Volunteers bring disc golf to Holly Springs

akenney@newsobserver.comJuly 24, 2013 

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Will Godwin of Raleigh lets a shot fly at the Middle Creek disc golf course.

THE CARY NEWS FILE PHOTO — THE CARY NEWS FILE PHOTO

— A local athletic league has found a new way to spread its sport.

Finding few places to play disc golf, the Cary Area Disc League set off on a course-building campaign.

Holly Springs will be the site of the group’s newest project, a series of 18 baskets, or “holes,” where anyone can play a round of the golf-flying disc hybrid.

The new course – Holly Springs’ first – will wind through the woods of the town-owned Jones Park.

While a town might pay tens of thousands of dollars for a typical park amenity, the disc golf enthusiasts are taking a fee of only $1,800, which they’ll use to promote their sport. The group’s hundreds of volunteers already have worked for months to lay out the course and clear brush.

Like other budding sports, disc golf’s local success may depend on its acceptance by local governments. Municipalities offer the best access to the land and resources needed to set up playing areas.

And with many towns pushing to expand recreation, now might be the best time to place a new sport in the public arena.

“It’s really about strengthening the relationships with the towns,” said Jay Pontier, president of Cary Area Disc League. His group already has helped build the Middle Creek disc golf course and continues to volunteer at Cary parks.

“It’s in our heart to volunteer, but at the bottom of it what we’ve always wanted to do is build more courses in the area,” said Pontier, who founded the Cary league in 2008.

Holly Springs’ new course is scheduled to open later this year, though the exact timeline isn’t set.

The town of Apex already plans to open its first municipal disc golf course in early 2014, and enthusiasts are eager to help.

To further fund the Holly Springs course, Cary Area Disc League may hold fundraisers to offset the cost of equipment; Len Bradley, director of parks and recreation, estimates that Holly Springs will pay about $25,000 for baskets and tee boxes.

The volunteer labor and design services saved the town up to $100,000, Bradley said.

Recruiting new members

Disc golf has its roots in the 1960s, when players threw discs at just about any target they could find.

Today, a typical “hole” requires players to throw discs from a tee toward a basket about 100 yards away.

Pontier played golf for years before trying the disc-based version. He has come to see disc golf as a convenient, accessible take on the sport.

“I market disc golf as a lifetime fitness venue, four years old to 100 years old. You can get out with your family,” he said.

A short course might take 30 minutes to an hour to play, Pontier added.

His group also is trying to recruit new players. League members “promote disc golf in underprivileged areas” with free sessions, he said.

And Pontier hosts Thursday sessions through the summer that pair beginners with experts at Middle Creek’s course.

The advocacy push is paying off: Some day soon, Pontier thinks, local towns will build courses on their own.

And he already has piqued the interest of the Holly Springs Town Council.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the golf course were like that?” Councilman Chet VanFossen said of the open-access courses. “You just walk up and play.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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