The rain was coming down in sheets, but Larry Lindgren didn’t care. Like an excited kid with a new toy, he had to go out and play.
In the midst of a recent Friday afternoon rainstorm that would not quit, Lindgren, 55, and a Yarmouth Parks and Recreation employee turned in the first and perhaps soggiest round at the town’s new nine-hole disc golf course at Pratt’s Brook Park.
The town’s venture is the latest entry to the disc-golf scene in Greater Portland, where four courses have opened in the last year, two of them municipal, an explosion of interest in a sport that costs little and draws scores of people to little-used swathes of land. In the past year, new courses have opened in Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport, and North Yarmouth.
The growth in some ways should not be a surprise. Maine’s abundance of meandering, wooded landscapes, and a parallel desire by residents to preserve them, mates well with the low-impact nature of disc golf. Players walk the course, having nearly as little impact as a hiker or dog-walker.
In the case of Pratt’s Brook Park, before the course was installed, Lindgren conducted an informal study over two weeks, checking regularly to see who was using the grassy and wooded area.
“It was one lady, walking her chihuahua,” Lindgren said. “Now, in the course of the week, it will be 100 people. It costs a lot less to install a nine-hole flying disc golf course than to put in a new softball field or football field.”
Private land-owners are discovering the sport, too.
In North Yarmouth, Bill MacKinnon and his daughter, Jessica, opened Bitter Sweet Ridge Disc Golf on Gray Road on 20 acres of overgrown farmland July 21, and have watched happily as players discover their facility. The family plans to convert a second, 20-acre parcel into another 18 holes, perhaps as early as this fall, she said.
At the Desert of Maine in Freeport, the attraction’s operators opened a course that bookends its traditional tourist hours, allowing people to traverse the sandy expanses, discs in hand, during early mornings and evenings.
Disc golf is similar to traditional “ball golf.” Players toss brightly colored, hard-plastic discs from a common tee area, trying to land them in a faraway metal basket in the fewest number of throws. The baskets, made of steel rebar, rest on a pole a few feet off the ground. Above the basket, lengths of chain drape toward the basket’s center, forming a backstop to help catch flying discs.
Holes vary in length, with an entire course taking players for a walk of more than a mile or two. Discs are made of differing grades of hard plastic. Some plastics are more durable than others, with the material also influencing how stable and true the disc flies.
Where disc golf differs the most from its Scottish ancestor may well be the low-pressure sport’s greatest strength. In every category, disc golf courses are cheaper to run and play than even the lowliest, dust-bowl dirt tracks of the traditional golf world. A novice disc golfer can expect to spend as little as $8 to buy a disc, and all-day play at most courses costs less than $10.
“It’s less than parking down at the beach,” said Kristi Stanley, a manager at Pleasant Hill Disc Golf in Scarborough. The course switched from traditional golf six years ago. Stanley said the lower operating cost makes them more profitable now than when customers were swinging clubs, and not just their arms, on the manicured tees.
“I don’t know if people truly realize how affordable it can be,” Stanley said.
To set up the municipal course, Lindgren said Yarmouth spent about $3,500 on the project, which was completed with the help of local Boy Scouts, one of whom used the service project to obtain his Eagle Scout badge.
In nearby Cumberland, installing a nine-hole course at Twin Brook Park cost the town about $2,500, said Peter Bingham, the town’s recreation superintendent.
In Yarmouth, a recreation employee, Kevin Broydrick, championed bringing the course to town and was instrumental in crafting a proposal before town government for financial approval. But there was no disc-golfing town employee in Cumberland. Bingham had never played, he said.
The idea to build a course came to him as he drove home from a ski trip in the Bethel area this past winter. He priced out equipment.
“It looked extremely feasible,” he said.
The course, which opened in July and was the first municipal-owned disc facility in the state, costs $5 for one-day unlimited play, or $10 for groups of two or more. Currently, the course brings in about 50 paying rounds a week, with several dozen more of what Bingham called “play and getcha later” customers.
Bingham is happy to break even, he said, because the course offers an easy way to get outside for some unscheduled fun.
“If you’ve got a free Sunday afternoon and want to kill an hour and a half, you can go,” he said. “It’s all about promoting family.”
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: