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A great round awaits

David Dew (Masterton Rotary), Tom Ward (Henley Trust) and Marc Clement (disc golfer and specialist advisEr) try out the new course at the Henley Wetlands. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
[email protected]

Sportsman Marc Clement has a dream: to play in an international disc golf competition, held at Masterton’s Henley Lake complex.

Clement is one of the visionaries behind the brand new 18-hole disc golf course at the Henley Wetlands – attracting both young and old, locals and travellers in their droves.

The 4km course was established as a partnership among Henley Trust, Masterton Rotary, and Masterton District Council – to help develop the “previously under-utilised” space and attract more people to the area.

Designed with expert guidance from Clement, a competitive disc golfer for close to 20 years, the course was mostly completed in January, with additional funding and support from Trust House and the Masterton Host Waipoua Lions Club.

The course was originally the brainchild of Rotarian David Dew and Henley Trust chairman Tom Ward – whose sons are both actively involved in disc sports and had previously “bent [their fathers’] ears” about introducing disc golf to Wairarapa.

The sport, first developed in Canada in the early 20th century, is played with similar rules to golf: players complete a hole by throwing a disc from a tee pad towards a wire basket, with hanging chains designed to catch the incoming discs.

Players win the game by landing their disc in each basket with the fewest number of throws.

Disc golf is now played in 40 countries on more than 9000 courses worldwide – about 50 of those within New Zealand, frequented by close to 20,000 recreational golfers and 18 competitive clubs.

With the sport rapidly gaining popularity, the founders of the Henley Wetlands course hope to eventually play host to both national and overseas tournaments.

For now, the new sporting green is a getting a good workout: with everyone from children, to IDEA Services clients, to regular walkers, to out-of-town enthusiasts trying for the elusive ace shot (a hole in one).

“It’s taken off very quickly – the enthusiasm has been instant,” Ward said.

Clients from IDEA Services in Masterton play a round on the course. PHOTO/CARLY WAKELING

“Some schools have already bought their own sets of discs and are bringing children down to play. I’ve seen people who often come to Henley Lake for a walk give it a go – including people in their eighties.

“The other day, I met a family who usually play at the course at Berhampore in Wellington – they had stopped off in Masterton for a round of disc golf on their way to Napier.

“It gives people yet another incentive to spend time here – and adds a whole new dimension to our town.”

Work first began on the Henley Wetlands course in 2017, with Dew making a proposal to Masterton Rotary and then partnering with Henley Trust to seek funding and work on the design.

The project momentarily stalled but began again in earnest two years ago, with Clement coming on board as a specialist adviser.

Dew and Ward had initially planned a nine-hole course but, with advice from Clement, sought further funding for a full 18-hole, competition-standard attraction.

“Marc’s experience and input was invaluable. David and I were a couple of amateurs with family members in our ears – but Marc saw the course had much bigger potential,” Ward said.

“He designed it in a way that was fun for families and challenging for more experienced players – but also safe for wildlife and passers-by.”

Last year, to gauge community interest, the founders organised two tournaments (using “pop up” baskets) – which attracted players from as far as Auckland, Tauranga, Taranaki, Wellington and Christchurch.

“We ended up having to cap the tournaments at 50 entrants. It was massive,” Clement said.

With the new course nearing completion [the partner organisations are working to installing new tee pads and signage for each hole] Clement is hoping to introduce more young people to disc golf: a sport with “endless possibilities”.

“It’s growing so fast. A lot of the guys playing overseas started off by travelling from tournament to tournament, living out of their vans. Now, they’re playing professionally and are multi-millionaires.

“There are a lot of opportunities for young people within the professional clubs – some of the touring players are only about 16 or 17.

“Being involved [in disc golf] could help young people find a path to a career.”

The disc golf course is free for the public to use – though people need to supply their own discs, which are available at Rebel Sport or online.

The founders hope to have an official opening for the course later in the year.

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