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Revitalizing Recreation: The Disc Golf Renovation at Crossnore


In the heart of Winston Salem, amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown, lies a hidden gem that has recently undergone a remarkable transformation. The disc golf course at Crossnore Communities for Children, once an overgrown set of old baskets, is now a vibrant, family-friendly space, thanks to the passion and dedication of a supportive community.

A Passion for Disc Golf and the Seed of an Idea

Sean McGlynn’s journey with disc golf began in 2017 when he moved to Winston-Salem. He discovered the sport through a neighbor, Matt. What started as casual rounds with a friend became a lifeline, especially during the isolating days of the COVID pandemic. Disc golf offered a safe way to stay active, socialize, and enjoy the outdoors. Sean’s involvement grew deeper as he began writing for UDisc’s (the leading disc golf app) Release Point Blog, Disc Golfer Magazine, and serving on the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Environmental Committee. Now, he was eager to volunteer and try his hand at redesigning the course at Crossnore.

“There are a lot of fun courses in and around Winston Salem, but the only ‘course’ near downtown was a few old abandoned baskets at Crossnore that I just happened to notice one day during my drive to work. There were no signs or tee pads and many of the baskets were in desperate need of some TLC;  one basket even had a tree growing up through it. Still, Matt and I would go there after work and create our own course when the days got short and we were desperate to get a round in. I realized that with some hard work and a little bit of funding the course could be refurbished into something the community would use.” says Sean.

One of the original baskets needing some TLC (photo courtesy of Sean McGlynn)

Sean’s former colleague from Wake Forest University, Peter Berry, began working at Crossnore with the Miracle Heights Adventures program and was sold on the idea to revitalize the course as an additional recreation opportunity for the children and families at Crossnore and the surrounding community to enjoy. In Sean’s words, “[Peter] immediately got to work supporting me in my desire to build a course by applying for grant funding, getting the support of upper administration, ordering supplies, and researching course building best practices.” Especially being adjacent to the newly opened Stuart & Emma Thomas Memorial Trail, part of over 92 acres of protected land through the Piedmont Land Conservancy, and Miracle Heights Adventures ropes course facilities, Peter saw the potential for numerous visitors to feel even more welcomed and connected to Crossnore’s campus and mission.

New Addition: Feelings Wheel Frisbees

Andrew Florence, Crossnore’s Director of Experiential Learning, introduced a creative and meaningful addition to the disc golf course idea: frisbees featuring the Feelings Wheel image. This innovative idea integrates emotional learning with physical activity, providing children with a tool to express and understand their emotions. As they play disc golf with family, friends, and staff therapists, these specially designed frisbees serve as a catalyst for conversations about feelings. This tool makes the game more engaging and also supports the emotional well-being of the children.

Designing with Intention around Community

When asked how he came up with the course layout design, Sean responded, “The first thing I asked myself is what type of course do I want this to be? Being located on the campus of a community for children it was really obvious to me that the course should be geared towards children, families, and new players. This meant focusing on shorter, par 3 holes that are mostly open. At the same time, I wanted the course to have enough variety that more experienced players might want to come play a round before or after work, especially during the short days of winter. From there I spent time walking the property to visualize potential holes, playing test holes with friends, and making sure the layout did not interfere with other activities like the Miracle Heights Adventures Ropes Course.”

Sean continued, “For this course I had a fairly contained area to work with, which is actually perfect for a novice designer as it limits decision paralysis. I knew I wanted to create a couple of holes where players can throw downhill into the field- as every disc golfer loves throwing downhill, and there is nothing more likely to get a new player hooked than the joy of watching their disc soar. I wanted to design holes that would allow for creativity, with enough obstacles to keep things interesting but not discouraging. Some of the holes were inspired by the holes Matt and I would come up with during our rounds after work.”

The layout Sean designed encourages players to navigate the course in an exciting figure-eight pattern, creating a seamless loop that flows back on itself, facilitating both recreation and meaningful interaction. The beginner-friendly design not only enhances the playing experience but also fosters opportunities for easy conversation. As players move through the course, the natural pauses and transitions between holes provide perfect moments for family members, friends, or therapists to engage in discussion. Whether it’s sharing a lighthearted moment or delving into deeper conversations about emotions in a therapeutic context, the layout supports a blend of physical activity and connection.

Community Support Highlight – Essent Guaranty

This past fall, Essent Guaranty chose to support Crossnore’s Disc Golf Revitalization project with over $3,900 in donated materials and volunteer support. Essent’s corporate giving and employee volunteer programs sponsor national and local community organizations with a focus on children, education, health, and housing. Crossnore fits very well into their mission, checking not just one box, but all four! Over a dozen employees from the Operations Center in Winston Salem spent a day helping to refurbish and improve the disc golf course.

George Jackson, Essent’s Chief Technology Officer, stated “Essent employees have a passion to help at Crossnore and got very excited when they heard about the opportunity to take part in a hands-on project, where they could get their hands “dirty,” so to speak, on a very rewarding project like refurbishing the Disc Golf course. Especially as they learned that the course is used for recreation, but also therapy, for the children at Crossnore.”

Members of Essent’s Operations Center preparing to install the frame at Tee Box 3 (photo courtesy of Tracy Harvey)

Matt Bankson, Vice President of EssentConnect said, “Each person worked so hard on their assigned parts of the project, but the entire team worked so well together to help each other meet the goal. Turned out to be a great team building activity as well as a service project.”

Members of Essent’s Operations Center after an incredible workday 
(photo courtesy of Tracy Harvey)

Essent refers to their annual project and fundraising efforts as helping in a “small” way; however, we understand the “big” impact they make on our campus, staff, children, and community. The Winston-Salem campus and entire organization are so thankful for their mission, service, and passion for the work Crossnore does.

Community Support Highlight – WFU Global Wake Forest

Sean was sharing his excitement about the project with his department colleagues within Wake Forest University’s Global Wake Forest, sharing how close the project was to completion. His colleagues must have caught Sean’s contagious fervor, because the team allowed eight staff members, Sean included, to spend a Friday volunteering for the final push. Peter enjoyed working alongside many of his former colleagues to install the remaining tee pads, sign posts, and baskets as the team wrapped up the last major aspects of the project. He and Sean are both deeply thankful for the continued support of their friends and colleagues at Global Wake Forest.

Members of WFU’s Global Wake Forest installing turf over Tee Box 7 (photo courtesy of Sean McGlynn)

“It felt very special to be able to give back to the disc golf community, and hopefully help other people find a new sport and hobby that helps keep them healthy and active.” says Sean.

Members of WFU’s Global Wake Forest after an incredible workday
(photo courtesy of Sean McGlynn, pictured on the bottom row, second from the right)

A Bright Future

“Creating this course on a campus dedicated to creating healthy futures for children and families made it particularly rewarding, and I hope that staff and teachers can include the course in their programming for their students. Hearing that people are out playing the course most every days provides me with a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.” Sean concludes.

The revitalized course is now a thriving hub of activity, enjoyed by players of all ages and skill levels. For many, it provides an opportunity to set achievable goals and channel their energy into reaching them. Whether for relaxation, personal growth, or social interaction, the revitalized course is a beacon of community spirit. It is a model of how dedication and collaboration can turn an idea into a cherished local amenity that supports the overall well-being of all. 

Come visit, and learn about how you can support projects at Crossnore as we strive to fulfill our Promise of Home.