There are now two disc golf courses in Pioneer Park, but backers are confident that the courses will leave less of a mark than the old course.
Jim Rott, president of the Air Fairways disc golf group, has been heading up efforts to transform disc golf in the city's most popular park.
Citing neighborhood complaints and wear and tear on the turf and trees, the Billings City Council last year nearly banned disc golf from the park, backing away from that plan only after a public outcry.
Now Rott and Air Fairways volunteers have set up summer and winter courses, according to a master plan approved by the council last year. The winter course will be open from Dec. 1 until the weather warms in the spring, which is when volunteers will pick up the disc baskets and move them to the summer course.
Last weekend, Rott and others poured nine concrete tee pads in the park for the longer holes on the two courses. That will cut down on the erosion that went with the old course, which was one of the worries that led to a new park master plan. The group will probably install rubber tee pads on some of the shorter holes as well, he said. The baskets can be removed from permanent bases and moved around to different holes, so disc golfers should put less pressure on certain parts of the park, Rott said.
"The old course is dead, laid to rest," Rott said. "Over the last month, we've been working with the Parks Department determining where to put pins and pads, based on the master plan recommendations. The new course essentially is the course the master plan called for."
Rott said his group has spent less than the expected $11,000 needed to set up the new courses. Aside from some city workers who spread manure and grass seed, Air Fairways has paid for everything, and no city funds have been used. The group held fundraisers and received a $5,000 grant from Cloud Peak Energy and a $500 grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Most of the old course will be given time to rest, and all of the sod cut out to make room for the concrete tee pads was replanted on bare spots created by the old course, Rott said.
"We're trying to eliminate all the mud we can," Rott said. "We don't like it, either. We like picking our discs off of grass instead of mud."
Parks Director Mike Whitaker said that even the new courses can be adjusted as needed to cut down on wear and tear.
"I think as of Monday, everything has been completed on the summer course except the signage," he said. "The master plan called for us to have everything up and going by the first of May, and we did it."