Adventure capital of New Zealand
Rugged mountains, majestic lakes, crystal clear
air, and just so much to do. From bungy jumping to wine trails,
jet boating to tramping, dining out to skiing, the tricky part
is extending your stay to try and fit everything in.
Note: Queenstown Disc Golf now has it's own website! Check out www.queenstowndiscgolf.co.nz
Queenstown Gardens - 18 objects (fully basketed) - A National Tour course.
I love this course…this has got to be the most beautiful
place for a Disc Golf course in the world. Big claim I know
but wait 'til you see it. The course is very much a pitch and
putt with most local players using ultrastar type discs, which
is probably a good thing as being right in the centre of town
this park can get busy (so as always: give way to punters).
There are a few 'interesting' tee positions and a couple of
the proverbial 'barn door' type of targets but a must to play
if you're in the neighbourhood. The course is well marked and
maps/scorecards are available from the local sport stores.
NZDG makes it 18 baskets for Queenstown Gardens
Originally set up in the early 80's the Queenstown Gardens Disc Golf Course was like most courses around the country, an 'object' course.
But after James Smithells shifted to the area in the mid 90's the disc catcher baskets started to appear.
Gentil Sport was proud to donate the first one which was one of the early NZ prototypes and from there slowly but surely as funding became available more and more have been added.
And now with New Zealand Disc Golf coming to the party the Queenstown Gardens course finally has 18 permanent baskets!
A big well done to James and his troopers, we all look forward to playing a round at The Gardens.
evening shot shows the Queenstown Gardens
Paradise, Glenorchy - 18 objects - A National tour course.
If you love the mountains, cool fresh air, virgin beech forest
and the whole alpine thing, you'll love this course. It only gets
played once a year as part of the Queenstown round of the National Tour but it shouldn't be missed. The setting
is fantastic, in fact so good Peter Jackson used it for one of
the scenes in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. Since the fences
were taken out and the stock removed it gets a little overgrown
in summer and the Matagouri trees can cause some problems but
the scenery makes it just too good to miss.
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Some Background Details of James '' Jaguar "
James '' Jaguar " Smithells was born in
Dunedin in 1951, the middle son of Philip (PAS), founder and long
time Professor of the Otago University School of Physical Education,
and Olive, an occasional lecturer at OUSPE. I was conceived in
the outdoors, with sport in the blood. And the Smithells brothers
competed at everything! We had access to all the OUSPE equipment,
so played just about every game that ever existed, and particularly
loved ball games. I recall seeing a Frisbee flying for the first
time in the late Sixties, and being mesmerised by the way it flew,
so much more gracefully than a ball. They were almost impossible
to buy, however I finally managed to get my first one in 1972.
Throw and catch rapidly became a favourite passtime, with the
perfect flat throw and tricky catches being the focus.
I don't recall when I first heard about disc
golf, but Mike Higginson and I started playing it in Woodhaugh
Gardens in Dunedin in 1976, the same year Bob Gentil started in
Auckland. We used World Series 141 G's, which were superbly behaved
discs, but unfortunately are unobtainable these days. We made
up the holes as we went, which often involved one compulsory after
another, often taking turns to nominate the next shot. This was
both great fun and good competition, which of course it remains
to this day. Mike went to Nationals the following year or the
one after, which was my first inkling of the bigger scene.
During my four years OE I played a lot of golf in Denver, where
we pioneered two set courses in Cheeseman Park and Washington
Park. Golf aside, everywhere I travelled I found frisbees to be
an international passport to friendship. In Asia we would start
throwing in a small village, the children would quickly gather
to watch, the bolder ones would then ask to join in, we'd teach
them the basics, and suddenly all the children were playing, with
adults gathering to watch, smile, and often participate.
My first game on a recognised course in New
Zealand was at Cornwall Park, where I also discovered golf discs
for the first time. Not that I could make them fly! I then attended
my first Nationals there in 1991, three months after having bought
my first Cobra. A whole new world opened up to me, and I met people
from both the Ultimate and Disc Golf fraternities who remain friends
to this day. On a personal level I was also very pleased to get
third in the Masters division, a place I tended to occupy over
the following years. The players from the rebel/splinter Tauranga
Disc Golf Association (TDGA) particularly inspired me, with their
great courses and brilliantly organised tournaments e.g. chilibins
in the trees, lunch and barbecues provided.
In 1994 I was visiting Queenstown in preparation
for moving there, when I was very pleasantly surprised to discover
that there was an excellent disc golf course there! It particularly
suited my style of play, which is more short range and accurate,
rather than the long, big-arm, open style. Which is where another
big story begins, shortly.
Favourite discs these days remain 71s for putting
and shorter approaches, Aviars for longer approaches, and Eclipses
for driving. Naturally I have other discs for more hard turning
shots, and a treasured UV 86 Softy, for bending around corners.
I won this in Tauranga, in the one and only tournament at which
I ever managed to beat all the big guns.
Favourite shots include the legendary 300 metre
downhill drive at the old Hills course in Taumaranui. This was
actually meant to curve into the target halfway along the trajectory,
but who cares when a disc goes that far? And heaps of people saw
Another favourite was acing the pole hole on
Giant Slalom in my first throw of the Queenstown Classic several
years ago, getting stroboscopic images of the disc turning through
the compulsory then arcing back behind the giant conifers, culminating
As for the Jaguar nickname, this idea came from
Tiger Woods' rise to fame, and the Queenstown crew and friends
decided to adopt either feline or canine nicknames, purely as
something fun e.g. Andy "Cougar'' Cooper, Chris "Dingo''
Davies, Penny "Panther" Jackson, Neil "Hound Dog"
Hardey, Bob ''Polecat" Gentil etc. The most memorable incident
with these names occurred on the bridge over the lily pond in
Queenstown, when Andy was preparing for the challenging tee shot,
just as a group of older people started to walk onto the bridge.
I said '' Stop and watch. Andy "Cougar'' Cooper is about
to tee off! '' Andy proudly stepped up to the mark, focused, and
nailed his first ace on this formidable hole! Everyone was suitably
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History of Queenstown Disc Golf
1. Creation of the Queenstown Gardens
The original course in the Queenstown Gardens
was set up on a casual basis in the early 1980s by a group of
raft guides and friends, including Rolf Liechti, Mark Gabites,
and Bruce Grant. They used to leave their frisbees in a neighbouring
garage, which eventually became a sort of club house. The course
was noted for its beautiful setting, its many compulsory shots,
and the wide range of targets. The sport grew in popularity and
so the tee areas were demarcated by black pegs in the ground.
When I moved to Queenstown in 1994 I decided
that the Gardens course would be an ideal venue for a tournament,
a la the TDGA events. Several other players were keen on the idea,
so I approached the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) to
request permission. The community development officer at that
time was Derek Stewart, who actually played disc golf in the Gardens,
despite being in a wheelchair. He suggested that we also requested
permission to permanently mark out the course, both so that people
would know where it was, and to avoid them playing just anywhere.
We jumped at the opportunity! This was to become the first permanently
marked out course in New Zealand.
Andy Cooper, Chris Davies, Dave Laurent
and I were the main people involved, with Chris Streat also assisting.
An enormous amount of time and energy was put into the project
e.g. seeking sponsors for each hole, raising money for tee markers
and hole markers, asking favours from local businesses, designing
scorecards and maps, creating signs, and of course actually laying
it all out.
We had to almost totally redesign the whole course,
in order to minimise the likelihood of adverse interactions with
both the physical environment e.g. vulnerable flowerbeds, and
other users of the Gardens e.g. no more seats as targets! New
holes were created, old ones vanished, targets and tees changed,
compulsories were eliminated, until we thought we had it just
right. We tried to keep as much of possible of the original course,
including names of holes, but little has remained the same. Windy
Way, Big Stone, Visiting Bruce, Around the Outside, Pathfinder,
and Hole in One remain most true to the original design.
The course construction was completed in time
for the first Queenstown Classic Disc Golf Tournament, which took
place in 1996, with the course boasting its first pole hole, generously
donated by Bob Gentil. Mayor Warren Cooper threw the first disc
to officially open the course (it turned over and landed in the
lily pond!). Ex-world champion Peter Bowie attended the event
and took out the Open title in fine form, including nailing throws
on some holes which we had never dreamed of and/or dared to attempt.
Local businesses had been extremely generous in donating prizes
for the event, and indeed their generosity continues to this day.
First prizes were fly-cruise-fly scenic trips to Milford Sound.
Superb trophies were created by Dan Kelly, brother-in-law of the
late Bruce Grant.
2. Bruce Grant.
Apart from being an early golfer in the Gardens,
Bruce was also a world class climber, parapente pilot, and downhill
skier, representing New Zealand at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.
A famous Gardens story about him occurred following Mini hurling
a huge throw and landing his Aerobie high in a pine tree. No one
dreamed of getting it down, but to everyone's astonishment the
next time they saw it it was significantly higher in the same
tree! Bruce had climbed the tree with the aid of crampons and
an ice-axe, and hung it high up as a permanent feature. It's still
there to this day.
later Bruce achieved his life's dream of climbing "
the savage mountain '' K2, but he and all those who summited
that day perished in a violent storm on their descent. The
impressive and weighty trophy for the Ultrastar/Local division
of the Queenstown Classic is the Bruce Grant Memorial Trophy.
A permanent memorial, also created by Dan Kelly, of a forearm
with ice-axe, adorned with meaningful words, rises out of
the ground by some boulders, beyond the pole hole target
on Visiting Bruce.
Visiting Bruce - a memorial
3. Wakatipu tournaments.
Buoyed by the success of both the 1996 then the
1997 Queenstown Classic events, we (Andy, Chris, and I) offered
to host the 1998 NZFDA National Disc Golf Championships in the
Wakatipu. This was a considerable undertaking, but in the end
we accomplished it in style. Players travelled from all over the
country and a good selection of locals turned out.
The format started with The Helicopter Line Queenstown Classic
(36 holes of singles), was followed by 72 holes of National singles,
and finished with the inaugural Nationals doubles event (36 holes).
There were certainly a few tired arms after 144 holes! The first
36 holes of National singles was held at the new Paradise course
past Glenorchy, a simply stunning setting. (This was pioneered
by Andy Cooper, Neil Hardey, Dave Burtenshaw, and myself). Pub
Charity funding allowed us to hire a bus for the day, a memorable
experience in itself.
Following the success of the Paradise event,
in 1999 we held the inaugural Dart River Safaris Paradise Plates
tournament there, as a companion tournament to the Queenstown
Classic. The format for this has remained 18 holes of doubles
followed by 18 holes of singles. Chris Davies' father made the
trophy Plates. Spending a night or two in the beautiful Paradise
setting has become part of the special nature of these Wakatipu
We have also held doubles events in the Queenstown
Gardens, as part of Winter Festival, on most years.
In 2005 we celebrated the 10th year of The Helicopter
Line Queenstown Classic, and created a special T-shirt with a
mountain/lake/helicopter/disc logo on the front, and the Paradise
logo on the back (naked frisbee throwers covering their lower
regions with discs/mountain/cabbage tree/vortex sun).
In recent years Lee Eliott and I have been the
main organisers of these Wakatipu golf weekend events.
4. Development and the future of the
Queenstown Gardens course
Once the course was permanently marked out, and
people passing by could easily buy a scorecard, map and frisbee,
playing golf in the Gardens became an extremely popular passtime.
It was novel, fun, inexpensive, and played in a beautiful setting.
Further popularity was added by occasional exposure on television.
On a sunny summer's day over a hundred people were likely to play
However this popularity produced unforeseen
consequences. Tee-off areas started becoming worn bare of grass,
so we created tee pads, made from paving stones generously donated
by Fulton Hogan. Some environmental damage began occurring, so
we made literally dozens of extra fine tuning changes to tee and
hole locations, and bought more pole holes in order to have targets
in just the right places. Very occasionally there were complaints
about inconsiderate players interfering with other users of the
Gardens. We therefore created a new sign, aimed at encouraging
people to respect both the physical environment and other users
of the Gardens.
Matters came to a head in 2002 when several
members of the QLDC tried to get the course removed from the Gardens.
Apparently there had been complaints about the behaviour of some
players, particularly around the lily pond. This was a major challenge,
and it took a lot of political lobbying and consultation to avoid
losing the course altogether. As a compromise we agreed to remove
the three popular holes from around the lily pond, and created
three new holes; Puzzled Monkeys, Southern Exposure, and Bead
Players were encouraged to either talk with or report anyone behaving
irresponsibly on the course, and the Queenstown Tennis Club offered
to monitor the course for us. In 2005 the QLDC provided us with
a new sign, complete with a map of the course and advice that
the course was being monitored.
It is extremely important that people playing
disc golf in the Queenstown Gardens continue to respect both the
physical environment and other users of the Gardens. If further
problems occurred we could again face losing this very popular
NEVER throw your frisbee/disc if there is any
chance that it might hit someone. Either guard them, wait, politely
ask them to move, choose an alternative target, or play that hole
The Mount Cook Line sponsored the first two Queenstown
Classic events, with The Helicopter Line having been the key sponsor
of this event for the last eight years. Helicopter flights are
provided to the winners of each division, all flying in the same
Dart River Safaris have sponsored the Paradise Plates events,
with the two winners of the doubles and a selected winner from
the singles divisions winning spectacular Dart River Safari jet
Local Queenstown businesses have always been
extremely generous in providing prizes for the Queenstown Classic
event. They are too many to name individually, but have included
bungy jumps, parapente, hang-gliding , and fly-by-wire flights,
canyon swings, and jetboat and rafting trips.
Lunch is always provided at the Classic, and
the Mediterranean Market provides us with free fruit for this,
along with Subway providing us with a free 6 ft sandwich.
If you have one or ever won a prize at one of
these tournaments, please make every effort to thank the sponsors
and say that you won the prize at the Frisbee Golf Tournament,
along with recommending their products to your friends. If we
look after them they will hopefully keep looking after us.
For further information, please contact
or 021 26 44 008
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