Local Routes: Your Guide To Santa Cruz Disc Golf Courses

Santa Cruz Disc Golf Courses

Until a few months ago, I had never thrown a disc, much less played a round of disc golf.

The only thing I knew about the game was to not call it “frolf.”

Things have changed. I played my first round as research for this article and it quickly turned into something much, much bigger.

I now have a farmer’s tan, a touch of poison oak, sturdier calf muscles, a problem controlling something called a “hyzer” and, I think it’s safe to say, a new hobby.

I also now realize that when I was introduced to a tall kid named Ricky last year, I was shaking hands with one of the best disc golf players in the world, Ricky Wysocki.

Ben Baker, a local disc golf player who competes in the advanced amateur division, was the one who introduced me to Wysocki. He joined me to talk about local courses in the area, Santa Cruz’s place in the disc golf world, and some resources available for players of all skill levels. (You can listen to the audio below.)

Music used under Creative Commons license for this podcast: “Ave” by Alex featuring Morusque & “Lamadio Tiado” by Sackjo22 featuring Air_Lomeg, Borja, Smojos.

santa cruz disc golf

Santa Cruz Area Disc Golf Courses

disc golf santa cruz

Looking for a disc golf course in or around Santa Cruz? This directory includes all six local courses with maps, contact information and a brief description of each one. All courses are free to play, except for a $2 parking fee at the DeLaveaga and U.C. Santa Cruz courses.


DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course

You can’t talk about disc golf in Santa Cruz without mentioning DeLaveaga, or “DeLa” as it’s often called. It’s a favorite course among locals, as well as one that’s known to players around the world for being one of the more challenging and beautiful courses to play. With several signature holes, including the “Top of the World” elevated shot on the 27th hole, DeLaveaga can be a challenge for players of all skill levels.

DeLa has some wooded holes and some that are more open with plenty of elevation changes to make sure you get your exercise when playing the course. Baskets are often located near steep drop-offs that can really punish errant putts and approach shots, so it can be frustrating to play for a beginner.

To get a taste of what DeLaveaga offers, watch the video below from the 2015 Steady Ed Memorial Masters Cup. The Masters Cup is a professional disc golf tournament held each year at DeLaveaga that draws top players from all over the world.

DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course
1468 Upper Park Rd.
Santa Cruz, CA 95065

DeLaveaga review on DGCourseReview.com


Pinto Lake Disc Golf Course

Pinto Lake is another challenging and beautiful course that will give you some exercise. One of the more distinctive features of the course is the nine-hole stretch that plays through an open meadow, which is sandwiched between more technical holes at the beginning and end of the course. The challenge of playing Pinto Lake is staying in bounds, particularly on windy days on the meadow holes. Due to the variety of hole types, the course requires a good mix of throwing power and accuracy to play well.

The Pinto Lake course has played host to the Daisy Chains Women’s Tournament each year since 2012. The course was designed by Tom Schot, who also designed the DeLaveaga course in Santa Cruz.   

Pinto Lake Disc Golf Course
796 Green Valley Rd.
Watsonville, CA 95076

Pinto Lake review on DGCourseReview.com


Black Mouse Disc Golf Course

 Black Mouse is a thoroughly wooded course on a sloped hillside, which means that some of the baskets are in tricky locations surrounded by trees. Though it’s a short course, Black Mouse is difficult because there is little margin for error on most holes. A slight mistake can easily result in your disc ricocheting off a tree, landing on its edge, and spinning down the hill (known as the dreaded rollawayin disc golf).

The trees at Black Mouse provide shade throughout most of the holes and make for a cool, pleasant round of disc golf, even if you rattle more branches than chains.

Please note that the Black Mouse course is on the grounds of a middle school and is not open during school hours, except in the summer.

Black Mouse Disc Golf Course
7179 Hacienda Way
Felton, CA 95018

Black Mouse review on DGCourseReview.com


Aptos High Disc Golf Course

 This is my favorite local course and a great place for a beginner to get out and learn the game. It’s got a variety of hole types which makes it a lot of fun as a newcomer, but is still challenging enough for more experienced players. The course has a little bit of everything: wooded holes, wide open holes, a tunnel shot, elevation changes and a great “top of the world” shot, though it doesn’t offer quite the view of the famous 27th hole at DeLaveaga.

Some of the holes at Aptos have multiple basket locations, which can make the course more difficult when they are in the long position. Like the Black Mouse course in Felton, Aptos High’s course is on school grounds so players should not go there before 3 p.m. when school is in session. Etiquette is important at the courses on school grounds as well, and there’s an expectation that disc golf players not drink, litter, or smoke while playing these courses.

Aptos High School Disc Golf Course
100 Mariner Way
Aptos, CA 95003

Aptos High review on DGCourseReview.com


UC Santa Cruz Disc Golf Course

The UC Santa Cruz course offers a fun and straightforward nine-hole round of disc golf. Most of the holes have two tee box placements, some of which become rather lengthy in the secondary position. You can find a map of the course with both tee positions here

The course has some minor elevation changes, but doesn’t offer much in the way of obstacles. Due to the location of the course, wind can definitely become a factor and make a round much more challenging when it does.

You can read more about what went into the funding and construction of the course in this article from the City On A Hill Press, the student newspaper for UC Santa Cruz.

UC Santa Cruz Disc Golf Course
1156 High St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95064


Bridge to Bridge Disc Golf Course

Bridge To Bridge is a nine-hole course in downtown’s San Lorenzo Park. It has some nice basket placements nestled between trees and near the edge of the river that make it a fun disc golf version of a “pitch ‘n putt.” Since it’s in a public park that gets a good amount of use, all nine holes are not always playable and tee boxes are not clearly marked out. It is a good place to practice shorter throws and putts on the baskets that are more accessible, which are typically those between Soquel Ave. and the bridge to River St.

Bridge to Bridge review on DGCourseReview.com

santa cruz disc golf

Getting Started:
Disc Golf Basics

You can find discs at many sporting goods stores now, but there are a few preferred spots for local players.

DJ’s Mini Mart, conveniently on the way to DeLaveaga, has a good selection, as does Play It Again Sports in Soquel. For new players, the shop at the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course–also called “The Shack“– may be the best option since experienced players will be able to give advice about which discs are better for beginners.

Where To Buy Discs In Santa Cruz

DJ’s Mini Mart 833 Water St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 426-1722

Play It Again Sports 4770 Soquel Dr. Soquel, CA 95073 (831) 475-1988

DeLaveaga Disc Golf Shop  401 Upper Park Rd. Santa Cruz, CA 95065 (831) 423-7214 

Resources For Learning Disc Golf

Throwing Charts – PDFs from Innova Discs that explain the basics of disc throwing form and technique.

Glossary of Terms – Another resource from Innova and one that you’ll need if you’re new to the game.

Stability Guide – A simple explanation of which discs will go right or left when you throw them, also known as “stability.” Good information to know and helpful when choosing the right disc.

Disc Golf Course Review – The go-to website when it comes to finding a course in your area. They have an excellent mapping feature, course reviews, information and pictures. 

Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) – The PDGA website has information about tournaments, membership (anyone can join), current rankings, and a course directory.

Tournament Coverage – Central Coast Disc Golf is a great Youtube channel for watching local and regional tournament coverage and “In the bag” videos of professional players.

Looking for Wild Cats at Panther Beach

Panther Beach

A panther is hidden in the golden cliffs at a beach about ten miles north of Santa Cruz.

Perhaps you need a wild imagination (or perhaps the aid of psychedelics), but all I could see after blurring my vision, crossing my eyes, and staring intently at a mix of mudstone and sandstone, was red, yellow, and gray rock marred by graffiti and decorated with a mix of coastal buckwheat, sage, and yarrow.

If you want to try your luck at spotting the elusive wildcat in the cliffs, drive north along Highway 1, just past Laguna Beach and fields of brussels sprouts on your left and run-down shacks inhabited by weary, weathered farm workers on your right, to an unmarked dirt lot on the ocean side of the highway.

Pull off and drive slowly over the deep ruts and piles of shattered window glass — heed this warning and don’t leave any valuables in your car. Park anywhere along the edge of the lot and walk down to the railroad tracks where you’ll see a Coast Dairies State Park sign marking the trailhead to Panther Beach.

The trail down is narrow and overgrown with purple thistle and yellow and white mustard flowers in the spring. It’s also steep enough in some places that the cautious will want to have both hands free or risk a bruised tailbone.

Despite this beach’s less than desirable access point, countless college students (and let’s be fair, probably some non-students as well) flock to this stretch of sand and lug cases of beer, boxes of firewood, beach chairs, bags of fast food, and entire watermelons down the slippery sandstone hillside. Then they leave it all there, including half the watermelon. [Read more…]

Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough

kayaking in Elkhorn Slough

Have you ever dreamt of taking an African safari?

From the safety of a jeep, you watch wide-eyed as a leopard silently stalks unsuspecting antelopes, a pride of lions escapes the shimmering heat in the shade of an Acacia tree, and a herd of elephants, ears flapping and trunks swinging, shake the savannah as they lumber dangerously close to where you sit spellbound by the wild landscape that surrounds you.

We may not have leopards and elephants, but we do have rafts of otters, piles of harbor seals, and flocks of pterodactyl-like pelicans. And you don’t have to observe them from the confines of an off-road vehicle.

Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough is an aquatic safari where you join the animals on their turf. Otters instead of cheetahs climb onto your mode of transport and it’s the deep rumbling bellow of the California sea lion that makes you jump out of your seat.

Harbor seals bask in the sun, otters furiously clean their faces after a tasty meal of urchin, and sea lions slap their flippers, playfully splashing water just inches from the kayak.

Pelicans fly overhead, so close that you could almost reach up and touch them. Suddenly they fold in their wings and turn their beaks earthward in a graceful dive that ends with a muffled “kerplunk.” A great blue heron stands in the muddy shallows, staring intently at a fish hiding just below the surface. Your paddle catches on kelp fronds, giving you the perfect excuse to stop paddling for a moment and just take in everything around you. [Read more…]