Nestled on a serene and hilly farm in Watauga County is an 18-hole course with water hazards, trees, elevation changes and, at times, dramatically changing weather.
It sounds a lot like a regular golf course with clubs and balls, but instead of white balls flying through the air, discs of different colors and sizes fly toward metal baskets at the private Heritage Farm Disc Golf Course.
“Disc golf is awesome; it’s a lifetime sport as people of all ages and abilities can play it,” said Daniel Quinn, one of the driving forces behind Heritage Farms and a local disc golf player.
Heritage Farm is one of a select number of privately-owned courses in the High Country. In Watauga County, disc golf options are limited since currently there is no publicly-managed course in the county.
Public courses in Watauga County have been proposed in the recent past. In 2015, Richard Rosenfeld proposed a full course west of Boone near the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, but the Watauga County Commissioners turned it down.
According to previous Watauga Democrat reports and Quinn, the commissioners said the neighbors were overwhelming in their opposition to the proposed course.
Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock briefly opened 12 holes to the public in November 2018, but less than four months later made the course only available to resort guests and members. Beech Mountain Resort operates a summer-only course with disc rentals for a fee.
Quinn worked with the Ashe County Parks and Recreation when it opened a public 18-hole course in 2006 named the High Country Disc Golf Course, saying that while there was opposition at first, it has proven to be a great community asset. But for Watauga County players, it’s still a commute to play there.
Along with the High Country Disc Golf Course, there are a few private disc golf courses that have strict admission limitations in the High Country. Local disc golf player Mark Manchette, who said he tries to play every day he can, said he couldn’t even give out the other private course names publicly due to the land owners’ desire for privacy.
Despite the challenges in creating a Watauga County public course, the local disc golf community remained on the lookout for potential private courses.
“We don’t need big wide open field space; we can use a hillside,” Quinn said.
In 2017, Quinn said he got a call from Jon Jon Davis, who is a managing member of a parcel of land in rural Watauga County, who offered a lot more than a hillside.
“Robbie (Gould) said, ‘hey, this guy has lots of land and wants to put a disc golf course,’” Quinn said.
Soon after, Quinn said he showed up at Davis’ land along with Todd Patoprsty, who Quinn credits with introducing him to the sport and was a driving force behind the High Country Disc Golf Course course, along with a few others.
“We walked the property and it laid itself out,” Quinn said. “It became a community thing.”
Rallying the local disc golf community, the course soon became a reality, with Davis purchasing the baskets and Quinn and Gould working to eventually create all 18 holes. While most of the land belong to the LLC that Davis manages, parts of it belong to other land owners who gave their blessing, along with the neighbors.
“We had a few workdays, had an awesome amount of support and help and built the fairways one by one,” Quinn said. “There’s a great variety of wide open hills and water in play. There’s a creek we play through that comes close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would be hard to mess up putting a course out there.”
A continual work in progress, Heritage Farm currently features 18 holes, some in open fields, others snaking through trees, some over a pond, a picturesque hole alongside a creek and many more that incorporate all the natural features of the mountainous region that is the High Country.
The course is not for beginners or those with mobility issues, Gould warned.
“It’s not a super-beginner-friendly course, which is something Boone needs,” Quinn said. “Our mountain courses are pretty extreme. We’re not quite ready for all ages or the handicapped.”
The mountainous terrain draws disc golfers from all over, said Manchette, who didn’t know what to expect when he was first invited to play Heritage Farm.
“All of a sudden I’m being led on twisty, windy roads and I’m thinking, ‘there’s no way this is a flat and level course,’’ Manchette said.
Currently, the gravel tee pads are gradually being replaced with either cement or concrete pavers.
“It’s a super community effort by a bunch of dudes who want to have a place to call their own,” Quinn said. “From mowing to trimwork and upkeep of the property, there’s always something going on there.”
On Aug. 24-25, Heritage Farm hosted Chings and Strings, where more than 100 players, including national and international competitors, braved a thick fog in a quest for the top prize.
“That was epic, nobody’s ever had to play in those conditions before,” Quinn said. “We had a bunch of spotters saying when it was safe to throw.”
Manchette said you couldn’t see any of the holes from the tee pads and there were many lost discs. However, Manchette says the disc golf community is more about camaraderie than a low score.
“This is a sport where each time you play with someone new, you feel like you have a new brother,” Manchette said.
The course can be played for $5 with yearly membership costing $30, with members asked to help donate their time and energy to keep up the course on work days when needed.
Quinn and Gould said that they see disc golf continuing to grow and encourage Appalachian State University students to try the sport, noting that discs are sold in the University Bookstore.
“It’s still considered one of the fattest growing sports in the world,” Quinn said. “Courses are going in everywhere. New people are discovering them every day. I think it’ll continue to grow as more new students are coming in to App State.”
ASU saw disc golf up close in April as the Program Planning class of the school’s Recreation Management Department held a tournament on campus.
The overall goal, all noted, is to make a publicly-managed course a reality in Watauga County, which they believe would be a great benefit for the community.
For more information about the local disc golf scene, visit thehighcountrydiscgolfclub.com. Quinn, Davis and Manchette said anyone interested in Heritage Farm can contact them on Facebook for more details. Davis asks that people interested in Heritage Farm call him at (828) 406-0895. Questions can also be sent to the Facebook group “Chings & Strings at Heritage Farm DGC 2019.”