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Frisbees, baskets and bogies PDF Print E-mail
Written by MAYAN FREEBORN   
Friday, 13 August 2010 08:57

Disc golfers hope to obtain more courses in Calgary

Flying discs of all colours and sizes whiz across the sky, soaring toward metal baskets on what appears to be a golf course. Players carry shoulder bags, tote suitcases or even push strollers filled with drivers and putters.  It’s sort of like golf in jeans.

Elijah Isaac plays at the nine-hole Forest Lawn course, which is one of Calgary’s two public courses.
Photo: Mayan Freeborn / Calgary Journal
Craig Burrows-Johnson started playing disc golf in 1989 in Alberta.  He belongs to the professional grandmaster category, which is for players 50 years of age and older.

“To me, it’s a very beautiful thing to watch a flying disc,” he says, explaining that some of the guys he’s played with have incredible throws.

Burrows-Johnson, 56, explains how disc golf originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s with Frisbees manufactured by Wham-O. The first course was established in California in 1975. He says at first, the game was about throwing the discs at something like a pole or a tree, and the first baskets were known as “pole-holes.”

“There’s over 2,000 of these basket-courses around the world now,” he says.

In Calgary, there are two public courses, one in Forest Lawn Park and one in Centenary Park, as well as one private course at the Parkland Community Centre.

Elijah Isaac, 30, has been playing disc golf for 12 years. He tells how the game has similar principles to golf, but instead of hitting a ball with a club into a hole, the player has to throw a disc into a basket.

And just like golf clubs, the discs come in different sizes and weights, some that are designed to hook and others that are meant for putting.

“It’s like a guy carrying around his light bag of clubs,” Isaac explains.  

The Forest Lawn course is a nine-basket-course, which means the baskets are to a par three, says Isaac. Like golf, if the player gets it in the basket in three shots, the score will be even, but if the player gets it in four shots, it resembles a bogie.

On a larger course, players may have to throw their discs up to 1,035 feet (315 metres) to reach a basket, while some baskets on smaller courses are 300 feet (91 metres) away.   A person can play solo or in pairs, triples and in groups of four or more.

Isaac says he gets out almost every Sunday with a group of people to play mainly at the Forest Lawn location.

“That’s kind of the nice part about this sport -- you don’t have to organize it and be on a team,” he adds.

Isaac says that the game has grown in Calgary, but since the courses are more limited than in other cities, it hasn’t seen as much growth as it could.  

“It’s still in its underground stages right now,” he explains.

Ron Falconer, another Calgary disc golf player, says that Calgary Disc Golf Club had their meeting on July 20, where they chose the president, vice-president and treasurer of the club. From there, he explains the club will consult with the city to get new venues for disc golf.

He says that Centenary Park will be rebuilt soon, which leaves only the Forest Lawn’s nine-hole course for public use.

Like golf clubs, different discs are used for different shots.
Photo: Mayan Freeborn / Calgary Journal
“As it is now it’s quite busy and it’s going to get a lot worse,” Falconer says.

Unlike tennis courts, golf courses and hockey rinks, he says that disc golf courses are relatively inexpensive in comparison.

“The cost of the signs and baskets would rarely exceed $20, 000 for an 18-basket course,” he explains, adding that it could cost around $75, 000 for one tennis court.

There is no special landscaping that’s required, courses can be built on almost any kind of land, and are often in public parks that are moderately wooded.

Burrows-Johnson says he believes Calgary could build four championship 18-basket disc golf courses in each quadrant of the city, which is what would be needed to get into the world championships.

He says Calgary is behind in the development of disc golf courses in comparison to Lethbridge, Edmonton and Canmore. And he notes not only would the courses be inexpensive, disc golf is a sport for people of all ages, and the equipment doesn’t cost a lot.

“[You need] maybe a driver and a putter, so you’re set for under $50…there’s no dress code, no green fees,” he explains.

Disc golf is easy on the pocket, it’s environmentally friendly, it’s safe, and most importantly it’s fun, says Burrows-Johnson. “There’s nothing more satisfying than throwing a flying disc with power and accuracy.”