Charlotte is considered a mecca for the fast-growing sport of disc golf.
According to disc golfer Mark Huether, the number of courses throughout the U.S. has grown 14 percent annually. Charlotte's number of courses will increase from five in 1995 to 16 by the end of 2011.
The 32-year-old has been a Charlotte Disc Golf Club volunteer for the last two years. He's been the area course director and participation coordinator for the last four months.
In the next three years, he said the Lake Norman area will have at least three new courses.
The newest is at Bailey Road Park in Cornelius, at N.C. 115 and Bailey Road. The others, expected to be built in two years or less, will be at Bradford Park in Huntersville and Fisher Farm Park in Davidson, said Huether.
More than 12 million people from around the world have played the sport. Many come here to play the area's "demanding and imaginative" course layouts, said Huether, and area cities are gearing up for an influx of talented guests.
The Bailey Road Park course, designed for beginners, will host the Junior, Grandmaster and Legends age groups in the 2012 World Disc Golf Championships.
Hundreds of people from around the world will be in the area for World Championships in Charlotte. The championships include Pro, Amateur, Junior and Masters divisions for men and women.
"Bailey Road Park's course was integral to the success of the Charlotte Disc Golf Club and Charlotte as they prepare to run the Championship event," said Huether. "The Worlds are the second most prestigious tournament, but it draws the most people. The U.S. Championships, held in Rock Hill, S.C., are considered the most prestigious tournament, and that's been an annual events for about 10 years. In 2010, three of the sport's major event will be held in the area. So, that tells you something."
The Town of Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation & Culture Department and Charlotte Disc Golf Club recently opened the 18-hole course at Bailey Road Park.
It took volunteers more than two months to redesign and lengthen the original nine-hole course, which was about five years old. It now winds around the southeast corner of the park and expands the area used by the public. The project was funded by the disc golf club and the PARC department.
"Since the redesign and installation of nine additional baskets, the park has seen an increase from 20 to about 100 players per day," said Huether.
Huether has lived in Cornelius for six years. By day, he's a packaging engineer for Family Dollar. Outside of his day job, he also helps gather volunteers, organize course maintenance and build and design area courses.
He said he puts in about four hours a day and up to 30 hours a week advocating for the sport, and every Thursday night he runs a "glow" disc golf league.
Huether's "glow" disc golf league helps support the Charlotte Disc Golf Club and will help pay for new courses Charlotte will need to host the 2012 World Disc Golf Championships for both professionals and amateurs, said Huether.
Sponsorships and volunteer labor also will play key roles in the expansion.
"We have put four courses in the ground in the last year, and have six or seven more to build in Mecklenburg County, so any help we can get from sponsorships to labor really helps."
Glenn Davidson, 18, of Mooresville took up the sport about three months ago with his friend, Jason Kinney, 20, of Mooresville. The duo plays the new course at Bailey Road Park the most (at least four times a week), but they have frequented other area courses, including Hornets Nest, Kilborne and Stumpy Creek.
Both took up the sport after hearing about it from a friend. Davidson didn't buy his own equipment right away, but Kinney bought the necessary supplies the day after he first played.
"It spreads like a virus," said Davidson. "You tell one person and, soon, everyone wants to play."
"It kind of grows like a pyramid scheme," added Kinney.
The disc golfers appreciate the new course's upgrades, like more trash cans and better tee boxes, but they also enjoy the longer course.
"They really cleaned it up a lot, and 18 holes is so much better," said Davidson.
Kinney added, "It was kind of thrown together before, but now it's a little more official. Now we can go and feel like we played a real course."
The first major event at the new course will be on Aug. 15. The Bangin' Baskets at Bailey Hole-in-one Challenge is expected to draw more than 100 players, said Huether.
Volunteers and sponsorships are needed. For all things disc golf, e-mail Mark Huether at email@example.com.