<b>BLACK BUTTE LAKE, Calif.</b> -- For northern California disc golfers, it was the year's biggest event. Three days of camping, grilling out and non-stop golf. For Black Butte Lake, its new disc golf course and its local patrons, it was one big debut party.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District's Black Butte Lake hosted the Professional Disc Golf Association's Norcal Series Championships here Oct. 15-17. Over the three-day tournament, more than 150 golfers - professionals and amateurs, men and women, some from as far away as Texas - played four rounds across two 18-hole courses; the new course, plus another, temporary one installed just for the tournament.

New to just about everyone but local golfers, the Black Butte course is considered one of the region's finest. But it wouldn't be there if it weren't for the Orland Aces disc golf club.

Rick Leis, president of both the Orland Aces and the Chico Disc Golf Club, approached Black Butte in 2006 about building a disc golf course at the park. He'd played courses at other Corps parks, like New Hogan Lake, near Valley Springs, Calif., and driving by Black Butte one day, he'd seen gold in its rolling, oak-studded hills. "That's golf land," he said.

Acres of open space surrounding the campground at Black Butte's Orland Buttes recreation area had been set aside undeveloped for years, for a possible expansion of the campground someday, if funding allowed.

"We were pleased to be approached about partnering to build the course," said Black Butte Lake park ranger Mary Ann Deeming. "We proposed that if the club could pay for the equipment, we'd be glad to let them use the space, and help with the maintenance, like mowing and tree trimming."

Leis agreed, and working with the club, started raising the money. While the Corps looked into the potential environmental impacts of putting in the course, he spent weekends walking the landscape, plotting spots for holes with scenic, lake-view vistas.

The environmental investigations complete, the money raised, the Aces began installing the hole baskets and tee mats in summer 2009. By December, the course was ready.

"People are ecstatic about this place," Leis said. "Lots of hills and trees - lots of challenges - it has basically everything we could ask for."

Fellow-golfer Pete Sontag agreed. "It's perfect terrain," he said. "I'm from the (San Francisco) Bay Area, where space is limited and we have to share our courses with dog walkers and joggers. But here, we've (disc golfers) got it all to ourselves."

"The camping here is so much better than other courses," said Alan Shanahan, who drove up for the tournament from Sacramento, Calif. "Most places we drive to we have to sleep in our cars. Some have campgrounds, but you have to hike to get to the course. Here, you can camp right next to the course," he said.

"And it's got showers!" said another golfer.

"Free showers!" said another.

Deeming said the course has been a big success for Black Butte, too.

"This was an area of the park that just wasn't getting as much use as it could have," Deeming said. "In the winter, we'd see a few campers, but that's about it. Now we've got events like this, and we see four or five groups a day out here using the course.

"It's a perfect example of the kind of partnership we need as we look at the future of recreation," she said. "We've got this land that belongs to all of us. We won't always have the funding to build things like disc golf courses. But where a club like the Aces can find money to build one, why not work together to create it' We're helping the community make use of this shared public space, and encouraging everyone to get out in the fresh air, get some exercise, and appreciate just being in nature. It really benefits all of us."

Page last updated Tue October 19th, 2010 at 13:45