The secret to creating an excellent disc golf course is hiring a designer with experience, a creative eye and a desire for fairness, all in the name of love for the game.
Johnny Sias, Lavalette, W.Va., native and three-time disc golf world champion, channeled these characteristics into his masterpiece at Armco Park in Ashland that has recently been rated the third-best course in Kentucky and No. 50 in the United States.
Ashland-Boyd County Disc Golf Club Director Tim Huff said the club is ecstatic to see its frequented course rise to the top of disc golf reviews.
Disc golf is a sport based off the conventional rules of golf, but players throw discs instead of hitting balls and aim for tall, metal baskets instead of holes in the ground.
The rankings were released on the Disc Golf Scene website, which had rankings for the top 27 courses in Kentucky in a list that included around 70 courses overall.
“There are 20 courses in the city of Lexington, 20 in the northern Kentucky and Cincinnati area and several throughout the rest of the state. For our small-town park to get No. 3 is outstanding,” Huff said.
Park Superintendent Paul Helton said since the installment of the disc golf course, activity in Armco Park has increased 10 to 15 percent and continues to grow annually.
“I know that doesn’t sound like much, but on a typical Friday or Saturday, when the weather is pretty, I’d say we have about 900 people throughout our 160-acre park,” he said, attributing a portion of the increased traffic to the course that provides a different kind of entertainment for families than the usual playground set or walking trail.
The course was opened in 2009 and paid for by Boyd County. The county’s proper maintenance of the park facilities is a major attraction to players, according to the online reviews.
“In a way, I’d say we’re spoiled here by the quality of our course here,” Huff said, adding how grateful the club is to host tournaments at a course not overrun by wild brush and trash.
Another unique aspect of the course: concrete tee pads. Huff said most courses use wood or cheaper material for the tee pads that players use to give them a boost before launching initial disc shots at each hole.
Sias said when he designed the course, he focused on fairness and safety.
“I took extra care to provide just about as many shots for right-handed players as left-handed players,” he said, explaining a disc will naturally curve to the left for right-handed players.
Sias said it is easy to tell if a designer is a right-handed player by how many baskets curve to the left.
“You can tell they haven’t been designing for very long,” he said.
Sias has played on courses in more than 20 states, including places in Canada. The course at Armco Park is in his top 10 preferences.
Many from out of state travel to Ashland to enjoy the high-rated course, Huff said, including some from Arizona, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.
Michael Caldwell, originally from Lawrence County, Ohio, moved to Michigan, but was found throwing discs at Armco Park on Thursday. Huff, who is friends with him, said Caldwell makes a point to frequently visit Armco Park when he feels like playing a game or two of golf.
Sias designed the course at Armco Park for free, saying he just wanted a local place to golf. Now, he reveals he will be meeting with members of the Morehead Chamber of Commerce next week to possibly design a course at Cave Run Lake.
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.