The new course in Watsonville’s Pinto Lake County Park – or at least a temporarily nine-hole version – is now officially open, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday, March 1st. Each hole has a concrete teepad, Mach III basket, and sweet tee sign with a color map of the hole. Turnout at the Grand Opening was excellent considering the rainy conditions, and attendees includes an encouraging mix of die hard disc golfers (from as far away as SoCal), local community members, and even county officials and some of California Conservation Corps members who worked on the course. It’s hard to find the words to describe how stoked I am about this course, but I’ll try. It really comes down to two things- the course, and the community.
When I started playing DeLaveaga is the late 80′s, it was the only disc golf course with baskets within 100 miles. And except for Berkeley, there were no other courses in the Bay Area or Central Coast. And it stayed that way for quite a long time. And then other courses started popping up in Monterey, San Jose, and eventually right here in Santa Cruz County. But none of these courses even approached DeLaveaga’s combination of challenge, beauty, variety, and professional tees and baskets. The Oaks course at CSUMB Monterey probably comes closest but still falls short in a number of ways. Around Santa Cruz we’re blessed to now have Black Mouse and Aptos High, but I still choose DeLa 90 percent of the time because, well, if you have a choice between driving a Rolls Royce and a serviceable Ford Taurus, which you gonna choose?
The point is, if the first nine holes and designer Tom Schot’s description of the longer, more open back nine are any indication, Pinto Lake Championship Disc Golf Course is going to rival Dela on all fronts. Also, for those that don’t know, Tom designed DeLa 25 years ago and is in the disc golf hall of fame. Usually a masterpiece can only be topped by the author of that masterpiece.
To me, Pinto Lake is potentially a symbol of disc golf as a unique and appealing sport. Golf is a great game, possibly the greatest game in the history of the world. But due to socioeconomic limitations and to a lesser extent degree-of-difficulty barriers, a large majority of the world never gets to experience the game of ‘stick golf’.
Enter disc golf. Affordable for everyone, easy to learn, and a sport that definitely brings divergent groups together rather than separate them into the haves and have-nots, can and can-nots. I see this in the near future being illustrated at Pinto Lake as much as anywhere on the planet. The course will initially attract a majority of seasoned disc golfers as they hear about the incredible challenge that Tom Schot has built into the design. But local kids will become a bigger and bigger part of the equation as they look for something to do while their parents play on the adjacent soccer fields in adult leagues (which are a big deal in Hispanic-dominant Watsonville). Then some of those kids will get better in a hurry, and grow older and stronger, and all the while their families and friends will hear about their new obsession.
Pretty soon we’ll see disc golf spreading through an entirely new demographic group in Santa Cruz County, and then that group will mesh with other divergent groups that already play the sport . . . and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m just glad we now have plenty of courses from which to choose. I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna need ‘em!
Bonus Info: Tom told me that the ‘back nine’ holes will likely be spliced into the existing nine between holes 3 and 4 or maybe 4 and 5. That means the holes now know as 4-9 are likely to eventually be changed to holes 13-18. Or something like that.