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ML&P to close disc golf course this month

By Staff | Dec 29, 2011

Dominic Ralli sits as John McGreavy drives on the Kapalua Disc Golf Course. Photo by Mark Welck.

KAPALUA – The Kapalua Disc Golf Course that hosted the 11th annual Hawaii State Disc Golf Championships will be closed as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Kalani Ho-Nikaido, Maui Land and Pineapple Co. Inc. manager of land and property, said, “We have decided to keep the walking trails, walking trails only.”

She denied that disc golf is incompatible with the walking trails, but encouraged the organizers of disc golf to find another place.

In a written statement, she said, “ML&P plans to keep the Village walking trails open until we begin the redevelopment of the Kapalua Mauka project, which we have not set a date for… We have master planned trails throughout the Kapalua Mauka project, so while the trail may be temporarily closed during the redevelopment, walking and hiking trails will be reopened as the development is completed. The trail system in Kapalua includes the Coastal Trail, the Maunalei Arboretum trails and the Village Walking Trails.”

Steve Welck, state coordinator for the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), said, “They (ML&P) think the hiking trails are on the disc golf course. The trails are perimetered, and the majority of the disc golf course is well off the trails. I would estimate 1 percent of the trails crossover with the disc golf course. The trails simply do not coincide with the disc golf course. They are very separated, and one activity does not interfere with the other.”

Since 2008, disc golf was made available on Maui through the efforts of Adam Quinn, former Kapalua Land Company director of resort activities, and Welck. Since then, the activity has grown into an average of 150 rounds a week being played, according to Welck.

The pdga.com website states that disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports in America with more than 3,000 courses worldwide (2,799 of them are in the U.S.).

The PDGA has more than 15,000 members and sponsors 1,200 events annually. The organization awarded more than $2.7 million in prize money in 2010.

Welck said that a petition urging ML&P to reconsider was collectively drafted by the disc golf community at large. The distribution of the petition was focused on disc golfers and those who play recreationally. It has 700 signatures on it.

Individual letters have been written to ML&P asking for reconsideration. Former Maui County Mayor James “Kimo” Apana said, “I count Kapalua Disc Golf as a brilliant success and would expect ML&P to take stock in the achievement.”

Joseph Pluta, founding board member of the West Maui Taxpayers Association and longtime activist in such initiatives as the West Maui Hospital and Medical Center, said, “I have heard nothing but excellent news about the great impact the disc golf course has had on our community.”

Robert Comstock, general manager of Pacific’O Restaurant, said, “It (disc golf) has been a healthy way to get exercise and spend time in the beautiful outdoors with friends and family.”

The game is played like golf, only with plastic discs such as Frisbees. Just like golfers, disc players have a host of specialized discs for all situations.

Unlike golf, there are no carts – everyone has to walk the course. This provides great health benefits, according to the PDGA website.

There are no age limits. It’s an activity the entire family can play together and enjoy.

Crosby Beam, a science teacher at Lahaina Intermediate School, said, “I am one of several school teachers on Maui who enjoy the use of the disc golf course and find it a great recreational activity. My family, many of my students and other kids in the community also play disc golf at the Kapalua course.”

The course is maintained by volunteers and has operated in the black since the first week it was set up, according to Quinn.

Disc golf is a truly international sport. Welck told a story about Jonathan Marguerite of France. After completing the 2011 XTerra World Championships and coming in third in the age 25-29 division, Marguerite played a round of disc golf on the Kapalua course to pass the time while waiting for the awards ceremony.

Regardless of whether ML&P reconsiders, Maui will not be without disc golf.

Keka’a Open Space between Kaanapali Resort and Honua Kai Resort will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to sunset, weather permitting.

It is only a 12-hole course, as opposed to the 27-hole course in Kapalua.

The problem with this course, Weick said, is “we have to set up and take the equipment down each day.”