BELDING — Deep in the woods at Lightning Bend Park, there is little to listen to but the quiet whispers of mother nature.
Be it the wind whistling through the leaves or birds chirping high above in the trees overhead, it’s easy to be at peace when spending time in the heavily wooded city park.
But now, on occasion, a new, unfamiliar, but welcome sound may be heard.
Breaking through the long periods of silence, in the distance, the sound of a rattling chain may echo throughout the woods, followed by cheers of joy.
That quick clang of the chain will soon become more commonplace, thanks to the first disc golf course in Belding, SMASH park, which is now playable.
A year-long effort reached a milestone Tuesday as Valerie Brondsema, with tears forming in her eyes, launched the first ceremonial throw of a green disc, featuring the image of her late son, Cody Moore, into the basket on hole No. 3 of the new disc golf course.
After making the basket, the sound of the disc rattling the chains echoed through the woods and the many supporters and friends who stood nearby erupted into cheers as Brondsema wrapped her arms around her husband, Dick Brondsema, and let out a sigh of relief.
“We did it,” she said. “We all did it, together, for him.”
The course is named SMASH Park in memory of Moore, who died unexpectedly last year at the age of 26.
After his death, friends and family gathered, trying to find a way to honor their close friend.
It was decided after a short amount of time that it would be best to take Moore’s ultimate passion, the sport of disc golf, and find a way to establish the sport’s presence in Belding.
Moore’s close friend Keven Krieger helped organize fundraising efforts that soon led nearly $4,000 in funds, enough to purchase nine disc golf baskets and properly create the course
After receiving approval from city council, it wasn’t long before SMASH park began to take shape.
Friend after friend, and even those who had never met Moore, began volunteering their time to clear brush and help lay out the course.
For Brondsema, the time so many individuals dedicated to the course is the ultimate sign of respect anyone could show for late son.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done, everything you’ve been through, you’ve all taken the same journey with us,” Brondsema said to the crowd of friends and family who attended Tuesday’s emotional opening. “This never would have happened if it hadn’t been for all of you guys. We so much appreciate everything you’ve done.”
Brondsema said she was nearly left speechless at the amount of people who came to help build the course, yet didn’t know her son.
“This is something that my son really wanted to do,” she said. “He had so many friends, we knew there’d be a lot of help, but there were so many people who never even knew Cody and still donated their time,” she said. “It’s just so overwhelming that the community and all of these kids are willing to do this for somebody they didn’t even know.”
According to Krieger, the course, which consists of nine holes, features very narrow fairways and is a challenge because of the many trees that occupy the course.
Krieger and his friends made it a goal to work around the trees, rather that remove them, leaving the course as in as natural a state as possible.
“I’ve talked to some of the local disc golfing pros and this course is more technical than anything else,” Krieger said. “We don’t have any distance holes. It’s very different from the course in Greenville at Alan G. Davis Park.”
Though the course may be challenging, Krieger said that is no reason for beginners to shy away from playing.
“It’s a lot of fun for anybody from beginners up to professionals,” he said. “That’s the nice thing, there’s no green fees. You can buy a disc, or start with a Wham-O Frisbee if you like. It’s for kids and adults.”
According to Krieger, the course itself was designed very much with Moore in mind.
“Every time I’m out here, I feel like I’m with Cody,” he said. “I talk to him quite a bit because this is what we did for fun and I feel like his spirit inhabits this place. I think he would be pretty excited to see how far we’ve come and see all the people that have supported him.”
When it came to constructing hole number five specifically, Krieger said it was clearly evident that Moore was still placing his input.
“We came out here one day and a tree had fallen and split itself into a square t-box pointing a completely different direction than the way we wanted the hole to go,” he said. “We took that as Cody telling us he wanted the hole to go in a different direction. It wasn’t the easiest way, but that’s the way we went.”
Keiger said he was most impressed by the amount of people who came together to help make the new course a reality.
“It’s just amazing to see community support,” he said. “This is just am amazing group of people and they deserve a ton of credit. I’ve met a lot of good friends that I didn’t know before, it has been an incredible journey.
“It was an unfortunate experience that became kind of a bonding one in the end.”
The beginning of the course, which is free to play, is located just south of the pavilion at Lightning Bend Park off of Merrick Street.
With the exception of course or yardage markers, the baskets are in place on the course’s nine holes, along with trash receptacles, and each hole begins with a dirt pad from which to throw one’s disc.
Krieger said after an official grand opening of the park on Oct. 20, Moore’s birthday, when the second annual memorial tournament in Moore’s name will be held, he hopes to raise funds with the possibility of expanding the course to 18 holes.
“We’ll try fundraising again this fall and see if we can eventually create another 9 holes,” he said.