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Disc golfing gets another whirl

Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Ryan Borstad, one of the course designers, threw a driver on the new "Combine Hills" disc golf course behind the Alexandria Area YMCA. Watching the shot were Trevor Shatek and his son, Trip, and Jason Borstad. The course, spread across about 25 acres of the YMCA's land, will open to the public tomorrow.

A new golf course will open Saturday in Alexandria but you can leave your bag, spiked shoes and clubs at home.

This one is for disc golfers.

A grand opening for the new 18-hole course, located behind or north of the Alexandria Area YMCA building, is set for Saturday, July 10 from noon to 2 p.m. (Watch for signs on the YMCA entrance road.)

The event will feature food, beverages, prizes and fun, say organizers. Local disc golf experts will be on hand to teach people the basics of this popular and growing sport.

Everyone is invited to attend - beginners, pros and spectators.

The city of Alexandria and the Alexandria Area YMCA teamed up to build the new course.

Alexandria agreed to donate the equipment - baskets, directional signs, tee bases and markers - that were once used at the disc golf course at Fillmore-Dean Melton Park. The city closed that course last fall after receiving complaints from neighbors in the residential area.

The park location was far from ideal, according to city leaders and disc golfers. Even the players were worried about hitting children in the park's playground or families enjoying other parts of the park.

There are no worries about that now. The YMCA agreed to provide the land and maintenance for the new course.

Although the course has the same number of holes, 18, as the Fillmore course, that's about where the similarities end, according to Bill Thoennes, city park director.

While the Fillmore site was manicured, the YMCA course is much more rustic, he said. There's also a lot more room, with neighbors a comfortable distance away.

"It's a challenging course with a mixture of a little bit of everything," he said. "There are some shorter holes for amateur players and longer ones for those who want to reach out and touch the end of the Earth."

To help design the course, Thoennes called local disc golfers Trevor Shatek and Ryan Borstad to see if they'd be interested. He received a quick answer: Yes.

"The community needs a disc golf course," Shatek said. "This is a great course. Disc golfing is inexpensive and it's something everyone can play."

Shatek and Borstad, working on their own, came up with essentially the same design for the course. It features two par-5s, eight par-3s and eight par-4s.

City crews took over from there, trimming brush and clearing some areas to accommodate the design.

The course was named "Combine Hills" in homage to the old farm equipment that can be found around there, including a rusty McCormick combine. "It adds character to the course," Shatek said.

Thoennes said the layout is almost like two courses in one. The less experienced players can complete nine holes and end up about where they started while the more seasoned players can continue on to play another nine holes, which are longer and more challenging. The holes vary in length from about 250 feet to 350 feet.

Word of mouth about the new course is already sweeping through disc golfing circles, said Thoennes. The Disc Golf Association (DGA) will be upgrading its website soon to include Combine Hills, he added.

The YMCA is looking into the possibility of hosting tournaments later this summer.

The sport draws players from all over the country, Thoennes said.

"There were times when I'd go down there [the Fillmore course] and the course would be full, with four or five people in each group," Thoennes said. "There'd be more than 100 people playing at a time. It's crazy."

"Disc golf has exploded in the last 10 years, especially in Minnesota," said Borstad.

As was the case at the old course, it's free to play disc golf. You don't have to be a member of the YMCA either.

You do, however, need a disc and local vendors, including Cowing Robards and Super America, plan to stock up. The YMCA will also have discs available.

The course will be open from sunup to sundown.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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