“Disc-overing” Disc Golf

Having trouble deciding what to do with that underutilized piece of park land that doesn’t fit into any specific programming niche and no money to alter the site? Why not consider a disc-golf course?

Disc golf is a great way to make use of otherwise unusable park land. Photo Courtesy of Wesley Greco of Geneva

In the spring of 2012, the city of Geneva (pop: 13,000) in western New York and a crew of volunteers turned an underutilized park area into an inexpensive, family-friendly recreation hub.

Define Disc Golf

Disc golf is like traditional golf, except that players use specialized discs similar to Frisbees in place of golf balls, and attempt to throw the discs into above-ground basket targets in the fewest number of throws.

Interest in the game has boomed in the last 15 years, with the number of courses worldwide increasing from 560 in 1995 to 3,276 in 2010. The popularity of disc golf stems, in part, from its affordability. A golf disc costs as little as $8, and although experienced players may own dozens of discs, the game can be enjoyed with a single disc.

Cattails And Woodchuck Holes

The 20-acre northern portion of Lakefront Park offers beautiful views of Seneca Lake, but its rolling terrain, cattail marshes, isolation from other park amenities, and frequent woodchuck holes resulted in the area being lightly utilized.

However, many of the features that made the area unacceptable for ball fields or playgrounds made for ideal “natural hazards” for disc golf. Unlike traditional golf courses, disc-golf courses do not require significant alterations to the land to be playable.

Janelle Drach, Geneva’s director of recreation, having learned about disc golf at the New York State Recreation and Park Society conference, returned with the idea that a disc-golf course might work at Lakefront Park. The problem: Drach had little knowledge of disc golf, a tight budget, and uncertainty as to whether the community would embrace the game.

Getting Things Spinning

Committed disc golfers are a passionate but frustrated bunch. Unlike the availability of basketball or tennis courts, which can be found at the parks of even the smallest communities, most towns don’t have disc-golf courses. Disc-golf lovers routinely drive an hour (or more) in search of a course.

As a result, they are often eager to volunteer time and money to help establish courses within their own communities.

But there is a “chicken-and-egg” problem—how does one find passionate disc golfers to serve as community partners when the city doesn’t have a disc-golf course?

One idea is to contact regional disc-golf clubs in nearby cities. These groups can be found through a web search, or may be listed on the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) affiliates page (www.pdga.com/affiliate_club/club-list).

Disc golf is a popular–and inexpensive–recreation activity. Photo Courtesy of Janelle L. Drach

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