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Disc golf takes flight at Fisher River Park

Wednesday morning a new 18-hole disc golf course opened at Fisher River Park in Dobson, the location of which is technically on Clearwater Lane next to the county recycling center.

Surry County Parks and Recreation Director Daniel White said that although the course was having its grand opening ceremony, “I do believe there has been some clandestine playing happening. From what I understand the only way you can lay out a disc golf course is to play it clandestinely.”

“I have a lot of excitement,” Adam Santucci of the Surry County Disc Golf club said, calling the opening of the Fisher River Park disc golf course, “A momentous occasion to our community.”

His club is trying to grow the sport locally and they offer training and support to aspiring players. The new course will be a draw to new players and the skilled alike, “With the help of George (Sappenfield), our new course has been designed with the upmost care and attention to detail, taking into account the natural beauty and topography. It will definitely test your skills no matter how good you think you are.”

“This is exciting, and something new,” Dobson Mayor Ricky Draughn said. He recalled playing Frisbee as a child, “but I had no idea there was so much involved and that many courses. This has piqued my interest and maybe this is something I can do – even at my age.”

“This will be a whole new addition and will bring more people to the park and the park is already a pivotal part of the community. This will draw new people into the area and when they are here maybe we can encourage them to enjoy our area. Once people get here maybe they will enjoy it and see how great place it is to live.”

White took a moment to brag on Fisher River Park itself which the county purchased in 1870, “and has been taking care of the hearts, minds, and souls of individuals; and we’re still feeding the soul today. It is a blessing to be a steward of something as important as Fisher River Park.”

“Fisher River Park brings in a lot of folks from around the county and everyone benefits from it,” Surry County Commissioner Mark Marion said. “This is just another addition to everything we already furnish for everyone: schools, cross country races, bikes races, and all the baseball and softball.”

“You look around and see all the hard work going on around here, so a big shout out to Daniel White, Bradley Key, and all the folks over there in the green jackets, the whole crew at Surry Parks and Rec,” he said.

Key was noticeably excited as the grand opening kicked off. “I’m a disc golfer, so this day is extra special to me.”

He admitted some initial trepidation to the project. “When Daniel called me and said we got approval to start on this piece of land, I remember being not too excited about it.”

“I didn’t think it could work on this parcel of land because it was so thick, it was hard to envision we could put an 18-hole disc golf course together. After a few more trips through the woods, we identified the trees to keep and found the fairways and started the process.”

Key said that everything picked up speed once they could see the course from the trees, so to speak, “Then we felt it and we knew that we could have something special here, and the credit goes to the people of Surry County Parks and Rec. Once we started putting our plans together… the momentum just grew and grew.”

“Over the past year we are so blessed to have made it this far,” Key said, thanking the team members for their blood and sweat, “and I put in some tears, so thanks to you all. Our motto is together we can make a difference and today is another example of that.”

The course sits on around eight acres and is a full 18 holes, all par three because of limitations of the size of the parcel of land and its elevation change. Key explained, “Each hole is unique and fun and meanders throughout the property. On the right side of the ridge, it feels different with some old growth trees and nature.”

This course becomes the third 18-hole course in Surry County and Key said there a handful of 9-hole courses as well. “Disc golf is a growing trend throughout the world, and we feel this course design compliments what currently exists here in the Surry County nicely.”

Right now, there is one tee box and one basket for each hole, but there are plans to expand to add extra tee boxes and baskets to create some variation. “Most disc golf courses evolve over time and that is what we expect to happen here,” Surry Parks and Recreation Director Daniel White said.

“At the end of the day, this thing is going to grow, change, be morphed by the players and the people. The first tournament is this weekend so there is momentum already.”

Guest of honor Sappenfield, the originator of disc golf, provided some historical context to the day. “If you look at this hula-hoop and then down at that basket, that’s the evolution of where Frisbee golf started in 1969 and where it is today.”

“I came up with the idea of Frisbee golf, of throwing a Frisbee through a vertical hula hoop because in college as a recreation leader, we needed things for kids to do, so that’s where it started. The irony is that today, 54 years ago today, that happened in Thousand Oaks, California.”

“I loved playing Frisbee from way back, and the International Frisbee Association decided to have all-comers meet where you could go and see how far you could throw, trick catches, and such. I convinced them to add a nine-hole Frisbee golf course on Nov. 2, 1969, and that was the first officially sanctioned Frisbee golf course.”

He said the game is great fun and seeing it continue to grow locally makes his heart smile. This course will be a treat for players because it is technically challenging, “The people who like disc golf the most like technical courses, which this is. It’s not necessarily how far you can throw it, now the pros throw over 600 feet and that’s a normal throw,” Sappenfield explained.

“What’s unique about this course is that I really believe that this is the first one in the world where we have combined nature study and disc golf,” he said.

He then presented perhaps the best case for the novice to try disc golf. “How do you win at disc golf? You have the most fun, that’s it. If you get out and play and have the most fun, you win. So hopefully everybody will win.”



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