Australia just had its 70th disc golf course installed this past week. Compared to most other recreational facilities, our sport imposes quite minimal hardware on the environment: in this case it’s nine baskets, eighteen tee-pads, a practice basket and some signage. The installation took a matter of days. But the real story of the Bald Hill Park Disc Golf course, in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs, stretches back further than that. It’s a story of how driven individuals, clubs, municipalities and professional designers all come together to establish a community facility.
The story begins three and a half years ago at a Melbourne Disc Golf Club community league day in Aspendale. That day the City of Kingston Mayor, Councillor Georgina Oxley, along with Councillors David Eden and Tamsin Bearsley, saw disc golf for the first time, tried it for themselves and were sold on what it could bring to the community. Then the long process began.
‘It did seem to stall a few times’ Said Melbourne Disc Golf Club’s point-man for the project, Darren Stace-Smith. ‘There were initial meetings with the City of Kingston’s sports and recreation staff. They researched the feasibility of a few different parks and we worked hand-in-hand with them all the way. But it’s a big municipality, over 200,000 residents, so there are a lot of people who needed to, or just wanted to, have input. It all takes time. Everything was done with the support of the club (Melbourne Disc Golf Club). Members wrote letters of support and they got behind every community event we held.’
The Bald Hill Park story seems to be one of patience and persistence on many fronts. ‘Fergie (Recreational Activity Design’s Andrew Ferguson) was instrumental’, Darren said. ‘I know he went above and beyond plenty of times; patiently dealing with all of the requests that were made of him and, of course, being a major input on the design.’
‘There’s a lot of disc golfers who’d like these things to happen quickly’ said Andrew Furguson. ‘But you’ve got to be in it for the long haul. Especially with the city of Kingston. They were very diligent in ensuring this was going to be a top-class facility; so as well as evaluating the site, we also worked in with a risk management consulting firm and an environmental consultancy before engaging with the contractors themselves.’
The project survived a vote at three council meetings: one to begin consultation, one to approve the project and one to approve spending the money to install. ‘Bald Hill wasn’t always the council’s first choice,’ said Darren. ‘But I kept dragging it back into the conversation because it was definitely our preferred park’.
Fresh from enjoying the first round of doubles with his MDGC mates at the new course. Darren spoke of the positive reactions already seen from the locals. ‘Everyone I’ve talked to is excited about it’, he said. ‘One of the old blokes who came over had actually worked on the park from when they converted it from a rubbish tip. He knows where the old car bodies are buried, and his kids had planted some of the trees there. The park is criss-crossed with walking paths and most people tend to stick to them. Whereas the disc golf course uses a different area to that. The old fella noticed that and said that ‘it was nice to see the park being used for something else besides walking.’
In the community consultation process the course had an unprecedented high approval rating of close to 96% (where 50-60% is more the norm with projects that get the green light). Municipalities all over Australia are looking for ways to get people recreating in parks and, although we may be biased, we believe that disc golf is one of the best avenues for this.
After all of his work, Darren Stace-Smith was relieved when the project was confirmed. ‘When the contractor got hired to do the installation – that’s when I knew it was happening.’ He said. ‘We’d had an approved course map sitting there for a year but up until then I always worried the bottom might fall out of the project, until a month ago.’
‘It’s nice to have installed a course where there’s nothing left to do,’ Said Andrew. ‘Baskets, tee-pads, signage, a practice basket as well as all of the promotional material provided to the council. It’s fully completed. Now we’ll just work with them to help promote the course in the community.’
For more information about disc golf in Melbourne, contact the Melbourne Disc Golf Club.
story by Kingsley Flett