Mike Chesnutt and Chris Sandman marvel at the growth in popularity of disc golf in the Highland Lakes since more than a decade ago when the two began playing.
Back then, there was one disc golf course with a second being built.
Fast forward to today: The region boasts four free courses and a pay-to-play one.
The two have conquered many a course here and beyond and even helped design a couple, so one could consider them pros on the unofficial Highland Lakes disc golf tour.
The tour starts in Burnet at the nine-hole Haley-Nelson Park course. This city park feature is ideal for families and beginners, Chestnutt and Sandman agreed. You can finish a round in about 45 minutes, and the throws from each tee are fairly straightforward with little to no obstructions.
You can bring snacks and enjoy them in the park or visit one of the nearby Burnet eateries.
With the way the course is laid out and the lack of brush and overgrowth, adults can keep an eye on their children from just about any hole.
Or, the kids can play along.
“Give the kids a disc and let them have fun,” Sandman said. “Just have a person who plays guide them.”
Haley-Nelson Park is located at 1624 Buchanan Drive in Burnet. It’s free to play.
YMCA OF THE HIGHLAND LAKES AT GALLOWAY-HAMMOND
After a 45-minute warmup at Haley-Nelson Park, head down U.S. 281 South — staying in Burnet — to the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond for an 18-hole challenge.
Each stop tests a golfer’s repertoire of throws, and all but one are par 3s. The front nine have a number of elevation challenges. You can cool off after a round in the YMCA’s splash pad — definitely a plus.
YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond is located at 1601 S. Water St. in Burnet. It’s free to play. Call (512) 756-6180.
Keep traveling south on U.S. 281 to Marble Falls and its free, 18-hole course at Westside Park. It started as a 9-hole course, created by famed disc golf course designer John Houck, but the city of Marble Falls eventually expanded it to a full 18.
City officials turned to Chesnutt and Sandman among other local disc golfers for their input, so you know the course is a good one.
It winds through open space and wooded areas in a figure 8, so there’s less chance of bumping into other players. However, you might find yourself enjoying the beautiful scenery during your round.
After being developed into a full 18 holes, the course is now a beacon for the disc golf community.
“We’d go out there and never see anybody on the course,” said Chesnutt about when the course was only nine holes. “Now, with the back nine, there’s always someone playing. Eighteen holes draws people.”
Sandman noted the original nine holes are out in the open, allowing for clearer throwing lanes. The new nine — amongst the trees — require more skill.
“You have to have finesse types of throws,” he said.
The city’s Westside Park also features other amenities: picnic tables and barbecue grills, children’s playscapes, Ruff Dog Park, a basketball court, and Westside Community Hall.
Westside Park is located at the intersection of Second Street and Avenue Q in Marble Falls. It’s free to play.
FLAT CREEK ESTATE
While the first three courses are on public property, disc golfers have a couple of other choices.
Flat Creek Estate features an 18-hole course taking players around the vineyard.
Designed by Houck, some holes are 700 feet from the tee, while others are farther away. That makes for plenty of par 4s and par 5s. Players can choose between two targets on each hole: one for recreational players and the other for professional players.
Sandman said Hole 18 is the one players talk about after they’ve finished a round. Players must throw over a pond to get to the baskets, which are on a peninsula.
“This course is the most challenging and most rewarding because it’s maintained pretty well,” he said.
However, disc golfers must pay for a membership or one of the “play-and-dine” packages.
The facility has a pro shop, so scheduling a tee time is encouraged.
Flat Creek Estate is located at 24912 Singleton Bend East off RR 1431 between Marble Falls and Lago Vista. You must pay to play. Call the pro shop at (512) 267-6310.
IRON WOLF RANCH AND DISTILLERY
Spicewood’s Iron Wolf Ranch and Distillery has a nine-hole course, and it’s free to play.
The course is short — about 45 minutes of playing time — which makes it fun for beginners, recreational players, or those who just want to try out the sport. The average distance from tee box to basket is 200 feet.
On weekends, the distillery has food trucks and live music.
Iron Wolf Ranch and Distillery is located at 101 CR 409 in Spicewood. It’s free to play. Call (512) 970-3203.
ALSO CHECK OUT:
Hill Country Fellowship Disc Golf Course, 200 Houston Clinton Drive in Burnet — The 18-hole course is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset except during church services. Call 512-756-8796.
Whether you’re just starting out or championship material, the Highland Lakes has some incredible disc golf options. You can even find several tournaments on these courses throughout the year. If you need some instruction, check out the Hill Country Flyers Facebook page and link up with them. (Chesnutt and Sandman are members.) You can also find a rundown of upcoming disc golf events and tournaments on the group’s page.