A small crowd of Bulloch County officials and disc golf fans gathered Friday afternoon to christen the county’s first Disc Golf Course.
Not long after the remarks and ribbon-cutting, several disc golfers gleefully flicked their flying discs down the course, on Mill Creek Road, just off U.S. Highway 301 North.
It was a taste of what’s to come. Today, the course will host its first tournament, the First Flight Open, featuring 90 players from Georgia and Florida. The course will officially open to the public on Sunday, and it will be open only during daylight hours because it has no lights.
The fact that 90 people registered for the tournament today — the limit — is a testament to just how popular the Disc Golf Course will be, said Mike Rollins, the director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.
“It’s going to be a great day,” Rollins said. “I would invite you out to see the players — especially some of these experienced players. It’ll be fun to watch and a great opportunity to learn yourself if you’re not a disc golf player.”
The 70-acre course has 27 holes total — an 18-hole regulation course and a nine-hole course for beginners. Russell Schwartz, the director of special projects at Innova Disc Golf, based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, designed the Bulloch County course.
“It goes without saying that Bulloch County’s always pleased to be able to expand its recreational opportunities for the community, and especially with a growing, emerging, popular sport like disc golf,” County Manager Tom Couch said. “And I think part of the beauty of disc golf is, it’s relatively inexpensive to play and affords an opportunity for a lot of people in our community, and perhaps elsewhere, to come play that sport.”
County Commissioner Roy Thompson sported a flying disc as he walked up to comment during the ceremony.
“There is minimum amount of money that’s been put into this,” he said. “But for the enjoyment everyone’s going to get out of it, it’s going to be great.”
Rollins said the Disc Golf Course cost between $25,000 and $30,000 — exact figures were not immediately available Friday afternoon. He said the cost was paid for from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money.
While Innova designed the course, the actual work to clear the land and place the cement launching pads and baskets that serve as holes for the flying discs was done by Parks and Recreation staff. It took about six months for the staff to construct the course.
For the uninitiated, disc golf is like regular golf in that the object is to advance along a golf course using as few strokes — or in this case, throws — as possible. But instead of hitting a ball with a club, the golfer tosses the disc. And instead of aiming for a hole, the golfer aims for a basket in which to land the flying disc.
The tee area is a cement pad, from which a player can launch the flying disc using any chosen method. Some will spin around several times and hurl the disc like a shot put or a discus. Others will take a few steps and flick the disc like someone casually tossing a Frisbee in a field.
Michael Clements, of Soperton, and Clay Akins, of Twin City, were introduced to disc golf through a class at East Georgia State College, which has a course on its main campus in Swainsboro. Both of them are part of a team of East Georgia students who plan to participate in the tournament today, so they took a practice run after the ribbon-cutting Friday.
“I love golf, for one, but it’s so expensive to go and play golf,” Akins said. “And I got in on this and it’s really inexpensive, and it’s exactly like golf. It’s fun for the whole family. I mean, anybody can do it.”
He added that he and his friends are excited to have another disc golf course reasonably close to Swainsboro that they can frequent.
“The one at East Georgia’s the only one that we’ve known about around here,” Akins said. “So we go out there and play three or four times a week. So it’ll be nice having somewhere else to kind of catch a break and go play.”
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.