Main Menu

Sustainable Santa Cruz

Changes abound at the Santa Cruz Masters Cup as local organizers aim to preserve a jewel of the disc golf world. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- There’s a fine line between honoring history and leaving it behind. As disc golf has continued to evolve and welcome a more modern era, the club responsible for the Santa Cruz Masters Cup has continued to deftly straddle that gap, aware not only of the 34-year-old event’s place in the pantheon of quintessential professional tournaments, but also where it wants to go.

The first seismic shift near the San Andreas Fault came in 2016, when the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club introduced the adjacent golf facility for the final round of this three-day tournament. Now in its 16th year on the PDGA National Tour, the Masters Cup is again moving forward, as club members have implemented significant modifications on its namesake course. According to Tournament Executive Director Braden Coolidge, though, it's not just changing for the sake of change. Instead, it has a purpose:

“The long-term sustainability of one of the most iconic courses on the planet.”

Indeed, “DeLa” is not only highly trafficked -- it ranks as Disc Golf Course Review’s fourth most-played in the world -- but its hillside terrain leaves it overly susceptible to erosion and other environmental decay. So as 112 of the world’s best disc golfers take to the track Friday and Saturday and thousands more tune in, the standard hardpan, roots, and branches -- and even the dreaded two-meter rule -- will still be in play. But it’ll be tackled in a different order, with some altered pin placements, all in an effort to preserve a venue that has existed since the 1984 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.

“There are so many stakeholders with interests in that zone, right?” Coolidge said. “We’re managing the interests of the city park, the neighbors, the fire department, and also our club. And the PDGA. Taking everyone into consideration as to what’s in the best interest of having our course thrive into the future -- that was the conversation that precipitated addressing some of the safety concerns and flow concerns of the course.”

The changes will be noticeable from the jump. Instead of beginning the tournament on the usual hole 1, play now begins on hole 25. Players begin by shooting up “The Hill,” a section that was cordoned off over the winter in an effort to stave off erosion and is now significantly more green. Tournament Director Matt Beatty said the move had an added benefit, too: Players will be more fresh starting off with elevation, instead of tackling the “arduous” section at the tail end of a long round.

“You’re gonna hit the hill first and some people are really gonna like that,” Beatty said. “Most people on the amateur weekend really liked that.”

That means that hole 27 -- the hallowed “Top of the World” shot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean -- will no longer be the course’s closing hole. Instead, it comes fourth, and its pin has been shortened to keep errant shots out of the parking lot that serves as tournament central. That brought a more relaxed tone to the am weekend that Coolidge was hopeful would spill over to the National Tour side. And just because it is shorter doesn’t mean it is any less difficult; if anything, the shot now requires more precision.

“It was a lot harder than people thought it would be,” Coolidge said.


Top of the World no longer closes play at DeLa -- at least during the Masters Cup. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

Other changes abound -- hole 9 features a mando that keeps the flight path clear of 10’s fairway; “I-5,” normally a 550-foot par 3, is now a par 4; the course ends on a shortened hole 6 that helps keep spectators out of the road -- and the efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. City officials like Mike Godsy, who is the east zone field supervisor for the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department, said the DeLa club has taken a great amount of pride and ownership in keeping the course in shape.

“It’s a really active and robust group,” Godsy said. “Of course it’s a world-class course, so we very much appreciate the use. We very much appreciate the engagement, and we look forward to it for years to come.”

And really, that’s the goal: to preserve a jewel of the disc golf world.

“It’s an extremely challenging property to manage in and of itself,” Coolidge said. “To host an event the caliber and size of the Masters Cup -- it gets infinitely more challenging.”

Luckily, the locals are up to the task.

Santa Cruz Masters Cup | 2019 PDGA National Tour

Submit a comment

Log in or register to post comments