Falls man shares disc golf dreams

Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course to debut in Falls this spring
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor


AUSTIN MCKAY of Sheboygan Falls has designed the new 18-hole Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course, which will open this spring at Rochester Park in Sheboygan Falls. – Fals News photo by Jeff Pederson AUSTIN MCKAY of Sheboygan Falls has designed the new 18-hole Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course, which will open this spring at Rochester Park in Sheboygan Falls. – Fals News photo by Jeff Pederson One of the fastest-growing sports in the United States is on its way to Sheboygan Falls.

Falcon Ridge, the city’s first disc golf course, is set to debut at Rochester Park this spring.

The new 18-hole course is the brainchild of Oklahoma native Austin McKay, whose course design has earned the endorsement of the Sheboygan Falls Park Board and Common Council.

After moving to Sheboygan Falls last June, McKay found himself intrigued by the volume of untapped potential at Rochester Park.

“Last June my wife, Michelle, and I moved into a house on Hickory Street in Sheboygan Falls, which is literally just a few yards from Rochester Park,” McKay said. “The first time I took a walk down to the park, I was in awe of the potential that it has. I wondered why more of the space in the park hasn’t been utilized.”


THE LAYOUT for the new 18-hole Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course at Rochester Park was approved by the Sheboygan Falls Common Council on Jan. 17. – Submitted graphic THE LAYOUT for the new 18-hole Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course at Rochester Park was approved by the Sheboygan Falls Common Council on Jan. 17. – Submitted graphic “I started to see disc golf holes in my mind, which fit with the natural terrain and contour of the park and throwing in the presence of the river added that much more to it,” he said. “I have to say I got really excited about the possibilities that I saw there.”

The Bristow, Okla. native took the initiative to approach city officials about his idea.

“I went to the city of Sheboygan Falls website and found a listing of Park Board minutes,” McKay said. “I saw that establishing a disc golf course was on its list of objectives for 2018. I called [City Administrator] Shad Tenpas, who invited me to come to the November Park Board and talk about my idea for disc golf at Rochester Park.


AUSTIN MCKAY of Sheboygan Falls is currently seeking sponsors for Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course signage at Rochester Park. - Submitted graphic AUSTIN MCKAY of Sheboygan Falls is currently seeking sponsors for Falcon Ridge Disc Golf Course signage at Rochester Park. - Submitted graphic “I learned at the meeting that a school teacher had introduced the idea of a disc golf course at Rochester Park, which had involved getting students involved in building the baskets and contributing to the layout,” he said. “That proposal didn’t really get off the ground and the Park Board members said they were looking for someone to step up. That is when I raised my hand and ran with it.”

After getting the green light from the Park Board to work on a design and formal proposal for a disc golf course at Rochester Park, McKay went to work on designing Falcon Ridge.

“I met Chuck Otte, who is a member of the Park Board, and we walked the park and talked about some ideas,” McKay said. “Based on that meeting and walk through the park, I got a good idea for the flow of the course. I saw a natural progression for the course and had a lot of the layout clear in my mind.”

Although he is a relative newcomer to the sport, McKay has already accumulated an impressive resume as a disc golf competitor and connoisseur.

“I really didn’t start playing disc golf until I got out of the Navy in January 2014,” McKay said. “One of my buddies took me out one day and I was immediately hooked.

“In my previous job, I got to travel quite a bit and I had the opportunity to play some great courses throughout the country,” he said. “I’ve played some really nice courses in Arkansas and a few good ones in the San Diego area. Oklahoma has a very strong disc golf community and some top-notch courses as well. I tried to utilize the knowledge I took from all of the courses I’ve played in designing Falcon Ridge.”

During his appearance at a Sheboygan Falls Park Board meeting on Jan. 10 to unveil his design plan for Falcon Ridge, McKay went through the course layout hole by hole noting that up to three holes will likely require brush clearing, including hole 7, which is set to be located in a tree-lined area adjacent to the Sheboygan River.

“Trees play a big role in shaping the personality of the course, and I can assure you that we will not be clearing out any trees to put in this course,” McKay said. “Anything that is dead can be either removed or repurposed. For instance in Oklahoma a few courses have used dead tree limbs to line fairways, which I always thought was pretty cool.

“Some people have looked at the satellite image of the course layout and wondered about the trees, but the tree-lined areas are actually more open that you might think,” he said. “We definitely have some work to do to set up the final layout, but I think when people come out to play the course for the first time, they will really enjoy it.”

While portions of the course border the Sheboygan River and weave through wooded areas and high traffic open spaces, McKay said safety was foremost on his mind when designing the new course.

“I’m all about safety and I was always thinking about how safe a hole would be when I designed it,” McKay said. “The water definitely adds to the de- gree of difficulty of the course, and I don’t see flooding being an issue at all.

“I’m a detail person, so a lot of thought went into each hole,” he said. “I was careful to route the holes so they face away from the homes and properties in the area. There are some tighter holes, but I’ve played on courses with much closer spacing than this one has. Bad shots happen for all players, so the possibility does exist for discs to go into the river or into the trees. That’s all part of the game and what makes it fun and challenging for people to play. My goal is to have it appeal to people of all ages and skill levels, from young kids to senior citizens. In my opinion disc golf is for everyone.”

McKay, who is a materials lab technician at Kohler Co, recommended that the city purchase the Mach V golf baskets, which give the course the ability to host professional tournaments someday.

“It is important to have a particular type of basket in order to have the opportunity to host a professional tournament,” McKay said. “I firmly believe that this course has a good chance to host a professional sanctioned tournament. The city agreed to purchase the high-quality baskets and the support in the local disc golf community is strong. The professional tour is coming to Manitowoc and Reedsville this summer, so I don’t see why we couldn’t attract a pro tournament to Falcon Ridge in 2019.”

McKay said he would spend time experimenting on the best layout of the course before installing permanent concrete tee pads.

“Once the weather warms up this spring, the baskets will be going up,” McKay said. “After that, we will be looking at the best spots to place the tee pads. I anticipate that there will be some adjustments made to make the course play the best it possibly can.

“Once we figure out the best layout, we will be putting in the concrete pads,” he said. “There is some differing thought on when that will be, but I’m hoping that we will be able to do it sometime this year.”

McKay has been in contact with area businesses about donating to the project to cover the cost of hole and course layout signs.

“We’ve set a May 1st deadline for sponsorships to cover the cost of the hole signs,” McKay said. “I’ve been in contact with businesses about helping us out and VanDerVart Concrete about pouring the concrete for the tee pads.

“There is a group of dedicated disc golf supporters that will be volunteering their time to the project and I have reaching out to community groups like the Boy Scouts to help us out as well,” he said. “The support for the course so far has been outstanding. People are really fired up about it.”

As the fourth-fastest growing sport in the United States with 400 new courses added each year between 2007 and 2017, McKay is eager to introduce the sport of disc golf to a new generation of youngsters in the local area.

“Having the opportunity to design this course is a dream come true for me as a disc golfer,” McKay said. “It is also huge for the local disc golf community. It is much like regular ball golf in its rules and etiquette, which I think is very important to teach to youngsters in introducing them to the game.

“I would love to start a youth program here that teaches kids moral values on the course and creates a positive atmosphere around the game,” he said. “It is the perfect game in my opinion because it gets you out in nature, is good exercise and its just fun to play and a new challenge every time you go out the course.”

For more information about the course or to donate to the project, contact City Administrator Shad Tenpas at 467-7900 ext. 117 or shad@shebfalls.com or Austin McKay at amckay_ 2266@yahoo.com


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