Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson stood on the pitcher’s mound, which was serving as a disc golf tee area at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
His golf instincts took over. He checked the wind, then lined up his shot toward home plate… okay, now the finishing hole on the 9-hole layout. And complete with batting cage as backdrop.
“What kid doesn’t want to throw at home plate in a professional stadium,” Watson said, smiling.
Add him into that category for this latest endeavor.
The kid in Watson, always part of his demeanor, has made it happen on a disc golf course he designed at the home of the team he co-owns. His two kids joined in the creation and helped christen the course in a recent, family outing with his wife, Angie.
Bubba Watson’s Diamond Disc Golf Challenge, believed to be the first 9-hole, disc golf course created inside a professional baseball stadium, will launches Friday afternoon at Blue Wahoos Stadium. It will be open for play on Friday through Sunday from 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Cost per-round is $5. Players can either bring their own discs, or purchase a set of three new ones for $25 at the Blue Wahoos’ Bait & Tackle team store on the stadium concourse. Families can share the discs while playing and keep for future rounds.
“The reason why we created the disc golf was to bring families together again in a different way,” said Watson, who rose from Milton High’s golf team into world-renown stardom on the PGA Tour and now regarded among the sport’s top players.
“I mean, what kid, what adult, doesn’t want to go inside of a real, professional baseball field, inside the stadium and have some fun?” Watson said. “The open air concept of this and fact anybody can play at this level, disc golf, it’s fun.”
With the Blue Wahoos baseball season on hold, due to the coronavirus pandemic and what Major League Baseball decides for its future, the disc golf concept is another way the Blue Wahoos are trying to be innovative and find ways to continue family-friendly fun.
Watson will share his thoughts on his new venture, along with Quint Studer, the Blue Wahoos majority owner, in a webinar on Thursday (6 p.m-7 p.m.) that fans can listen or participate for free by registering here.
Rick Appleyard of the Appleyard Agency and Greg Liebbe, a group sales executive with the Blue Wahoos, worked together to make the course happen, which Watson readily became part of.
Watson, who has won 12 PGA Tour events, became a disc golf player years ago while traveling from tournament sites in a motorhome.
“As much as I travel, it came about trying to find something else to do in a city with family,” Watson said. “Disc golf is so heavily involved around our country, but also so easy to play. Get out and have fun with family. Just like real golf, but a little less expensive.”
Liebbe, who has his own sets of discs, played for the first time 10 years ago in Charlotte, N.C. He joined the Blue Wahoos in 2020 from the Montgomery Biscuits. In this region, which includes the Daphne and Fairhope (Alabama) areas in Baldwin County, there are multiple disc golf courses.
“There are quite a few here and they are in good shape and pretty popular,” Liebbe said. “This is a sport that can be really friendly to your wallet. I like ball golf (traditional golf) too, as does my wife, but if you have to replace a set of clubs and $50 greens fees for one round, it becomes an expensive hobby.”
Disc golf is geared for families.
Watson’s 8-year-old son, Caleb, and 5-year-old daughter, Dakota, along with his wife, Angie, have been frequent fans at past years’ Blue Wahoos games when Bubba was not playing in a PGA Tour event.
Bubba and Caleb finalized the stadium disc golf course when the hole cages arrived Tuesday.
“It was almost like you were building a real golf course,” Watson said. “You just had the discs and you just throw to areas and you try and see, envision what you can create. Without being able to put trees, bunkers and water, I thought we created some cool areas.
“With the (stadium) netting all the way down the foul lines we used some holes where you can play the discs off the netting if you have a wayward throw. We tried to use all the advantages of the field to invite any skill level to play this course.”
Watson shot a 3-under 22 on the par-25 course to become the leader in the clubhouse, prior to the public taking aim this weekend. The course contains three par-2 holes, including the finishing No. 9 hole from the pitcher’s mound, two par-4 holes requiring lengthy first throws, and four par-3 holes.
From the deepest part of the ballpark, straightaway center by the wall, the longest hole begins and finishes just behind second base.
Since no one knows when, or if, the Blue Wahoos will have a baseball season, the team’s front office staff has brainstormed ways to have creative usages for the stadium.
“It’s a stadium for baseball, but there are so many more things going on,” Watson said. “You have UWF’s national championship football team playing right here, now you have disc golf.
“We’re going to figure out something else to do here… maybe get some go-karts out here. We are just trying to show we can get outside, we can enjoy beautiful weather, but also be safe and be the family-friendly atmosphere that we all know and love with the Blue Wahoos.”
The PGA Tour is set to resume in a couple weeks without fans at tournament sites. Watson will head out to play in his motorhome, likely pairing with fellow PGA Tour star Jason Day in some post-round disc golf in certain cities.
“He is pretty good at it,” Watson said. “I’d have to say Jason Day and myself are in the top five.”
He then added with a wry smile, “A lot of others will play, too, but they like to practice real golf, which you know I don’t like to do.”