Wednesday, 29 August 2018 05:04

Richmond Young Professionals (RYP) and Richmond County – Working Together to Create New Recreational Opportunities for Our Area

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Portion of Proposed Disc Golf Course Portion of Proposed Disc Golf Course Photo by Becky Pierce

ROCKINGHAM - For an area that is considered by most standards to be small and rural, Richmond County has made its mark on the world of sports time and time again.   From its nationally ranked high school football program to hosting a NASCAR track that was considered a favorite by many drivers, Richmond County’s stake in the wide spectrum of sports is undeniable.  

And now, as time moves forward, a group of locals is working to help the area establish a similar reputation in yet another sport: disc golf.

For those who are unfamiliar, disc golf is a hybrid sport that combines elements from both golf and Frisbee-tossing.  According to the Professional Disc Golf Association’s website, “Disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc or Frisbee®. The sport shares with "ball golf" the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest throws).” 

As explained by project organizer David Stogner, “In disc golf, each hole has a tee box in which each player throws a disc down a fairway towards the target. The target in disc golf is a metal basket anchored into the ground. Above the baskets are rings of hanging chains that "catch" the disc when it is thrown, causing the disc to fall into the basket below.” 

Holistically, the sport is considered to be a great source of low impact exercise; the primary facet of the game’s physical aspect comes from walking the distance of the course itself.  Disc golf’s classification as a low- impact, non-contact sport, as well as its notably brief learning curve, make it a great activity for individuals of all ages and athletic abilities.  Plus, with a quality set of discs costing less than $20 and the vast majority of courses being free and open to the public, the sport is also considered to be financially viable for most people. 

With so many positive attributes, it comes as no surprise that disc golf is seeing such an upswing in its overall number of players, and why a group of locals wants to bring a course right here to Rockingham. 

Dreamed up during a round of disc golf at Piedmont Natural Gas’s own 9-hole course, the idea of creating an 18-hole, tournament style course in Rockingham seemed like little more than wishful thinking at first.  However, the desire to accomplish such a task remained in the minds of Stogner and his friends long after they finished their round that day, and the idea seemed to build. 

“The discussion continued and really gained momentum when the idea was mentioned at the RYP yearly planning meeting in December of 2017,” explained Stogner.  “RYP members on the Sports and Athletics Committee, Daniel Webb, Vince Paparella, Jim Wright, and John Thornsbury, were all instrumental in getting the ball rolling and seeing the design and construction through. The idea was presented to Rockingham’s city manager and city planner in the spring of 2018 where it was well-received and the effort was supported.” 

Since then, RYP and the City of Rockingham have been working together to turn the inspired idea into a reality. 

After several meetings, an agreement was made wherein the land for the course, as well as the tee boxes, baskets, staff, and equipment to get the job done, would be paid for by the City. 

“It seemed the only stipulation was that RYP would be fully responsible for designing the course and physically laying it out on site by surveying and flagging all tee-boxes, fairways, and basket locations,” stated Stogner.  

After several weekend site visits, the team finally selected the southern side of Hinson Lake Park as the best location for their project due to its seclusion from other activities, diversity of terrain, minimal environmental impact, and low financial investment.  

“The Hinson Lake facility (officially named the Nona Lee “Pitt” Hinson Cohen Wildlife Conservation Area) is a collaborative effort between the City and the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) that opened in 2006,” explained Assistant City Manager John Massey.  “The NCWRC owns the property, and the City has been responsible for many of the improvements at the facility including the construction of the Rotary Lodge, the walking trails, the footbridge across Hinson Lake, and the picnic shelters.  The City and NCWRC agreed that the addition of a disc golf course on the south side of the lake would provide an additional passive recreational amenity with minimal impact on wildlife habitat.  There was no land cost since the NCWRC already owned the property, making the total investment for all improvements associated with the course an estimated $15,000.” 

But with spring on the horizon and the threat of an infestation of vegetation eminent, the team knew they had to work quickly if they wanted to see their project complete by the end of the year.  So, a written proposal of the course was submitted promptly, and was soon followed by initial approval and the physical examination of the flagged course by Massey, Stogner, and an officer from NC WRC Officer. 

Not only did the proposed course pass inspection, but it was also identified to be a beneficial addition to the area’s ecosystem. 

"The WRC officer stated that the clearing of certain fairways would actually be beneficial to the wildlife in the area because invasive plant species - like wisteria and sweet gums - that were beginning to take over could be better controlled,” said Stogner. 

This final approval was obtained sometime in June and clearing for the project was promptly begun in July. 

Throughout this process it remained extremely important to the project organizers that the course itself be one that was of tournament quality.  

Stogner explained, “We wanted to design a course that offered a little bit of everything: short holes with interesting obstacles; holes with doglegs left and right; and holes with lots of elevation change.  The intent was to have a fun but challenging course that would require players to throw a multitude of different types of shots, which is what a good tournament-level course should have.” 

The result of this planning has been an 18-“hole” course with buckets ranging in distance from 225 feet to nearly 600 feet and varying in difficulty from par 3 to par 5.  The fairways for this course will also vary in regard to the density of foliage and will include a variety of tight-wooded corridors and wide-open spaces. 

Stogner estimates that it would take between 90 minutes to two hours for a group of two or three people to play an entire 18-hole round on this course.  However, he explains that the course has been designed so that a shorter 9-hole round could easily be played in roughly 45 minutes. 

According to Stogner, a course like this one will be a huge benefit to those who already play the sport or who are interested in learning. 

 “For those already involved,” he explains, “it will give Richmond County citizens a ‘home course’ so that they won't have to travel to Laurinburg, Pinehurst or even further to find a place to play. It offers a little-to-no cost event to do with friends and family, and it's an opportunity to spend some time outdoors while getting some quality exercise.” 

But according to Massey, the benefits of hosting such a course in our area span far beyond those enjoyed by the players themselves. 

“The project is another step toward improving the overall quality of life for our citizens.  The new facility will provide another recreational amenity that’s not currently available to citizens in Rockingham,” Massey added. 

At this time the course is in the final stages of construction.  The land has been entirely cleared, all tee boxes and baskets have been installed, and appropriate signage has been ordered.  Installation of such signage is projected to be completed in the next few weeks.  Project organizers are also in the works of planning a formal event to commemorate the official opening of the course later this fall. 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 August 2018 05:52