Get A Grip On The Game
By Ed Steele
It has been proven through Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation in Virginia that creating buy-in from local disc-golf enthusiasts can enhance the game’s presence in our community parks. A well-maintained course not only attracts more play, but a respectful and diverse group of individuals who enjoy playing the game and taking care of the park where the game is played.
In 2000, local disc golfers approached the department’s director and asked about the potential for placing disc-golf baskets on an already established course made up of trees in the park. After surveying the proposed layout, the department and the disc-golf group formed an agreement whereby the group agreed to handle all labor associated with digging anchors for disc-golf basket placement, and the parks department agreed to purchase 19 baskets for 18 holes and a practice putting area.
Within a few months of the Westover course being established, the local disc-golf community formed the Harrisonburg Disc Golf Club, today known as the Rocktown Disc Golf Club. The club began hosting a fundraiser—the annual Ice Bowl Tournament—to benefit the community as well as a local food bank. This event helped bring together a diverse group of people with similar interests who steered the Rocktown Disc Golf Club into a successful 501(c)3 organization. Since achieving this status, the group continues to assist with course maintenance as well as hosting weekly singles and doubles events, regional tournaments, and fundraisers.
Westover Disc Golf Course began with natural tee pads, which are usually marked with survey flags to indicate the teeing area. Over time, the tee pads became much like areas under poorly maintained swings—pitted, muddy, and dangerous. The Rocktown Disc Golf Club approached the park director about replacing the grass pads with concrete tee pads. The project was reviewed and approved with the stipulation that the club raise all the funds and provide the labor to finish the project. Within two months, the club solicited sponsor donations from local businesses and stakeholders. Sponsors were granted the opportunity to have representation on tee signs throughout the course. Many disc-golf courses throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast have developed their courses by utilizing volunteers and community groups that are interested in the game. Although volunteers may be eager to get started on your disc-golf project in a park, it is still important that the parks department provide guidance and is part of the planning and implementation process.
Installation of an 18-hole disc-golf course is a relatively inexpensive project for most parks and recreation departments. Professional-level baskets cost around $6,000. At Westover Park, we placed 5-foot by 12-foot concrete tee pads for under $2,000. Tee signs and posts cost around $500. For under $10,000, your park could be the site of an excellent disc-golf course that caters to players of all ages. Course maintenance costs are minimal and often involve little work outside of normal mowing operations. Consider including maintenance of fairways or “greens” and tee pad areas in your agreement with the local club and project volunteers.
Concrete. The preferred surface for tee pads is concrete. Westover’s concrete pads included 2-foot by 4-foot frames, which were leveled; then gravel was placed in and under the framing for added stability. The pads allow players plenty of room for adequate footwork for their drives.
Carpet. Carpet is an alternative material to concrete that has proven durable and stable. Constructed similarly to concrete tee pads, a 5-foot by 12-foot pad with 2x4 framing is leveled and staked to the ground. Several layers of gravel are added and tamped to form a firm base. When gravel is near the top of the frame, additional gravel is added, and a screed board is used to level the gravel. Once the gravel is level, a large piece of carpet is stretched over the frame and nailed, using roofing nails. The carpet provides exceptional grip even in wet conditions, and the gravel allows excessive water to drain through the pad. Old artificial turf reclaimed from athletic fields may be used for this project as well. This type of tee pad requires regular maintenance to ensure the subsurface remains level and the top layer stays intact.
The target destination for each hole is referred to as a basket, pole hole, etc. Many courses are set up with multiple baskets for each hole, which allows players to vary the course each time they play it. The downside to having multiple baskets for each hole is the increased cost.
An alternative to additional baskets is to buy additional ground anchors for each hole. Anchors cost around $25 each. Additional anchor options provide flexibility and allow you to adjust the difficulty level of the course. At Westover, we chose the additional anchor option and change our course monthly.
When installing alternate ground anchors, be sure to have the top of each anchor recessed below ground level. If they are above ground level, they can damage mowers and other maintenance equipment. Plumbing pipe caps can be used to screw into the end of the anchors when they are not in use in order to prevent water from accumulating in the anchor and to keep park users and animals safe when coming in contact with the anchor.
The area between the tee and the basket is the fairway. Hole lengths typically vary from less than 200 feet to more than 500 feet, with some courses boasting hole lengths of up to 1,000 feet. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA.com ), the acreage for a recreational course can be as small as 12 acres while a championship-level course needs up to 39 acres.
Care should be taken to utilize as much of the park’s natural surroundings as possible. Trees and other vegetation can make excellent obstacles for players to navigate. Bodies of water are an added feature that can make the course more challenging. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at a potential course. Any disc that lands on concrete or asphalt is considered out of bounds, with an accompanying penalty stroke. Also, boundaries can be placed anywhere on the course to discourage conflicting activities that may take place in the park around disc-golf play.
One often-forgotten disc-golf course item is tee signs. Tee signs are excellent ways for players to find their way around a new course. They should include the hole number, a diagram of the current hole, par, distance to the basket location(s), and direction to the next tee pad. If sponsors are solicited for the course construction, this would be a good place to acknowledge their contribution.
If you are considering a disc-golf course in your park, make use of local disc-golf enthusiasts for their knowledge of the game and willingness to assist with course construction. However, make sure the parks department guides the project and remember not to burden the group of interested players with all the course maintenance; they will be your best advocates for course utilization.
Ed Steele, CPSI, is a Safety and Risk Coordinator for the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation in Virginia. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.