Disc golf growing in popularity

Disc golfers try out new discs during an event at Shoaff Park in Fort Wayne June 1. (Megan Knowles)

By Megan Knowles

A sport that has been around for almost 50 years has seen renewed interest as of late, Fort Disc Golf Club volunteer Brian Wilson said.

Disc golf is similar to its “ball golf” counterpart in that players try to navigate a course in as few points as possible.

The difference, however, is instead of clubs and balls, disc golf participants play with a variety of flying discs designed for the sport.

From left, a putter, midrange and driver disc is shown. These are the basic types of discs people need to get started in disc golf, Fort Disc Golf Club volunteer Brian Wilson said. (Megan Knowles)

All discs fall into one of three categories. A driver is more thin than its counterparts and is designed to “cut through the air faster” and travel the most distance, Wilson said.

A putter is the bulkiest and easiest to control, and is typically used within 60 feet of the basket, Wilson said. A midrange disc falls in between the two.

But not all discs are created equally, and, like golf clubs, different situations on a course might call for different discs.

“On a typical day, for a disc golfer who’s been playing a while (he or she) might throw 10 or 15 different discs depending on the course and things of that sort,” Wilson said.

Discs start around $10 and can go up in price from there. For those just looking to get started, many sporting goods stores offer starter sets of a driver, midrange and putter.

Rules are basically that simple, and Wilson said those getting started can typically pick up the basics in their first try.

A disc golfer throws off a tee box at Shoaff Park June 1. (Megan Knowles)

For those playing in Fort Wayne, he did recommend the more open Shoaff Park course to the champion caliber Tillman Park course.

“(Shoaff Park’s course is) the easiest and (is) beginner friendly. It’s so open. East and West Swinney there’s a lot of water, so you don’t want to start out there. Tillman is championship caliber so there’s lot of potential for people to get frustrated and they don’t enjoy it as much until you get better,” he said.

Wilson has been playing for 12 years and said he’s seen “exponential” growth in the past two to three years. He credits this with more awareness of the sport thanks to exposure of national tournaments.

“People feel they are actually part of something,” he said. “Every day this course (at Shoaff Park in Fort Wayne) is packed when it’s nice out.”

Members of the Fort Disc Golf Club hand out discs at its annual Trilogy Challenge June 1 at Shoaff Park. (Megan Knowles)

For those looking to get more involved, the Fort Disc Golf Club offers memberships that allow access to the club’s disc inventory and help with course maintenance.

In addition, there are several weekly leagues available and numerous tournaments throughout the year all across the region.

The Fort Disc Golf Club started in 1985, around the same time as the opening of the Shoaff Park course, according to its website, fortdiscgolf.com.

What started as a handful of players has grown to around 120, Wilson said.

The club offers weekly leagues including a women’s league on Mondays, a traveling league on Tuesdays, a handicap league where players compete against their averages on Wednesdays and a random draw best shot league on Sundays, Wilson said.

They also host seven to eight other tournaments throughout the year, Wilson said. In early June the club hosted its annual Trilogy Challenge, where participants got to try out three new discs from a trio of manufacturers.

Their largest event is the 34th annual Three Rivers Open, which takes place the last weekend in July, Wilson said.

One hundred forty-four participants from all over the country start by playing the 36 holes at Swinney Park.

“On Sunday, based on how you finished in your division, you’ll be assigned a tee time and you’ll play Tillman Park,” Wilson said, adding there are amateur and professional divisions.

More information on the club can be found at its website or //www.facebook.com/fortdiscgolfclub/.

A disc golfer throws a disc closer to the hole at Shoaff Park June 1. (Megan Knowles)

Area disc golf courses

Allen County

• Shoaff Park, 6401 St. Joe Road, Fort Wayne (24 holes)

• Tillman Park Disc Golf Course, 600 E. Tillman Road, Fort Wayne (18/19 holes)

• West Swinney Park, West Jefferson Boulevard and Park Drive, Fort Wayne (18 holes)

• East Swinney Park, West Washington Boulevard and the Rivergreenway, Fort Wayne (18 holes)

• Moser Park, State and Main streets, New Haven (18 holes)

DeKalb County

• Eckhart Park, 1500 S. Cedar St., Auburn (9 holes)

Huntington County

• Huntington University, 2303 College Ave., Huntington (9 holes)

• Memorial Hills Disc Golf, 1200 W. Park Drive, Huntington (18 holes)

• Tower Park Disc Golf Course, Park Drive, Warren (9 holes)

LaGrange County

• Delt Church Park, 6455 S. C.R. 200W, Wolcottville (18 holes)

Noble County

• Hidden Diamonds, 300 Weber St., Albion (9 holes)

• David Imbrock Memorial Disc Golf Course, Bixler Lake Park, Kendallville (18 holes)

Steuben County

• Fremont Middle School, 811 W. Renee Drive, Fremont (9 holes) (Open to the public outside of school hours)