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Disc Golf Soars in the Fox Valley

People all over the Fox Cities are looking for ways to get outside and enjoy the remaining warm days. Walking, running, biking, a pick-up game of softball, or 18 holes of golf are all great ways to experience the summer breeze.

But there is another great option out there that you may not have tried. It’s called disc golf.

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association website, disc golf has been a formalized sport since the 1970s. Courses have sprung up all over the country and the world as its popularity continues to grow. The game is easy to learn, fun to play, and is great for players of all ages, skill levels and economic statuses. Here’s how it works:

Disc golf shares many similarities with “ball golf.” Disc golf, however, is played with weighted flying discs instead of balls and clubs. The object of the game is to complete each hole in the fewest throws. A golf disc is thrown from a tee box to a target, most often an elevated metal basket. Players progress down the fairway, avoiding trees and other obstacles, making each consecutive throw from the place where the previous throw has landed. The hole ends when each player has thrown his/her disc into the basket.

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Another draw to the sport is the low price tag. Most courses in the area allow anyone to play for free. Pay-to-play courses charge less than $5 per day and often offer season passes at a discounted rate. High-end discs cost as little as $15 and novice disc golfers only need one disc to play.

Though not highly publicized, the disc golf community in the Fox Cities is a thriving one. Disc golf courses can be found in many parks. There are more than 130 courses statewide.     During the summer, players gather each evening of the week at different parks in the area. Tournaments for varying skill levels occur almost every weekend of the summer and continue into fall. Newcomers can join any of the several leagues in the area or grab a friend and play at any of the area courses.

With popularity for the sport already growing, local parks are investing in better facilities and more enjoyable courses. One local course, O’Hauser Park in Menasha, recently updated its facilities and transitioned to a pay-to-play policy. According to Michael Kading, director of Town of Menasha Parks & Recreation, the renovation, which began in 2009, is still continuing. Though the main stages of the project were completed for the course’s reopening in June 2012, smaller improvements like adding more benches and beautifying the course are still in progress.

Improvements included the creation of 45 concrete tee pads, multiple pin placements at each hole and a rearrangement of the course so that it now begins and ends at the O’Leary Road parking lot. The project also has aimed to improve the habitat for wildlife and restore some of the original prairie land found within the course.

Since the renovation, Kading says the course draws a more reputable crowd of disc golfers. “What I tell people is there’s been a decrease in quantity but an increase in quality,” says Kading.

Frank Willes of Menasha, a 24-year-old college student, who plays two to three times a week in the summer, agrees. He says the course “feels higher class” after the renovation. He also appreciates that the course is cleaner, more scenic and can be made tougher if desired. Willes also has found the local disc golf community to be a tight-knit, friendly group. Though his schedule sometimes brings him to the park alone, he can always find a group of players to join for a game.

Other local parks also are revamping their courses in a variety of ways. According to Tim McGuire, grounds manager for the City of Appleton, Telulah Park in Appleton recently removed nine holes of their 18-hole course to accommodate the construction of a skate park. In the process, the course was rearranged to remove four holes from the hillside down to the river where foot traffic was threatening the integrity and stability of the landscape.

This summer, Rob Way and the Winnebago County Parks Department will be making some elevation changes to the tee boxes and baskets at Community Park in Oshkosh. While they add variety to the course, they also will be making improvements to their 36 fairways.

With weekly league events, tournaments and courses open to the public all summer long, getting involved is as easy as one, two, three, FORE!

For more information about the sport and how you can get involved, visit widiscsports.com.

—By Jennifer Clausing

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