Plans for McLaren Park disc golf course move ahead

Anyone who has tossed a Frisbee at a small basket a hundred yards away knows that a hole in one is a rare feat.

In 1997, the San Francisco Disc Golf Club failed to score one in its first attempt to put a new disc golf course in McLaren Park.

Rather than the warm reception it then thought the proposed recreational area would receive, the idea was torn apart by a group of park neighbors at a public meeting. It was so heated that it took years for the organization of disc throwers to regroup and try again, said club outreach director Ross Hammond.

After rethinking their strategy, the club gave it another shot. The next time, it campaigned for a course in Golden Gate Park. In 2003, the first round was proudly played at a new 12-hole course there — later expanded to 18 holes.

While it has its detractors, the course also has thousands of fans, which encouraged the club to set its sights once again on its original quarry: McLaren Park.

The popularity of the Golden Gate Park course convinced the Recreation and Parks Commission to provide preliminary approval to the plan a few years ago, but it may not be easy gliding for the club. The same neighbors who stopped the original plan in midair say they still don’t like the idea.

Friends of McLaren Park president Franco Mancini said that just because the course has worked in Golden Gate Park doesn’t mean it will in McLaren.

“The bottom line is there isn’t reasonable room,” he said. “We are one third the size of Golden Gate Park, and only one third of our park is flat. Those flat portions are already subscribed to dog walkers, bikers, hikers, visitors — there’s no way in the world you can place a disc golf course where other people already have a franchise.”

Hammond said his group is frustrated with the neighbors’ ongoing opposition.

“People keep saying, ‘Oh, we want more people to come to McLaren Park.’ Well, here’s something that will bring more people to the park, and suddenly it’s, ‘Oh, it’s going to bring too many people to the park!’” he said.

Nonetheless, plans for the disc golf course at McLaren are moving forward, according to Recreation and Park spokeswoman Lisa Seitz Gruwell. The neighborhood group would have to convince the Rec and Park Commission to reverse its original decision in order to stop it, she said.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Disc Golf Club is working to develop a plan for the new course with an aim to “to come up with a design to accommodate everyone’s needs,” Hammond said.

He said he expects that the criticism will fade after the course is installed.

“Ninety-nine percent of people, once they see what it’s all about, will wonder what the big fuss was about,” he said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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