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Disc golfers tee up

Oakland County boasts a handful of courses for the obscure sport

BY ANDREW CRAIG
OU News Bureau

In 1926, a group of children in British Columbia threw tin lids at a tree.

Joshua Kelly attempts a 20-foot shot on Oakland University's disc golf course. ANDREW CRAIG/OU NEWS BUREAU

While the act may not seem monumental, experts suggest it was the groundwork for the sport of disc golf today.

The kids named the game Tin Lid Golf, which they played regularly on school grounds in Vancouver. Today, disc golf is played in countries across the world.  According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, membership broke 40,000 this year.

Like traditional golf, the disc alternative is played with a similar nine- or 18-hole format.  The sport uses Frisbee-like plastic discs instead of golf balls. Competitors aim for metal baskets situated where holes would be in golf.  The holes on a disc golf course are generally more varied in construction than a typical hole in golf.  Courses that feature a blend of wooded areas and open terrain are regarded as ideal.

With more than a dozen courses in Oakland County, local popularity of the sport continues to grow, advocates say. Courses at Addison Oaks and Oakland University offer the combination of woods and open areas that participants have come to expect, especially in Michigan.

Boyd Brokenshaw, park supervisor at Addison Oaks, sees an increase in the sport’s following.

“Attendance has been growing steadily,” Brokenshaw said.  “We see more people come out to play every year.”

Although the activity is trending upward, it hasn’t yet exploded onto the sports scene.  Oakland University sophomore Joshua Kelly explained that disc golf still has an underground feel.

“I definitely think its popularity is on the rise,” Kelly said.  “But it isn’t huge yet.  It’s not a sport that’s highly advertized.  I didn’t even hear about it until I started college.  If you haven’t played, you probably don’t know much about it. I don’t see it publicized at all.”

The image of disc golf remains somewhat hidden, due partially to the location of courses.  Many of Oakland County’s eight courses are tucked away inside wooded areas of county parks.  Equipment can be hard to find.

“I looked for a while before I found a place to buy a disc,” Kelly said.  “I think that’s a reason disc golf isn’t growing as quickly as it could.”

Disc golf may lack the popularity of its traditional counterpart, but it does create a different kind of experience.

“It’s similar to golf, but it’s also different in a lot of ways,” Kelly said.  “You can’t throw a disc 300 yards, so the obstacles become harder to negotiate.  There are trees, rivers, lakes, holes — it can get pretty challenging.”

A sign points the way at the Addison Oaks disc golf course. COURTESY/WWW.DGCOURSEREVIEW.COM

Despite the potential challenges, however, disc golf is an activity to be enjoyed by all ages.

“We see kids, high school and college-age students,” Brokenshaw said.  “But we also have older people come out who have been participating for years.  It’s not just one group of people, it’s for all ages.”

Matches range from competitive to relaxed, as the players travel courses at their own pace.

“One thing that’s really cool about disc golf is that it doesn’t have to be an intense game,” Kelly said. “You can just go out and have fun. It’s not like golf where I get mad or embarrassed if I take a bad shot.”

According to Brokenshaw, part of the experience is getting a breath of fresh air.

“As it warms up, a lot more people come out,” he said.  “It’s fun for people because they can enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful scenery while they play.”

Most discs range from $15 to $25, and many of Oakland County’s parks are free to play.

“If you can throw a Frisbee, you can throw a disc,” Kelly said.  “I haven’t met anyone who has tried disc golf and hasn’t had a good time.”

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Posted by on Mar 24 2011. Filed under Featured article, Oakland County. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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