Top disc golf course not settling for par
COLUMBIA - Columbia Parks and Recreation had big plans in mind when it first started building a championship level disc golf course.
The plan began in 2010 with the implementation of the park sales tax. Parks and Rec looked to Strawn Park and asked what it could build for the community, settling on a championship level disc golf course. It hired renowned disc golf course designer John Houck, who immediately saw the potential Strawn Park had.
"I knew the first time we saw it that it had world class potential," Houck said in an email. "We always hope for mature trees, interesting terrain, and water features, and Harmony Bends has all three -- in abundance."
Houck's last obstacle was figuring out how much support he had from the city and community to take chances in his design of the Strawn Park course.
"I would say that every time I start a new course, my goal is to make the best possible course I can and to do things people haven’t seen before," Houck said. "The city showed early on they were committed to making it the best it could be, and the local players did an amazing job as well."
Six years after Parks and Rec began planning, Harmony Bends Disc Golf Course opened to the public, and is getting national recognition.
Disc Golf Course Review, a national rankings website, now has Harmony Bends as the top disc golf course in the country.
"To get to the number one ranking is pretty exciting," Columbia Parks Services Manager Gabe Huffington said. "I don't think we figured that would happen as soon as it did, but it definitely helps us draw interest from other communities. People now drive to Columbia to play disc golf which is one of the things we really wanted to do with the project."
Columbia's Disc Golf Club President Joe Douglass said it's pretty common to see people from places other than Missouri playing at Harmony Bends.
"We get a lot of people from out of state, out of town coming here," Douglass said. "I've seen plates from Colorado, Alaska, Illinois, Iowa. It's pretty common to see a lot of people from pretty far come play here."
George Smith, owner of Show Me Disc Sports, is excited to see more people coming to Columbia to play the course.
"[We get] easily five [out-of-town groups] a week, at least I would think," Smith said.
Now, Parks and Rec is planning a phase two of development at Strawn Park. It wants to add parking, shelters, bathrooms and a second championship level course.
"We knew we had the renewal of the park sales tax in November of 2015, and so we started to talk about 'let's put money towards a phase two project from Strawn Park' and we started to look at 'what would our needs be?'" Huffington said. "We have a plan to put another 18 holes at Strawn Park, so we'll have Harmony Bends and another course that will sit adjacent to it on the same property."
While Huffington believes this will be a huge benefit to the community, the ultimate goal for Strawn Park is something much bigger.
"We've got some folks working on some bids out right now for, for instance, the Women's Disc Golf National Championship," Huffington said. "We would love to bring that to Columbia, be able to show off Columbia to our residents, but then also be able to show off our disc golf course because it has a ranking behind it now. It's very good, it's very challenging for those players so to bring them to Columbia would be very beneficial for us."
Phase two of the Strawn Park project is not scheduled to start until 2020, but Huffington suggested they are already considering plans for phase three depending on if the park sales tax gets renewed again in 2021.
In the meantime, the Parks and Rec Department is already back in touch with Houck about what a second disc golf course at Strawn Park would look like, and what he would be looking to do with a second chance at the park he already designed a masterpiece on.
"I am excited about the challenge of creating a second course that can complement Harmony Bends and, I hope, be in the same elite class of courses," Houck said. "Parts of the new course will be similar to Harmony Bends, but parts will also have a different flavor, so I’m looking forward to continuing some of the same themes and creating some new ones. I just wish we didn’t have to wait two more years."