September 3, 2023 8:43 PM

A Course Fit For a King (or Queen)

Benjamin Smith
Written by
Benjamin Smith

Well, this one has been a long time coming: 42 years, to be exact. It's taken my entire lifetime to build this course. I acknowledge that for the first 21 years of my life I didn't know what disc golf was, but I would argue that I was accumulating the life experience necessary to see this course for what it could be. All of the places I have been, and all of the sites that I have seen, have generated the rich tapestry of my life, which then took me to a place where I could do justice to a piece of family land that is poised to pass from generation to generation. To say I am thankful for this opportunity is an understatement. Opening weekend was yet another gift given to me from a source unknown to us all. Whoa: I almost blew my own mind with that one! It's probably a good time to bring it back to reality and talk disc golf.

As you already know, this post is about Kings Pine, the second official DiscGolfPark course we have designed, and the most ambitious and suitable project we have yet to bring into this world. I say "we" because so many people contributed to the making of this course that it would be foolish of me to take solo credit for it. So many hands made the heavy lifting easy. I don't want to single out everyone (because I will certainly miss some of the important people), but I do want to say thank you to all who have put in time here. From map-making to tree-trimming, and all points in between, this was a full community effort, and in exchange for everyone's time, we produced another five-star course in a province that is already sitting pretty in the disc golf world.

There are, however, three people that changed my life forever, whom I would like to thank before we go any further (I promise I will talk about the event soon). First off is Dan Dupont. Dan came highly recommended to me as a true forester who wanted to see the forestry industry move to a more sustainable and equitable place, and was willing to put in the work to make that happen. When we first walked the property he said two distinct things; first, "what the hell is disc golf?", and second, "how soon can we start?". He changed the way I look at developing a property, and, in turn, changed my life. Instead of saying "how do I build the best course here", he showed me that by creating the healthiest forest for generations to come, I can give myself the best chance at having a disc golf course that will thrive for as long as we want it to do so. He flipped my order of operations in the subtlest and most profound ways. He got me to think about things in a way I had not considered, but knew I wanted to. I know that words typed here can't give him the full thanks he is due, but at least it's a start. Every course I build from now until I die will benefit from our relationship.

The other two people that need to be recognized are the owners themselves, Carson and Kim Gill. I'm not sure how PEI got so lucky as to have so many ridiculously wonderful people who all call the Island their home, but everyone who lives there should thank their lucky stars. The Gills are the type of people I aspire to be, if I ever grow up. They walk the fine line of balancing work and home life, and they value true and meaningful relationships in their lives over most everything else. They are successful, and they struggle just like the rest of us, but they also both look to the future with a mix of excitement and practicality. When Carson and I first walked the land, he told me of his desire to create something long-lasting, something that his kids could enjoy for years to come, something to honour the place he lived and where his family grew up. I built my first nine-hole disc golf course on my family's homestead, so I knew the mental place he was coming from. When they awarded me the contract, I also knew that it would take everything I had to create a vision to live up to the land. I think what we have done so far is on the pathway to success.

Thus, it was fitting that, when we officially opened this course, it was the Gills' oldest son, John, who threw out the very first disc. (It was a solid shot, too, for those of you who were wondering.) Our event was the first PDGA event in which John ever participated. That night after dinner, John signed up for his own PDGA number and immediately registered for Nationals; I don't know what we could use as a better metric of success than that. If one of the goals was to see this course thrive for years to come, our best chance for that to happen is to have the Gill kids love it as much as their parents do. Last I heard, the youngest Gill was in charge of collecting the recyclables and keeping the cash, and if I know anything about Islanders, I know she will do alright in that department.

3/4 of the Gill family enjoying Day 1

As for the course itself, it is a wonderful mix of open spaces and cozy forests. Both sets of tees offer 18 distinctly different lines for players to try and achieve the optimal shots. There are options on every hole and more emphasis is put on shot shapes and positioning rather than pure power. There is also ample shade on the hot days and adequate drainage on the wet ones. Each hole requires your full attention to snag the birdie, and one bad shot still leaves you plenty of opportunities to save par. The best compliment we have received is that it is an extremely fair course. Over the last decade plus, we have been developing a mathematical formula to achieve balance, and I would say that the formula worked to perfection this time.

The are three holes in particular that seem to stand out: the long and arduous hole 3; the crafty and deceptive hole 13; and the "you-can-use-my-name-as-a-curse-word" hole 16.

Hole 3 may end up being the signature hole on the course. It is cut from the tightly wooded section of the course with mature maples lining either side of the fairway. It demands an above-average drive and an equally as good approach shot to even have a chance at a three. A signature of this course is that there is very little added OB, but getting off the fairway here is every bit as punishing. Even inside these tight lines there are still options, so players can use the disc they feel most comfortable with and do their best to gain ground. Every tree you pass on hole 3 is worthy of a minor celebration, and the true mark of what makes this hole so good is that when you do get a birdie, there is at least one shot you want to tell everyone about.

Hole 13 is almost certainly the fan favourite. A perfect understable shot off the tee will land you in an elevated landing zone with a clear shot down the hill to an elevated basket. If you have an elite level power forehand there is an eagle available to you, but you'll still have to earn it with a 30+ foot putt. Off the tee, every part of the hole tricks you into trying to throw straight with a touch of hyzer, but don't let that feeling fool you. The name of the game on this course is placement, so the difficulty of your second shot here is predicated on how much work you did on your drive. Tough but fair; that is the signature of Kings Pine.

Hole 16 (or as it is commonly referred to as 'Ben-d-over') is another demanding two-shot combo par 4. The designed play is a forehand off the tee to a solid landing zone, then a 300-foot spike hyzer over the mature maple trees. If that combo is not in your bag, there is a tight, but fair, line where three solid shots gives you a 20-footer for par. This hole is also the first place I have ever heard my full name used as a proper swear word; I believe it has now worked its way into the lexicon of the locals. Personally I have never been more flattered in my entire life.

When a course like this finally comes into being, it's hard to express the amount of gratitude and joy it brings to the people who have helped created it. I do my best to express this gratitude in write-ups like this and by sharing honest and sincere moments with the people I love; however, nothing can quite capture that feeling better than this photo of two people mounting tee pads at 6:05 AM on the morning of opening day. If you have ever wanted to see the shit-eating-grin of people in their happy place, look no further than right here:

Just two guys living their best life

Now, after all of this, we still had an event to play, and the Kings Cup was every bit as worthy as the course on which it was played.

In the end, we had seven divisions of extremely competitive disc golf.

FA2 and MA50 had a mix of experienced and first-time players. Judging by the smiles on their faces and the sounds of laughter coming from their card, we would have to say they were filled with positive experiences. Nicole Murphy and Andy McDonald both came out victorious in their respective divisions.

MA2 saw the first of two playoffs for the event. Lyrik Wagstaff, freshly home from his first World Jr event, earned a hard-fought victory with an impressive 11 under par. Only 5 of the 15 players in this division managed to get under the par mark for the event, but every single card was competitive and, slowly but surely, this division continues to produce players who are improving their skill sets.

MA40 was a rollercoaster of a division, with Team FlickLine's Matt Sullivan earning a come-from-behind victory on the final round over Michael Arsenault and Alan Gallant. It is a true mark of success to see this division growing in both the overall number of participants and competitive scores. Four of the ten players were under par, and virtually any player in the division was capable of shooting the hot round.

FA1 was another division worth celebrating. After round one, only two strokes separated first from last. After round two, the leaderboard was completely flipped, and after round three, a brand new leader had earned another come from behind victory. That winner was Tanis Trainor. Tanis is a two sport (at least) athlete that has made countless contributions to the game of disc golf in our area, and was the feature on one of the better TV spots about our game. Tanis has been instrumental in growing female participation in the Maritimes, and has been a major contributor to the FlickLine team. Her quiet demeanour and contagious laughter are only small parts of what make her so fantastic, and it is worth saying again how fortunate we all are to have her here.

MA1 was yet another treat. At the start of Sunday, we got our first glimpse of what will certainly be a regular sight on FlickLine tours of the future: namely, the two youngest members of the team, Antoni Richard and Dylan Goudy, battling head-to-head for first place. The division didn't just have these two players, though. No less than six players were deeply in the mix for the win, and in the end, a playoff was needed to crown the first ever Kings Cup mixed amateur champ. That honour was earned by Halifax's own Chris Bourque, whose clutch putt on the first playoff hole capped his best round of the event. Chris picked up his first career win by improving every round at Kings Pine. It was a well-deserved victory for him, and one that showed that, although the future looks bright for the kids, the day still belonged to the (semi?)-adults.

MPO was the last division of the day and was taken home by the always-loveable and Island treasure, Chris Richard. Only three players in the entire event were able to navigate the weekend under par from the Blues, and each of them earned their podium finish. Vaughn Murphy played better-than-steady golf to take third, and Nathan McCarthy was one splash out--and 40 feet away--from forcing the weekend's third playoff. In the end, it was Chris Richard who put another notch in what has been an up and down season for him. Strong decision-making on hole 18, however, helped him grab the final hole birdie for the win with an official course record of 5 under 57. It was a treat to watch, and a fitting end for another fantastic week of FlickLine disc golf on PEI.

It is amazing when a dream comes true, and the only thing that can make that better is when that dream is shared with friends. If you get the chance, add Kings Pine to the list of places where you can experience a little slice of heaven. We promise you won't regret it.