Golf with a little white ball isn't the only game in town.
Columbia County is now the international headquarters for people who play golf with little round discs.
Wildwood Park in northern Columbia County recently became the international headquarters of the Professional Disc Golf Association, which moved from Toronto. By May 2006, the National Disc Golf Center at the park will be home to the PDGA headquarters; the Disc Golf Hall of Fame, now in Atlanta; the Headrick Memorial Frisbee Museum; three championship disc golf courses; and a pro shop.
"This is the first time our sport has ever had one place where we could consolidate all of our resources and really concentrate on promoting the sport better," said Brian Graham, the center's committee chairman and the founder of the Augusta Disc Golf Association. "We hope to bring in large international events to our area including the professional world championships and the amateur world championships."
After resolving nearly a year of visa problems to enter the United States from Canada, Graham said, he expects Brian Hoeniger, the association's executive director and the PDGA's membership manager, to arrive next week, after the Masters Tournament.
Construction on the three courses will begin as soon as the Department of Natural Resources completes necessary environmental studies.
"We hope to have equipment installed and some courses playable by the middle to the end of the summer," Graham said. "Disc golf, unlike ball golf, you don't have to have meticulously manicured fairways and greens.''
Graham expects many of the nearly 26,000 PDGA members and other disc golf enthusiasts to visit the center and attend the various regional, national and international events held there.
"(Residents) are going to be really surprised at how big it is and how many people will come to this area from around the world just to see this facility and compete and train here," Graham said, adding that he hopes the large events will make an economic impact on the area. The last world championship event attracted players from 17 countries and throughout the United States.
Graham said construction on the 27,000-square-foot building will begin later this year and be complete by May 2006.
Graham said he expects the Headrick Memorial Frisbee Museum to be a large attraction, especially to disc collectors.
"It will be the largest Frisbee museum in the world," Graham said, adding that the inventor of the modern-day frisbee, Ed Headrick, who also is considered the father of disc golf, died in 2002 and had his ashes converted into collectors discs to be sold to benefit the building.
But Graham said the center will not be just for professionals.
"It's kind of an education center for our sport, too, where we can reach out to the public," said Graham, who also is a board member of the Greater Augusta Sports Council.
"The county is going to benefit from the economic impact of the huge events we are going to bring here, And the county residents are going to have a very affordable sport that they can participate in."
Graham said the courses designed for the world's best players can be adapted to less experienced players. The center also will play host to summer camps and clinics for youths and will allow church, youth or corporate groups to rent the facility.
"This is an opportunity to combine doing something good for the sport that I like and doing something good for the community through the sports council," Graham said.
For more information, call the PDGA temporary headquarters building at Wildwood Park at 261-6342.
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