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Disc golf more popular than ever

Discs come in different colors, weights and brands.  This one is lined up with a basket. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

Discs come in different colors, weights and brands. This one is lined up with a basket. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

BY MATTHEW SEMRAU
OU News Bureau

A decade ago, most disc golf courses would be empty. Today, you might struggle to find a parking spot.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger every year,” said Matt Gregoire, media manager of the Professional Disc Golf Association. “Each year sets a new record for members. The sport is growing very, very rapidly.”

Disc golf plays much like regular golf, except with highly specialized frisbees — more commonly called discs. Instead of a hole, metal baskets are mounted to poles. Players aim to get their disc into the basket with as few throws as possible. Courses typically have nine or 18 baskets.

Players practice putts into baskets, not holes. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

Players practice putts into baskets, not holes. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

According to the latest demographic report from the association, its membership has grown from about 8,500 in 2004 to more than 25,000 in 2013. Those are just competitive players. The total number of all players is unknown.

“You don’t need to be a member of the PDGA to play,” Gregoire said.

Most courses are free to the public, often in public parks.

“Paid courses, those privately owned, make up maybe 1 percent of all the courses,” Gregoire said.

There are several dozen free courses in metro Detroit and more than a hundred in Michigan.

“There’re so many courses,” Gregoire explained. “More and more people are seeing it and saying, ‘It’s pretty cheap,’ so they bring the kids and wife.”

“We’ve seen an increase [in sales] every year for 18 years,” Brian Sullivan said. He is the marketing director of Wixom, Michigan-based Discraft Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of golf discs.

The Internet may be increasing awareness of the sport.

“Fortunately, some people want to go out and film it and put it up on YouTube,” Gregoire said.

While there are thousands of discs and many veteran players have bags full of them, the casual player can still enjoy the game with a single disc, Gregoire explained.

Parker Lovell prepares to throw a disc. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

Parker Lovell prepares to throw a disc. PHOTO/MATTHEW E. SEMRAU

A starter disc is about $15 at a sporting goods store, specialty disc golf store or online retailer.

McKay’s Hardware in Holly, Michigan, began selling discs a year ago, according to Pat McKay.

He started with a small stack. Now, the store has an entire endcap devoted to disc golf.

“Selling discs two years ago would not have been as successful,” McKay said.

He believes this is because disc golf wasn’t as widely known. In just the last year, he’s noticed an explosion of players on local courses.

“In the past few years, courses have become increasingly more crowded,” McKay said. “Everyone is playing.”

Parker Lovell, a competitive player from Goodrich, Michigan, has played on many metro Detroit courses.

“It’s really grown in just two years,” Lovell said at the Holly Woods disc golf course in Holly.

“A few years ago, you used to come out here and there would be nobody,” Lovell said.

Now, backups are common, Lovell explained. Some veteran player accustomed to being the only ones on the course have been frustrated by the congestion. Even then, he said, most are excited about the increased interest.

“I’ve never been out here and met a jerk disc golfer,” Lovell said.

Part of the growing popularity is because of the inclusiveness of the players.

“Disc golfers are very friendly,” Gregoire said. “It’s all a part of what makes it a great sport, a great community of people.”

 

 

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Posted by on Oct 2 2014. 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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