Fairways Of Hope

By Dave Miller

Modern disc golf started in the 1960s and today is the fastest-growing non-contact sport in America. The object for a player is to complete an entire course in the fewest number of throws of the disc. Over the past decade and a half, the sport has skyrocketed due to a combination of fun, challenge, and affordability. It’s a sport anyone can play, regardless of gender, age, or ability.  

Although I had played disc golf a few times, little did I know that I would become involved with developing a disc-golf course for my community.  Recently retired as Director of Parks & Recreation for the city of Moraine, Ohio, after 34 years of service, I didn’t know my life would change dramatically in the next four months as I was diagnosed with stage-four lymphoma cancer. Three months after beginning chemotherapy, my youngest son Shane, age 20, passed away. At the time, in lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Moraine Rotary Club of which I’ve been a member for 29 years.

During treatment, I brainstormed what project I could do in memory of my son. Then one day it dawned on me—a disc-golf course. Shane loved playing Frisbee every day, and I had once considered developing a course at one of the city parks. It became clear that would be our family’s goal.

I pitched the idea at a Moraine Rotary Club meeting. The club agreed to donate $2,000 towards the project, and we were off and running.

So how did we install a disc-golf course in a quick and inexpensive manner?

Step 1: Disc-Golf Research
I relied on a variety of free resources that offered me professional guidance on how to design and develop a course, what equipment was needed, and how to familiarize myself with disc-golf terms, rules, playing techniques, and disc-golf products. Here are some of the resources I used:

·         Disc-golf websites: Disc Golf Association (DGA), Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), Dayton (Ohio) Disc Golf Association (DDGA)

·         Disc-golf manufacturers:  Innova Disc Golf

·         Local disc-golf stores

·         Local disc-golf courses (walking and playing other courses in the area)

·         Local players (listening to their likes and dislikes about courses).

Step 2: A Location
Disc-golf courses can be designed for an under-utilized area of a facility. Deer Meadow Park had many recreational amenities, such as a skate park, shelter houses, playground equipment, and a half-mile bicycle/walking path around a beautiful nine-acre fishing pond. The most positive attribute of the park was an irregular parcel of land on 18 acres, a combination of open space and wooded area—the perfect site for a disc-golf course. I obtained the necessary permission to develop the course.

Step 3: A Budget
The free resources in Step 1 helped me determine the costs for equipment, installation, supplies, and other considerations. The total estimated cost was $9,000 to 10,000.

Step 4: A Course Design
With the help of several local players, I walked the site several times and marked with stakes the tee and basket locations for the proposed 18-hole course. I kept in mind the national standards as per minimum lengths per hole, and for setting the par based upon the presence of natural obstacles (trees vs. open areas) or other natural or man-made challenges. I contacted the owner of a local disc-golf store in Dayton who has experience in designing courses. He volunteered to walk the park with me and view the proposed layout, occasionally making suggestions to modify the length of the holes, basket location, or added distance between the basket and next tee for safety. Consulting someone with designing experience is essential and does not need to be costly. In lieu of his assistance, I placed his company information on a tee sign, on the main message board, and in all press releases. I decided to go with natural tees the first year demarcated with in-ground blocks, with the goal of installing concrete pads after a year of play and evaluation.

Step 5: Fundraising Partnerships
Once the word got out that a course was to be built in memory of my son, the family was blessed with an outpouring of help from the community. We established two points of contact for monetary donations: the Moraine Rotary Club and a site on “Go Fund Me.” Using social media, such as my daughter’s Facebook page, rapidly spread the word of the project. Contributions began pouring in from family, friends, work associates, church parishioners, and businesses. The city’s Foundation contributed, and the project was named one of the “Moraine 50th Anniversary Projects” since the city was celebrating its milestone birthday all year. Local businesses that donated had their information placed on a tee sign and also on the message board. Partnerships were formed as a local brick company donated blocks for tee markers. The city’s Street Division partnered with us, and the staff, along with volunteers, helped install the baskets, tee posts, tee signs, directional arrows under each basket, and message board. A local church pastor and his family built the large message board, and my oldest son, along with volunteers, built and installed four footbridges. The local Lowe’s Home Improvement Center provided discounts on wood, hardware, and other supplies. A city employee designed the tee signs and the large course sign. In keeping with the name of the course, the “Fairways of Hope,” each tee sign had not only a diagram of the hole, par, and distance, but also an inspirational message. Three work days were needed to install and cement the 18 tee posts and 18 baskets. Three more work days were needed to install the chains on the baskets, individual tee signs, message board, and tee markers. Major business and individual donors were recognized on the tee signs as well as on the message board. 

Step 6: Dedication Ceremony
A dedication ceremony was held on September 19, 2015. Over 125 people turned out despite a slight drizzle, and many disc enthusiasts still played 18 holes in the rain. Moraine Rotary and a few local stores donated hot dogs and drinks for the event. The mayor and city council, my family, and Moraine Rotarians proudly cut the ribbon to open the new course.

Step 7: Ongoing Maintenance And Upkeep
My connection with the city’s parks and recreation department was a big plus; however, anyone thinking about developing a course should consider forming a partnership with the local park department for grass mowing and maintenance-related assistance. Developing a “Friends of the Disc Course” is a useful asset, as these volunteers can be used in many ways, such as monitoring the course to pick up trash, trimming grass, making minor repairs to foot bridges, signs, or tees, trimming easy-to-reach tree branches, changing message board signs, working leagues or tournaments, or helping to fundraise.

Final Budget Cost:

Baskets (18)                                               $6,500
Tee posts (18)                                             $   181
Tee signs and large course sign                  $   860
Footbridges (4)                                           $   410
Basket and tee-post installation supplies    $   360
Message board                                            $   970
Total                                                            $9,281

Future Additions
To date, more than $11,000 has been raised for the course. Several projects for year two have been planned. Since mosquitos and insects are an issue during warm weather, we will combat this problem with natural remedies by installing bat houses for night feeding and Martin houses for daytime feeding. Benches will be added to many tee areas. Concrete tee pads will be installed. A pathway with personalized engraved bricks for people who have lost children or young adults will be added to an area called “Serenity Point.” This scenic area, with benches by the pond between two golf holes, will be a quiet, reflective place.

The Moraine Rotary Disc Golf Course “Pathways of Hope,” in memory of Shane Miller, has had steady play regardless of weather since its opening. It has been a perfect memorial to our son and has been a great recreational addition to the community and the park system.

Dave Miller is the Volunteer & Community Service Coordinator for the city of Moraine, Ohio. He previously served as director of the department for 27 years. Reach him at Dmiller@moraineoh.org.