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Finding a new fairway for disc golf course

fr discgolfPlans are underway to relocate Waynesville’s disc golf course from the sprawling recreation park along Richland Creek to a more secluded forest setting, eliminating the risk of a wayward disc hitting a hapless jogger.

For disc golf players on Waynesville’s 18-hole course, dodging other park users has become almost as challenging as hitting their targets. 

“You don’t want to throw that disc knowing that if it is an errant throw it could hit somebody upside the head,” said Tim Petrea, an avid disc golf player and program supervisor for the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department.

The chainlink baskets of Waynesville’s disc golf course dot the greenway and walking paths where kids ride scooters, moms push strollers and fishermen mosey along the bank. The course loops around the skateboard park bustling with teens, passes the dog park teaming with people and their canine companions and bumps up against the tennis courts.

It’s difficult to overlay a disc golf course amongst all the other park uses, especially as the park’s recreation appeal grows in popularity.

“The good and bad of it is that our town has grown. When we play the course, we are always having to wait on the increased park use we have here in Waynesville,” Petrea said. 

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The town has done what it can to urge caution among the overlapping park users.

“We have flooded the park with signage letting walkers know to please be on the look out for discs, and at each tee-box we have signs telling disc golfers in essence you are responsible for your throw,” said Rhett Langston, Waynesville’s recreation director. “But there have been a few times when someone made an error in throwing or the wind caught it and someone got hit in the head.”

Wide open spaces and long throws are part of the beauty of Waynesville’s disc golf course, but launching a disc over a field of youth soccer players when there’s a game going on can be problematic.

“There aren’t too many players than can do that unless you have a rocket arm that is going to clear the entire soccer field,” Langston said. 

As a result, holes that require long drives over the soccer fields are closed when games are going on, and that can be frustrating to disc golf players who show up to play, sometimes coming from far away to try their hand at Waynesville’s course.

“If there are soccer games going on, that takes out three holes right there, possibly four,” Langston said.

Relocating the disc golf course would fix that.

“What we are trying to do is create a true disc golf course. If you wanted to go play, you knew you could go play,” Langston said. “It would allow people to play without the distraction of other users within the park.”

Disc golf players readily travel long distances to play courses, and Waynesville’s is no exception. 

“People travel to come play this course because there are a couple holes that are considered signature holes,” Petrea said. “It can eat your lunch and at the same time if you do it right, makes you feel pretty good.”

Petrea believes a new disc golf course could be even more of an attraction and amenity, however. 

The town has identified a wooded tract of land in Hazelwood adjacent to the Dutch Fisher Park. The land is privately owned, but the town has negotiated an agreement with the owners to allow for passive recreational use on the tract. At first, the town had trails and a greenway in mind. Now, disc golf has joined the list pending the owner’s approval.

Waynesville happens to have an in-house disc golf designer with Petrea. A member of the Professional Disc Golf Association, he not only plays on the disc golf tournament circuit — exposing him to dozens of courses around the South — he’s designed and installed two courses before.

“I can look at a plot of land and say ‘Man that would be a great place for a disc golf course.’ I let the land tell me how to design that course,” Petrea said.

The new course would be set in the woods rather than the grassy park setting of the current course, but wooded courses are popular due to the added challenge of dodging trees, as well as the innate qualities of spending a couple hours in a forested setting.

When designing the course, Petrea wants to have two tee-off pads for each hole — one that’s further away from the basket for more advanced pro players and one that’s closer for beginners and kids.

The long throws customary for an advanced disc golf course can be a barrier for beginners, something Petrea witnesses when showing seniors how to play for the first time.

“They say ‘Tim, we can’t throw from way back here.’ So I say ‘Just throw from up here’ and it makes the course a little more approachable,” Petrea said.

There’s a downside to moving the disc golf course away from the center of it all. It’s in the limelight now, and its visibility helps introduce new people to the sport.

But a dedicated disc golf course could become a destination of its own. The 16-acre wooded tract the town is eyeing for a new course stretches along Richland Creek for a quarter of a mile in the heart of Hazelwood. Yet it’s rarely noticed. Not far from Waynesville Middle School, it sits a block off Brown Avenue and abuts Dutch Fisher Park.

The disc golf course could inject new life into the under-utilized Dutch Fisher Park, which is little known outside the baseball teams that use its field. The trails through the wooded tract for the course would be a nice amenity even for non-disc golf players, pending a recreation agreement being finalized between the town and the property owners.

“We have a natural urban park and have not advertised that widely at this point, but in coming months we would like to maintain those trails in a better fashion,” Town Manager Marcy Onieal shared with town board members at a recent meeting.

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