‘You’re going to want to come back and play:’ Bainbridge Oaks Disc Golf Course opens at Earle May Boat Basin

Published 11:15 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

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The City of Bainbridge held a grand opening for the new Bainbridge Oaks Disc Golf Course on Saturday, April 6. The 18-hole course is built around the Earle May Boat Basin and takes advantage of its varied terrain.

It offers holes around (and over) water, through woods, on top of boulders and more. Steve O’Neil, the Director of Community & Economic Development for the City of Bainbridge, led the Bainbridge Oaks project and said the Boat Basin was the perfect spot for it.

“You’ve got to use what you’ve got as far as land features,” O’Neil said. “We don’t have a lot of hills and stuff- so that’s out, But we have quite a few water features. We wanted it to start and end at the same place, so we really had to go around the Boat Basin.”

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Dave Muntean, a professional disc golfer out of Tallahassee, helped design the Oaks course. Muntean has designed and redesigned a handful of courses in Tallahassee, and O’Neil said his expertise was important to the final product.

Muntean has played in nearly 150 tournaments across the nation in 19 years as a professional. He said he’s seen just a handful of holes nicer than the ones at Bainbridge Oaks.

“It is unusual to have more than one or two holes that really, really excite you,” Muntean said. “This course has several.”

O’Neil and Muntean designed the course to be challenging enough to test professionals, but flexible enough to accommodate beginners. There are multiple starting tees and pin locations on each hole that vary in difficulty, letting players choose the experience they want to have. 

“The short tees are pretty forgiving for people that are new,” said Patrick Harrity, a professional disc golfer out of Climax. “The long tees are for people who are kind of in the middle, and the third layout… that’s pretty close to what you’d expect on the pro tour level.”

Harrity said Bainbridge Oaks offers a much-needed new playing space for disc golfers in the South Georgia/North Florida region. He said the only other courses he plays in the area are in Tallahassee— most notably the Tom Brown Park Disc Golf Course, ranked 97th in the world. 

Tom Brown is one of Muntean’s creations, he designed the course in 2002. Muntean said Bainbridge Oaks rivals the world-renowned course.

“I tell people, if they enjoy Tom Brown Park, which they do, they’re going to enjoy [Bainbridge Oaks] the same or better,” Muntean said. “Tom Brown Park is a top one hundred course. [Bainbridge Oaks], day one, will have more amenities. It will be more diverse than courses I see that are in existence today. The types of holes that are out there are the types of holes that you would want to have to be in the top one hundred.”

O’Neil said he plans for the course to host tournaments in the future and become another cog in the Bainbridge sports tourism machine. With its varying levels of difficulty, Bainbridge Oaks is able to run competitions for players of every skill level.

“We anticipate running low-tier and high-tier tournaments at this location,” Muntean said. “The big tournaments, the small tournaments, every one of them are possible.”

Tournaments won’t be happening until at least next year, according to O’Neil. The course construction crew had to cut through the woods for a handful of holes, and that land needs to heal before a tournament can be held. He said they are also dealing with drainage issues on the back of the course. 

“It takes a little time for something like this to mature,” O’Neil said. “We’ve got things to work out… But we’re on the right path.”

In the meantime, O’Neil said he’s excited for the course to finally be available to the public and is proud of what it has become.

“You could build a course anywhere and it may just be ok,” O’Neil said. “We didn’t want ‘just ok,’ we wanted a course that people want to come back and play. So yes, to the average person, it may seem challenging, but at the end of the day, you’re going to want to come back and play this one.”