Williston disc golf course expands to 18 holes

Alexandra Whitbeck

The People Sentinel

Williston Town Park -new | Thoroughbred Country

Ribbon was cut and discs were thrown at the newly expanded Williston Disc Golf Course on Saturday, June 4. What was once a nine-hole course has grown to a tournament sanctioned 18-hole course with the help of some dedicated players. Town council members, community members, and disc golf enthusiasts joined at the Williston Town Park to officially open the nine newly added holes to the public. Adding nine more holes expands the course to nearly 1,900 ft. and sanctions it as a Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) tournament ready course.

The course was initially opened in 2019 with help from a coalition connected to the Axis I Center of Barnwell. The excitement and involvement that grew around the original nine holes spurred Dalton Mundy and father, Hal Mundy, to start the Williston Disc Golf Club. "The club was put together with the main idea of developing the course and developing the sport in our town," said Dalton Mundy.

Before the creation of the club and course in 2019, Dalton said there was little interest in disc golf in Williston. Now with 30 members, the Williston Disc Golf Club is gaining momentum. However, the sport is not only exploding in Bamwell County, but across the country. "The sport of disc golf has grown substantially in the past few years, and we are excited to bring it to our town and see where it can blossom from there," said Dalton. Moments before the blue ribbon was cut welcoming the new additions to the course, Dalton shared a PDGA statistic sent to him by his father. Mundy explained how during a 42-year span between 1976 and 2018, there were just over 111,000 PDGA members. In only the four years between 2018-2022, PDGA membership doubled to over 222,000. The sport of disc golf is growing rapidly. Seventy-one percent of courses were built in the last decade and there has been a 15 percent increase in course construction since 2020, according to UDisc's 2022 Disc Golf Growth Report.

The construction and new addition to the Williston Disc Golf Course not only comes at a height in the sport's popularity but will benefit the community. "We've got people from Georgia, North Carolina, and all-over South Carolina coming to play our course in little ol' Williston," said Town Councilman Eric Moody. "When you host a tournament, our local businesses will get business from it." Moody explains how bringing people into Williston through something active and interesting will continue to aid the local economy and bring the community together. Pam Rush is the executive director at the Axis I Center of Barnwell and has been serving the community at the center for almost 35 years. This concept of promoting outdoor activity and community togetherness with the introduction of the course was something she agreed on when the first nine holes were established in 2019.

HEALing Partners is a network of partners all working toward creating a healthier Barnwell County. According to their Facebook, "HEALlng Partners is a community coalition that is focused on preventative health measures such as healthy eating, active living, and routine health screenings. HEALing Partners collaborates with the community to implement evidence-based interventions." The coalition is formed of many initiatives and is supported by the Axis I Center, which serves as the lead and fiscal agent for the grant that formed HEALing Partners. HEALing Partners provided the necessary equipment for the course's 18-hole expansion. "About three years ago, we had some grant funds and we talked to the Town of Williston about what their needs were as far as increasing the amount of available, safe, and accessible equipment for people to play and exercise," said Rush, who is a member of HEALing Partners and other initiatives supporting activity in Barnwell County. "Our role is to increase opportunities for active play. They said disc golf. We want to start a disc golf course. And we're like okay ... but what's disc golf? We knew nothing about disc golf," said Rush. Although it’s growing rapidly, disc golf is not as well-known as other sports. Rush and other coalition members were some of many who were not familiar with the sport.

According to Dalton, there was little interest in disc golf in the area before the course and initial nine holes were built. "The general idea is getting from the starting area to the finishing area in the fewest amount of throws or strokes," explains Dalton. "You start at a tee pad {starting area) and you throw a disc, a slightly modified disc when compared to a regular frisbee. With the goal of getting in a basket that has chains and then a bottom basket cage that it lands in." Similarly, to what Dalton refers to as the traditional 'ball golf,' however many throws it takes a player to get a disc in the basket would be the player's score. Although Dalton is very familiar with the intricacies of the sport, the coalition donating the equipment was not. "So, we did a little research and started looking at what you needed for a disc golf course," explained Rush. "And luckily we found Dave Sexton." Dave Sexton started playing disc golf in the 90s and taught his children to value the sport. Sexton is a household name on the Williston Disc Golf Course as its original designer. "When I read in The People Sentinel years ago that Williston was going to put a disc golf course at the town park, I went and met the town administrator. Didn't know him but I told him who I was, and that I'd been playing disc golf for over 20 years, and I'd like to see what he had," said Sexton. "What he had was all of the holes close together, which would never work." Sexton was granted by the town to take the lead on the construction of the course due to his experience playing the sport. "I made this park for beginners. Every hole is different. You learn skills that you can take somewhere else," said Sexton. Sexton, like Dalton and Hal Mundy, recognizes the growing popularity of the sport. "It's not just one person, everybody chips in together. The growing sport of disc golf, like Dalton said, has grown so much and it's going to continue to grow because it has no boundaries," said Sexton. He also agrees with Moody about the course's potential to aid the local economy, in Williston as the town purchased the land needed to add the additional nine holes. "It's going to bring revenue into the town," said Sexton. "When you have a tournament, people come and stay. They come and eat. They buy gasoline, they go to the grocery store, all that adds up. So, the investment (the town) made is going to come back to them and the people of this community."

With the expansion of the course to 18 holes, PDGA sanctioned tournaments can now be held in Williston. Sexton attributes these improvements to both Dalton and Hal Mundy. "In the meantime, I got old and I can't do as much. So, Hal and Dalton took the reins and ran with it and I'm so proud of them. They've done an outstanding job," said Sexton. "People are gonna come from all over the state because this is new. You've got the easy part that I designed, and the hard part that Hal and Dalton designed." Hal Mundy calls himself a jack of all trades. He not only has big goals for the course but has watched it and the club grow over the past three years. "Three and a half years ago when the course started, I started playing a little bit and then really got involved in tournament play at other places," said Hal. "I was using this as a practice place because we couldn't have a tournament as it was only nine holes at the time." Hal started playing sports in school and wanted to continue after graduating. He played competitive softball for many years before stopping due to the risk of injury in the sport. "That's when I picked up disc golf. I was like there's no way really I could get hurt playing disc golf. But then the first year of playing disc golf, I stepped in a hole and tore my MCL," said Hal. "Never been hurt playing any other sports." However, a torn knee ligament did not stop Hal from playing a sport that provides him friendship and fellowship. "Going to Augusta and going to Columbia to play, going to Orangeburg and playing in tournaments. We've met these guys over time, and it's just become a friendship," said Hal. "And then we do this as a fellowship thing. It's just good to get together and fellowship and have a fun game of disc golf."

Many of those present at the ribbon cutting ceremony attributed the success of the course to Hal and Dalton. "All we had to do was give them the equipment and they did everything else," said Rush of HEALing Partners. "The town came to us and said that they had bought the additional land and wanted to consider putting in an additional nine holes," said Hal. He and Dalton then got to work. "During the cooler months, when I got off my full-time job, I'd come straight here and work until dark every day," said Hal. "I've got to be active doing something. So, it's either working on the course, or my full-time job, or my side job or on the course playing." Dalton and his father are dedicated to supporting the game of disc golf as well as advancing the opportunities for activity and growth in Williston.

Through the club, Hal and Dalton are already planning events for the new nine holes. Hal explained how their goal was to have three sanctioned tournaments a year. Each tournament would normally draw from 70 to 90 people. "That way it would bring revenue to the town," he said. Not only is the Williston Disc Golf Club spreading the word about the game, but they are creating a unique place to play the game. "Some of the unique characteristics about our course is obviously the pond, so that adds a level of difficulty," said Dalton. The newer holes or 'second half' to the course "is more wooded, which adds a challenge," said Dalton. Although the wooded areas are not out of bounds, "it makes it tough because you're having to throw around trees or footing is off," explained Dalton. "Another unique characteristic about our course compared to some other courses in the area is that not many courses feature bamboo. So, it also adds a scenic component," said Dalton in reference to hole 13. Rush is happy to see the sport and course grow in recent years and states she and HEALing Partners are delighted to be a partner in this endeavor. "It's such a joy to see it grow so much over the last three years and know that people are getting out," said Rush. "That's what we love to see, is families out exercising, playing together, because we know that when families are together and involved in positive activities, that they're less likely to go out and do things that are more harmful."

The Williston Disc Golf Club is already scheduling tournaments on the course. "We have our first PDGA sanctioned tournament on July 16. It's already nationally posted on UDisc," said Moody. "Right now, we've got about half full. That's pretty good for the first time." Half full in a disc golf tournament is roughly 30 people out of the desired 70. Hal and Dalton plan to continue building up the sport in Barnwell County. The father and son duo will not only continue bettering the course but bettering each other at the sport. "When we first started playing, I could beat him every time, but now I can't beat him. He's progressively got so much better," said Hal. "But I do beat him on occasion. And that's a good thing, when pops can beat son." Hal also expressed his excitement to involve his grandson in the sport in the future. HEALing Partners plans to continue working to better the park alongside the Mundys. "We're also looking at partnering with them to add some outside exercise equipment and we're still working with them to add some other things to the park so that families can come and have a safe place to exercise, play and have fun," said Rush.