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Redesigned Robbins Island disc golf course in Willmar boasts 18 holes to challenge most experienced of players

WILLMAR -- Over the past few years, the city of Willmar has been putting a lot of time, effort and money into Robbins Island, improving not only the facilities but the opportunities available at the state-designated regional park. This year that ...

Erica Dischino / TribuneWinton Johnson of the Willmar Area Disc Golf Club throws a disc May 23 at Robbins Island Park in Willmar. He runs a Tuesday night league at the park that now boasts an 18-hole disc golf course.
Erica Dischino / Tribune Winton Johnson of the Willmar Area Disc Golf Club throws a disc May 23 at Robbins Island Park in Willmar. He runs a Tuesday night league at the park that now boasts an 18-hole disc golf course.

WILLMAR - Over the past few years, the city of Willmar has been putting a lot of time, effort and money into Robbins Island, improving not only the facilities but the opportunities available at the state-designated regional park. This year that has included the disc golf course, which is now 18 holes stretched out across two parks within the regional park - Robbins Island and Hedin Park.

"We are definitely investing in the park," said Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director. "We are using one of our best assets now to its fullest potential."

The Willmar Area Disc Golf Club is also excited about the upgrades to the course, even if it took a few years to complete, illustrating the old saying "Rome wasn't built in a day."

"It feels like Rome, it is great," said John Loomis, president of the club.

The start of the major redesign started in 2017, with the construction of the Destination Playground that ended up sitting right on top of one of the disc golf holes.

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The hole was relocated, but the layout of the course was altered.

"When the playground went in, it disrupted the flow of the course," said Winton Johnson, a member of the club who also runs the Tuesday night disc golf league at Robbins Island.

The increased traffic at the park, caused by not only the playground, but events like Rockin' Robbins, also impacted the course. Future upgrades at Robbins Island, including the four-season shelter, would also have eventually disrupted other holes in the course. To avoid those conflicts, and to spread park users to other portions of the park, the decision was made to completely upgrade the course.

To make sure the course was designed right, with both safety and play in mind, the city and club brought professional, world-ranked disc golfer and course designer Cale Leiviska on board.

With Leiviska's assistance, the disc golf course at Robbins Island now includes holes throughout the park, several amongst the trees and trails or near the lake, making for a challenging course even for the area's most experienced players. (Read more here about trying your hand at disc golf.)

"We wanted to bring the course up to the level of the players," Loomis said.

Once the design was complete, Willmar Public Works employees did the actual work on the course. Crew members pulled up the old disc baskets, installed the new ones, lifted the concrete tee pads from the old holes and reinstalled them at the new locations and laid down wood chips around the new holes.

"A lot of kudos goes to the Public Works guys," Baumgarn said.

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The club wants to make sure they are good stewards of the park. A few of the holes are close to walking trails, so they are looking into putting up signage for players and hikers to keep their eyes open for each other. Players should also use spotters when playing on the course, whose job it is to keep a lookout for people in the field of play.

"We want to make sure we are considerate to other users at the park. The last thing we want to have happen is someone gets hurt," Johnson said.

Disc golfers had the opportunity May 25 to try out the new course as the inaugural Willmar Open disc golf tournament was held. At least 83 golfers played in the tournament, which had a purse of just over $2,000. Course designer Leiviska ended up winning the day, finishing 18 under par, according to unofficial results from the Professional Disc Golf Association.

The Tuesday night disc golf league, a youth disc golf program through Parks and Recreation and the upcoming Toys for Tots tournament in August offer even more chances for people to learn the game of disc golf and to experience the new course.

"I think it is a top 10 course in Minnesota," Loomis said. "It draws people in from all directions."

"He (Leiviska) said it's a top 5. Don't sell yourself short," added Baumgarn.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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