Jim Barnett Park Disc Golf CoursePDF: Map of the Disc Golf Course
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By J.R. Williams -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Stand in line with the fairway, concentrate and take your best shot for the hole.
Keep an eye on the ball, however, and you're playing the wrong sport.
Amateur disc golfers have been teeing off in Winchester since last July, when the Parks and Recreation Department celebrated the completion of it's new nine-hole course at Jim Barnett Park.
Now, those players and the community have something extra to celebrate: The back nine is nearly complete, and the entire course was constructed at minimal cost to the park.
According to parks department employee Mike Nail, the remaining concrete tee pads will be poured immediately, weather permitting. Baskets are on hand and will be installed soon, and updated signs for the entire course are on the way.
"Technically speaking, without signs, it could be [complete] within the first part of next week," he said Thursday.
In disc golf, players use different discs -- putters and drivers, for example -- to hit a certain distance. Standing on the concrete tee pads, a player usually gets a running start before throwing the disc through the air.
The goal is to put the disc in a metal basket about 3 feet in diameter that stands about 3 feet off the ground. Metal chains hanging from a center pole allow accurate mid-air shots to catch and fall into the basket. The special discs can be bought at area retailers.
Incredible Flying Objects at the Bright Center on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, which sponsors the local disc golf club and local tournaments, has plenty.
Scores of professionals compete in tournaments worldwide, and parks officials say the sport is incredibly popular locally. On any sunny day, players are likely to be seen at Barnett or at a nearby course at Sherando Park in Frederick County.
"We can't keep scorecards out there," city Parks and Recreation Director Brad Veach said recently at his office at Jim Barnett. "Every time I go out there it's empty."
The cost for the entire course came in at about $12,000, he said. But thanks to corporate and individual sponsors donating materials, labor and other gifts, cost to the park has been a fraction.
Like the Sherando course, it's free to get out and throw at Barnett.
Winchester has leveraged its resources for a professional course: Slick course maps and signs for each hole were designed by the city's geographic information systems staff. Local businesses and enthusiasts have also lent support.
Each hole has two tees. Ones with a white marker are closer to the basket and often provide a less challenging shot. Advanced tees have blue markers.
All told, the course is 5,177 feet with a par 70 for the white tees. Course length for the advanced tees reaches 6,713 feet, with par still at 70 strokes.
Be prepared for a hike in the woods.
"What's great about it is we use sections of the park that don't get a lot of use," Veach said, but the course has minimal impact to the park. "You're not paving it over, but it's causing people to use those places."
The most common complaint Veach has heard about Winchester's course is that players are worried a line-drive might hit one of the park's many users.
Surprises are in store for players of the full course. Veach described hole 18 as a "monster." At 560 feet from the blue tee, the left hook required to reach the basket will give pause to a professional. Hole 6 -- the course has been re-numbered in places -- will include a raised island for its basket.
Greg Mitchell, 24, of Bluemont, a member of the local Shenandoah Valley Disc Golf Club, said he was eagerly awaiting the new addition.
"I think it's awesome," he said. "I play there a lot with just the nine holes, [but] I can't wait until the whole 18 is in. The course right now is challenging, but I can't wait to see the rest of them."