Eli Martin dipped his knee, flung back his arm and launched the flying disc. The 17-year-old watched it soar through the air before it landed several yards shy of the yellow-rimmed basket.
The Apex Nature Park hadn’t officially opened yet, but Martin and his friends were anxious to try out the town’s first disc golf course on Wednesday.
Apex postponed a grand-opening celebration on Saturday at the park at 2600 Evans Road due to weather. But the park is now open to the public.
The park features running trails, lighted tennis courts, two multipurpose fields, a playground, an amphitheater and a dog park. The disc golf course might be the most-anticipated feature, though.
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Disc golf is similar to traditional golf, but players use Frisbee-like discs instead of clubs. The object of the game is to get the disc inside a basket in as few throws as possible.
Martin, his brother and two friends tramped around the muddy tracks to play the game.
“It’s a more challenging course and it’s closer than New Hill or Middle Creek courses,” Martin said. “Though the baskets aren’t that far away, it’s harder. You have to know which disc to use. You need to understand the curve.”
Disc golf has become more popular in the area. There are about 30 private and public disc golf courses in Wake County, according to dgcoursereview.com.
The 160-acre Apex Nature Park has been in the works for about a decade. It was paid for with a $6 million voter-approved bond.
The park helps fill a gap in the western side of town. Hundreds of residents in the Scotts Mill, Bella Casa and Hollands Crossing subdivisions didn’t have a park within walking distance.
After the recession delayed the sale of the bonds, residents lobbied the Apex Town Council to continue the project. Some said they were willing to take on a tax increase to complete the park.
In 2012, the council approved a 5-cent property tax hike and dedicated 1 cent to finish the park.
Michael Watson, an avid disc golf player who helped design the 18-hole course, supported the tax increase.
While Apex originally planned a 21-hole course, financial and time constraints forced the town to scale back.
So Watson and fellow course designers, Karl Lyon and Jeff Kozak, came up with an alternative: They created three launch tees for each hole. Each color-coded tee varies in distance from the basket, which makes for varying degrees of difficulty.
“We wanted to establish a fun place, encourage people to pick up a new sport and offer a challenge for every level of player,” said Watson, a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association. “We plan to host professional-level tournaments, and local tournaments and charity games.”
The Apex Nature Park could also become home to high school tennis and cross-country events.
Currently, the Apex High School tennis and cross-country teams practice in Cary because there are no facilities in town.
John Brown, parks and recreation director for Apex, said he plans to work with the high school.
Apex already has a dog park at Hunter Street Park. The doggie play space at Apex Nature Park is the town’s second.
Dog-park users must pay an annual membership fee that will grant them access to both dog parks. The fee is $30 for residents and $60 for non-residents.
Registration is available at the Apex Community Center, and dog owners must show proof of vaccinations.