Don Helphrey Putts on the first hole at Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort on Friday June 18, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
STANWOOD – This weekend, over 300 of the top disc golfers from Washington and Beyond are attending the Kayak Point Open at the Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort, an event approved by the Professional Disc Golf Association. When registration for the tournament opened, the field filled up in 20 minutes and there is still a long waiting list.
All of this shows the progress that has been made since the reopening of the former Kayak Point Golf Course as a disc golf facility just over a year ago.
Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and this weekend’s tournament is an opportunity to put the spotlight on Snohomish County’s unique disc golf.
“Right now (the Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort) is only about 50% complete and it’s already a destination,” said Nicholas Shuler of Mountlake Terrace, one of only four players with ratings of 1,000 or higher in the competition Open division on the weekend is considered one of the favorites. “It is a beautiful property and I am very happy to have it. It’s perfect for disc golf and it’s even better for disc golfers. ”
The Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort is what emerged from the ashes after the Kayak Point Golf Course closed almost three years ago.
The 300-acre property, owned by Snohomish County, has been used as a golf course since 1977, with private companies receiving leases from the county to operate the golf course. However, the course closed its doors in October 2018 when the operators were no longer able to meet their financial obligations towards the district.
Meanwhile Keith Lionetti, one of the co-owners of the Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort, was looking for a location to build a special disc golf course.
“I was trying to get at least one 18-hole disc golf course on Snohomish Count Park property that probably dates back to 10 years ago,” Lionetti said. “I’ve seen firsthand where disc golf is going. I own another retail store in (Seattle) that is in a King County Park with a disc golf course and I watched the number of players go up, but there was no increase in the number of courses. So there was a need. Disc golf needed its own space, and a high percentage of players are more than willing to pay not to have to deal with everything that comes up in a public park.
“The director of Snohomish County Parks told me about (Kayak Point Golf Course) and how the current management was struggling and couldn’t pay the rent and said I should come and see it to see if disc golf was a good fit. “Lionetti added. “I played a round when it was still a ball golf course and I saw the potential. I also knew that it would take a team of dedicated, passionate lunatics like me to make the dream come true. ”
After what Lionetti described as an “extremely challenging” process, he and his partners Rob Jones-Gunn and Eric Edgeton were able to obtain a short-term lease from the county. They rehabilitated the unkempt facility and developed a plan for five separate disc golf courses on the site.
The resort opened on May 30, 2020 with three courses up and running: two full-size 18-hole courses (the gold course is for experts, the red course is for beginners) and an 18-hole pitch-and-pitch course -Putt. The fee is $ 12 for unlimited play, although players must book tee times in advance and pitch-and-putt is free. A pro shop is available on site and players can also rent carts. The resort hopes to open its restaurant this summer.
Facilities devoted exclusively to disc golf are rare. Most of the courses are in public parks, which makes them free and accessible, while a handful of golf courses also host disc golf. These options do not offer multiple courses, however, and players face the obstacle of picnickers in the middle of a fairway or the risk of golf discs flying overhead.
“As far as I know, there is nothing like it anywhere,” said Lionetti. “I think there are places that are only dedicated to disc golf but I don’t think there is anything we want to achieve here with different courses based on different levels of play to appeal to a wide range of players. ”
The development of the other two golf courses depends on whether the resort can sign a long-term lease with the county. Once that happens and the last two courses are completed, the resort hopes it can attract events at a national and even international level.
This weekend’s Kayak Point Open is part of the Professional Disc Golf Association’s PackEx Cup, a series of 10 events centered around the Puget Sound. The majority of attendees are from Washington, but some are from Oregon and California. The players will compete against each other in two rounds, with the leaders of the Open Division teeing off on the Gold Course on the last Sunday. The Open Division winner was expected to pocket between $ 500 and $ 1,000.
“I’ve done a little research and in the past five or six years this is the biggest disc golf event Washington has ever had in terms of player count,” said tournament director Anthony Hawley. “In relation to its level, (the gold course) is probably one of the toughest courses in Washington. The length is the difficulty, there are some 600 foot par 3s.
“Honestly, it’s just nice to have Kayak Point as the venue for such a big event,” added Hawley. “And for locals who are uncomfortable at events, it’s great to have the chance to see some of the best players in Washington play on a very difficult course.”