A half-dozen or so people were outside Monday afternoon tossing mini frisbees at Watson Island’s new disc golf course, while Russ Hamilton worked on tidying up a tee pad in preparation for the course’s grand opening tournament Saturday, Nov. 16.
Hamilton has played disc golf for 35 years and had long imagined a course on Watson Island amidst the cottonwood trees just south of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, 641 Struthers Ave.
Two years ago he went to city council with the idea.
“The city gave us permission to use the land (as part of the Los Colonias project) after we told them we’d clean it up for nothing,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton, Brian Seeman and a handful of other volunteers, mostly members of the Grand Valley Disc Golf Association, have spent the last couple of years hauling out more than 40 semi-truckloads of debris — brush, cut-down tamarisks, old tires, radiator hoses — in preparation of building a fairway in the spot.
“It’s my way of giving back to the sport,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had so much fun playing it.”
Hamilton and Seeman designed and built a 13-hole course that will eventually include 18 holes. Disc golf is similar to regular golf, although instead of using a club to knock a ball into a hole in the ground, players throw small plastic discs (frisbees) from long distances aiming to land them in the metal baskets of each “hole.”
The city’s Park and Recreation department pitched in roughly $400 per basket, and $150 per tee pad to build the course, said Hamilton, who raised an additional $1,500 toward the project by asking for business donations. He’s also working with the Riverfront Commission, where people can make tax-deductible contributions for the course, he said.
Saturday’s tournament fee of $30 will go toward the development of the final five holes.
“We’re also trying to raise money for benches next to the T-pads,” Hamilton said.
The course starts near the pedestrian bridge that connects to Orchard Mesa and ends by the Colorado River just west of the botanical gardens.
“It is amazing to see a disc flying through the air more than the length of a football field,” Seeman said.
Some holes provide good views of the Colorado River.
“The river will come into play, especially on windy, spring days,” he said.
Seeman, 43, began playing the sport in 2008.
“It’s inexpensive, outside, and I’m an outdoor person,” he said. “It’s one of the few sports you can remain competitive no matter what age you are.”
Several local businesses have helped with donations to make the course happen, including REI, Community Hospital, Cruiser’s Bar and Edgewater Brewery — where there will be discounted drinks and awards given out after the tournament.
“Disc golf is the fastest growing sport in the world,” and is played in the valley all year-round, Hamilton said. “We hope this (new course) helps grow the sport locally.
“I’ve been wanting to have a course here since 1998 when the disc golf club (then called Flat Top Flyers) was formed.”
The Grand Valley Disc Golf Club built the course at Riverbend Park in Palisade and is talking to Delta’s parks department about someday building a fairway in that town. Another Grand Junction course at West Lake Park near West Middle School has outgrown the sport’s popularity, Seeman said.
The discs are sold at various businesses such as Triple Play Records, Hastings and The Cash Company.
He and Hamilton designed the Watson Island course so that the baskets can be moved around (by them) to different positions occasionally to change the difficulty and vary the course.
On Monday, cottonwood trees were beginning to lose their yellow leaves, which will open and change the course as well.
“I can’t wait for summertime when all the leaves will be on the trees and it will be a completely different course,” Hamilton said.
Leaves will block the lanes making it a “tougher, tighter course,” he said.
Registration for the tournament starts at 9 a.m., followed by a players meeting at 10. Tee Time is at 10:30 a.m. with the tournament ending around 4 p.m. There will be a break mid-day for lunch.
Players will receive a disc and chance to win prizes. A practice basket and donations from REI will be raffled as well.