opinion that we think of as universally-understood.  “Long” and “tight” are two such adjectives that often describe the “best” course in an area.  Or “Unique” and “hard”.  Or “Long”, “unique”, and “challenging”, all mushed together.

Our brains cycle through these combinations until we find a couple of areas of heavy overlap, and then we pluck the answers out from the shaded areas of the diagram.

Dekalb Memorial Disc Golf Course isn’t long.  It isn’t terribly hard, (in a specific way that I’ll get into later).  It’s moderately wooded, not extremely wooded.  Unique? Eh, not terribly, but it has its moments.

What Dekalb Memorial Disc Golf is, is great.

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Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood next to a roaring highway on the southeast side of Atlanta, Dekalb Memorial DGC is a quick track.  A solo round without any really errant shots could be leisurely accomplished in 45 minutes at 45 years old.  Add a friend or three, and you’re still going to make it out of there in two hours, even with some zippy singles playing through and the requisite time spent talking to coach.  (It’s a euphemism.  Figure it out).

It’s tightly packed, with a few tee areas in need of some protective netting as the park grows busier, but it’s certainly not dangerous so long you’re courteous.  And, being that the course can be such a quick play, there’s really no reason to rush into some silly decisions.

Where some courses in the area conjure pure and unadulterated serenity by guiding you far out into the quiet thickets, (think Parker’s Pasture and Boundary Waters 3), DKM lulls you into concentration with the thick, turbulent drone of Interstate 20, whose rumble is with you from holes 4 through 9.  The occasional muscle car or crotch rocket has worked many a putter on the greens of 6 and 7.

Hole 7 at DKM. Photo courtesy of the Intown Atlanta Disc Golf Club.

But, it’s a funny thing.  The highway can be so loud at times that it becomes hard to communicate with your cardmates, and so you sort of revert to tournament-mode.  The solitary birdie hunter emerges, unencumbered by idle chit chat.

And this is where Dekalb Memorial tricks you.  You see the hardest holes on the course arrive after making the turn, and after the smothering hum of I-20 dissipates.  You and your pals start chumming it up again through the kitschy stretch of holes 8 through 12, and then BAM!  You get slapped in the face with holes 13 and 14:  A daunting duo of somewhat similarly shaped fairways, with similarly narrow gaps, but at different distances, both with a treacherous and troublesome slope on the right, and thick sticks to the left.  It’s a stroke of genius to place these holes in order, as the 14th hole plays like a longer version of the 13th hole, prompting the player to develop a strategy of how to achieve similar results with stretched-out flights.

For me, it’s beat-flippy Star Teebird for 13, slightly-forced Champ Roadrunner on 14, but use that only as an example…I have no proof of concept to show you on the scorecard.

But your survival of these holes is rewarded, just as your arrival to the course is rewarded, with the first four and last four holes of DKM providing you with good, old-fashioned disc golf fun.

Hole 1:  Short, straight putter blast downhill.  Point and shoot. Righty forehand friendly if you’re working on your timing.

Hole 2:  Narrow, risky, wooded.  The pines appear enormous within the space, putting off the same sort of PNW vibes that you get on Redan’s bucolic and iconic Hole 15:  Fairway to Heaven.

Hole 3:  Narrow again, slightly downhill.  Lots of midranges and fairway drivers here.  A cartoonishly winding creek to the right and a quieter road on the left.

Hole 4:  Time to let off some steam.  Spray something beefy off to the right and let her fade home.  If you can’t execute this shot, you’re not golfing well.  Still, it’s that guilty-pleasure righty hyzer and you can’t help but be happy to see it.

Then, after the treacherous 13 and 14…

Hole 15:  Classic “finish to the right with trouble on the left”, with a newly-planted wall of trees for a backdrop that will evolve over time.

Hole 16:  Downhill tunnel shot with an iconic branch draping itself over the 12-to-2 portion on the proverbial clock.  The aforementioned newly-planted hardwoods at the back of 15 will butt up to the left side of the fairway here, with a similar set of plantings to the right, setting this up to be the signature hole a decade from now.  It’s the evil twin of Etowah’s Hole 4, the infamous “Cave Hole”, in which you’d be throwing from the cave back down to the pad, and through a fairly fairytale-esque chute.

Hole 16 at DKM. Photo courtesy of Al Hause.

Hole 17:  Just send it.  Uphill bomber with a cliff to the left, and a road to the right that’s blocked well by old, healthy trees.  With the pin in the upper position, at the top of a headwall at the end of the fairway, the play is to land shy of the basket, as an airball push-putt from behind the target could send you 60 feet or more downhill.

Hole 18:  Donwhill, and reachable with a variety of discs, with the only obstructions being the newly planted trees that were previously encountered on the right side of 16’s tunnel shot.  For an average distance thrower, hyzering in with distance driver or getting a little movement on a fairway will be the easiest, but there’s no reason that someone with good form couldn’t get there with a Roc.

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So Dekalb Memorial certainly passes the fun test, with a variety of shot choices to be made, and several chances to execute some brilliant throws, but is it good?

The short answer is yes.

Sure the pro-level player is going to shred the place using about 3 discs, but the average golfer is going to have to take several looks at some of these holes before truly understanding what’s being asked of them.

For those of us not mashing a putter 350’+, DKM is going to have us reaching deep into the bag to keep things in the fairway.

Also, and more importantly, when we take into account Dekalb Memorial’s swiftness, (not shortness as in length, but as in time), we begin to understand the greatness of the course.  The average golfer is getting their time’s worth and then some for the hour-ish they’ll spend on a round.   The fun-per-footstep factor is as high as it gets in this category of course.

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When it comes to the amenities, everything is in order.  Bathrooms available onsite.  Plenty of parking, although the lot closest to the course could use some TLC.  Garbage cans are in the parking lot, so be prepared to carry your trash until the end of the round.  Plenty of benches, great signage, perfect pads.

The neighborhood appears to largely not impact the course, save for a few dog walkers who not-so-subtly drag their furry companions through the fairways in an obtuse, purposefully-slow protest.  C’est la vie.  Maybe they should have banded together and raised $70,000 for a dog park.  You snooze, you lose.

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In conclusion, Dekalb Memorial DGC doesn’t land in the Venn diagram between “long” and “hard”, (hardy har har), or between “unique” and “difficult”, or really any amalgam of these descriptors of “great” courses, but it’s great nonetheless.