Disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports in America.
With more than 3,000 courses in the United States as of 2011, according to the Disc Golf Association, it is a multi-generational sport that is great for any skill level.
In addition to being relatively inexpensive to set up, the majority of courses are free to play.
However, in order to be successful, a parks and recreation agency must be prepared and realize the proper steps to design a course for both casual and tournament players.
Creating A Disc-Golf Course
Find a location.
The best location is a nice mixture of woods and open space. A good rule of thumb is about an acre per hole, so an 18-hole course will need almost 20 acres. This can obviously vary depending upon the circumstances.
Most courses are found alongside other public-use areas. If there are existing facilities (playgrounds, trails, or high-traffic areas), these have to be taken into consideration. Obviously one doesn’t want disc golfers throwing near trails or in areas where children are playing or picnickers are relaxing.
Disc golf and other activities can co-exist, but careful planning is necessary.
Get Permission And Approvals
This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of creating a disc-golf course. Since board members and staffers may not be too knowledgeable about the sport, here are some key elements necessary to gain approval for a new course:
• Walk the site to learn the nature and main purposes of the particular location.
• Have a preliminary “concept of the course drawing” and the areas of the site that will be impacted.
• Be prepared to explain the sport extensively and why it would be a good addition.
• Know how the course will be funded. Don’t count on the city to contribute substantially toward the expense of the course. In most cases, the park board and staff will be supportive (after approval), and perhaps even provide manpower and equipment to help. But it would be wise to come up with alternative funding sources to buy equipment and build the course.
• Be prepared for this approval process to take time. Don’t get frustrated; a little patience is required.
The average course costs between $8,000 and $15,000. I recently worked with a park where a major utility company provided a grant that covered about 60 percent of the total cost.
In addition, you can obtain sponsors for each hole. For a donation between $250 and $500, the name of a business or individual (plus contact information) is placed on a tee sign in recognition. If 18 sponsors donating $500 each are secured, the entire course could literally be funded.
Another source of income is the creation of a disc-golf club for which members pay annual dues. As a benefit, they might be given a club T-shirt and would be able to help make decisions about the course and perhaps participate in tournaments for a discount.
Find A Course Designer
It is helpful to have someone who has experience in designing a course. This will help to avoid costly mistakes and errors that detract from the design.
Oftentimes, there may be an experienced player in the area who is willing to help.
Many professional course designers can offer a variety of services at a reasonable price. They are familiar with requirements of approved course design, steps to avoid conflicting traffic, and other important elements, especially if tournament use is intended. They can help purchase baskets, discs, etc., create proper course signage, and even oversee construction.
Design The Course
A sample design for the course was probably created when the presentation was made. Now is the time to see if that design is realistic, or whether adjustments need to be made.
In this phase, tee locations are marked, along with basket locations. Out-of-bounds areas are designated, and distance measurements are calculated. A final map design is created and approved.
Order Baskets, Signs, Tees, And Other Equipment
Tee signs need to be created along with any directional signage to help participants find their way around the course. Score cards with maps on the reverse side are helpful as well.
Do Necessary Grounds Work
This will vary substantially depending upon the location of the course. This is one area where park staff will come in handy. Grounds work might include clearing wooded areas to create a fairway for a particular hole or holes, removing brush, and weed-eating.
Install Baskets, Tees, Signs, Etc.
Basket installation depends upon the particular manufacturer from whom the equipment is purchased. In most cases, a base pole is set into the ground in concrete, and the upper part of the basket is installed later with a heavy-duty padlock connecting the two.
Tees can be made from various materials. Most people prefer concrete, but other tee materials include field lime, wood chips, or even natural grass. If the budget will allow for concrete, this is best.
Tee signs can be placed on metal poles or treated 4 x 4s, depending on what looks or works best at that location.
Grab Media Attention
Gaining attention for a new course to recruit funding or players is vital. This can be done through a variety of ways, including a course website and a Facebook page, along with contacting local media. This will assist in the grand opening of a new course.
Open The Course
The opening can include a ribbon-cutting ceremony and perhaps an inaugural tournament or other event. By this time, there will be interested players and curious beginners coming to the course.
A disc-golf course can also be a great enhancement to an existing program, such as a day camp.
Bob Carver has been in camp management for the past 33 years. He recently retired as executive director of Camp Allendale in Trafalgar, Ind., to become the camp’s marketing director. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.