By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), there are more than 8,000 courses to play the sport worldwide. Soon, the Qualla Boundary will have a course as the Fire Mountain Disc Golf Sanctuary is set to open in Cherokee in the next few months. The 18-hole course will be located just past the Cherokee Central Schools campus in the Big Cove Community.
According to a press release, “Massive rock formations and rhododendron bunkers add a level of challenge to the course layout. The course will boast impressive concrete tee pads with two unique layouts. The Gold Layout will challenge even the most skilled professional disc golfer. The Red Layout offers exciting, shot-shaping joy for those willing to challenge themselves to earn an elusive birdie. Amenities include three gorgeous putting/practice greens, benches near each tee-pad, clear signage throughout, and a spacious pavilion in the middle of the course.”
Jeremy Hyatt, EBCI Secretary of Operations, said, “We are very excited to have the Fire Mountain Disc Golf Sanctuary opening later this winter. It is another step in our endeavor to make Cherokee an outdoor destination. We think it will provide yet another opportunity to improve our outdoor offerings and amenities for both the general public and tribal families.”
Hyatt added, “It is the perfect complement to the already existing Fish Cherokee program, Fire Mountain Trails, and our imminent improvements to Soco and Mingo falls. This minimal monetary investment and environmentally-responsible project will yield significant gains for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and its citizens for years to come.”
Justin Menickelli, a course architect for Disc Golf Design Group which is designing the course, said in a statement, “You’d have to drive to Charlotte or Morristown, Tenn. to find a course this challenging. And, even then, you won’t find one nearly as beautiful. Players are going to want to compete on this course and while they’re here, we are going to encourage them to check out all that Cherokee has to offer.”
Students at Cherokee Middle School are gearing up for the sport already thanks to a recent grant from the PDGA Diversity and Outreach Grant Program.
Menickelli is also an associate professor in the College of Education and Allied Professions School of Teaching and Learning at Western Carolina University and is the president of the PDGA. He was also a professor for Miranda Stamper, a P.E. teacher at Cherokee Middle, and helped the school with the grant and programming.
“It’s pretty new to us,” said Stamper. “We’ve played before, but it’s just very generic. Then, with the grant that we applied for and received, we got DVD instructional videos, new baskets, and over 75 different discs. So, once it opens up, we’ll be ready to go.”
Stamper said the sport itself is great exercise. “It’s something that people from all different age groups can participate in. It’s a good walking exercise that little kids all the way up to our elders can participate in.”
Within the physical education program at Cherokee Middle, they’ve played other disc games before such as Ultimate Frisbee and they are looking forward to adding disc golf to the repertoire. “We’re learning, but the kids really, really seem to like it, and it will be another thing that we can add to the P.E. program to get these kids active. And, it’s something they can do for the rest of their lives – something to keep them active that they can do with their families as well.”
Koga Hernandez, an eighth grader at CMS, said he really enjoys playing disc golf. “I like to play with my friends and spend time with my family. It’s a really fun game.”
Livia Crowe, an eighth grader at CMS, commented, “It’s exciting. It’s going to be good exercise for everybody.”