Friday, April 18, 2014
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.
Peter Robinson watches his bid for a birdie sail just past the ninth hole Friday at the disc golf course the town of Cumberland created at its Twin Brook Park. Installing the course cost the town about $2,500, said Peter Bingham, the town’s recreation superintendent.
Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Discs are available for players to use on the course. They range from drivers, meant to fly far, to putters, which are designed to go straight.
HOW DO YOU PLAY DISC GOLF?
• Players throw a disc, similar to a Frisbee. The goal is to get the disc in the basket at the end of each hole using as few throws as possible.
• Play begins on each hole at a teeing area and ends at a basket.
• After the player has thrown from the tee, each successive throw is made from where the previous throw came to rest.
– The Professional Disc Golf Association website
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.
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click image to enlarge
Zachary Whiting, 10, of Cumberland, waits for his turn to throw after a fellow player tossed his disc into the ninth hole Friday.