Knockwood Disc Golf Course is the brainchild of a couple of crazy dads with a love for the great outdoors. Caretaker Rod Davis says the idea for disc golf at Santa Fe Lake goes back nearly a decade but the stars needed to align just right to finally pull it off. After securing financial resources from the Augusta City Council in 2022, Rod and lead parks technician Jeff McNown launched into a design and construction process spanning the better part of eight months to turn this rocky woodland into the amazing disc golf course it is today.
As anyone who has played disc golf knows, the plot of land has a lot to do with the quality of the final course. Santa Fe Lake sits on an amazing 485+ acre natural woodland and was created from the damming of Dry Creek in 1927 by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway as a water supply for steam locomotives. The City of Augusta acquired the property in 1950 to be used as a backup drinking water supply. Over the past twenty years, Santa Fe Lake has evolved into a bustling nature park and outdoor recreation getaway for the Wichita metro and surrounding communities. Different from the larger state parks/lakes around us, Santa Fe Lake is a bit more lowkey and park traffic is managed by our Caretaker to keep the facility from getting too busy and diminishing the intimate connection with nature. Activities include fishing, swimming, dog beach, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking and mountain bike trails, camping, and now disc golf.
Despite starting with an amazing plot of land, designing and building the course was no easy task. About two years ago, we started walking the woods on the west side of the lake looking for suitable locations. Ultimately, we decided that the east area on the back side of the dam had the greatest potential for an amazing disc golf experience unique to our part of the state. The challenge was that this area was already a prominent hiking and mountain biking location (one of the best in the Wichita metro). The steep rocky, woodland terrain of the mountain bike trails just so happened to be the best area for disc golf with the most amazing scenery and crazy elevation shots that you don't typically get on Kansas courses. So not only did we have to do our first ever design for a disc golf course, but we had to integrate these activities into the course flow to make it fun and safe for all users.
This course did not design itself. Creating a sensible flow through this difficult terrain required a high level of vision and ingenuity with a lot of hard labor and hand digging to access areas that construction equipment could not reach. The tee pad for one hole took nearly a month to carve out of the rocky hillside (but the reason we invested this level of effort is clear once you see the end result, which is our signature Hole 3: Tunnel Vision). The dense woodland we started with was never intended for disc golf and only had 2-3 foot wide clear paths we built years earlier for mountain bikes to pass through. Months of cutting, clearing, spraying, burning, re-clearing, spraying, and mulching were required to build fairways that would challenge the most advanced disc golfers but still be enjoyable to play. We discovered that the line between grueling and tedious, and challenging but still fun was very thin. To help us walk this fine line, we incorporated suggestions from dozens of players of varying skill levels after nearly a hundred rounds played at various stages of the design/construction process. Thank you to all of the players that provided feedback to make this course special.
Our Santa Fe Lake parks staff also care deeply about their craft and catering to park patrons. They spent an inordinate amount of time on landscaping, mulch and gravel trails, spraying for weeds, bugs, and poison ivy, and adding amenities to elevate our customers' experience. When space allowed, holes were designed with oversized paver tee pads big enough for the longest run-ups. Tree trunk tables and/or bag holders are available at every tee box to keep your high dollar bags elevated and dry. The course includes a practice basket and driving nets (will be installed after grand opening date) to help you warm up for your round. Gravel parking lots are available at Hole 1 and 10 so you can park close whether you are playing the traditional layout, our high water layout, or one of our shortened 9-hole layouts. Port-a-pots are present at Hole 1 and Hole 10 if you feel the urge while on the course, and full showers/restrooms are available at the Concessions stand if port-a-pots will not suffice. The tee signage and trails were all designed to allow you move quickly from hole to hole without getting lost with an average less than 100 feet of walking distance between previous basket and next tee pad.
Our design theory was simple: spare no labor to build something our users will love. The before and after transformation is incredible and we are excited to finally get to share it with all of you beginning July 26, 2023!