Western New York -- A hotbed for disc golf
The president of the Western New York Disc Golf Club LLC said the sport -- in the same manner as bowling, walking, bicycling and swimming – is an activity for people of all ages and skill levels.
“The great thing about disc golf is that anybody can go out and play it. You don’t have to be the college athlete; you can do it for exercise, to have some fun with your friends or you can get into the competitive side of it. It has different functions for different people,” said Jeremy Hoeltke, of Grand Island.
A professional disc golfer, Hoeltke, 40, (photo at right), said the club was formed about six years ago and members work with park officials in Erie County and Niagara County (and also at the Pembroke Town Park) on course placement and upgrades.
He said the sport has experienced a dramatic surge in popularity, with his club alone listing hundreds of members who play on 10 to 12 courses in the Greater Buffalo area.
“We’ve seen the growth in the number of tournaments we’ve run in recent years and an increase in the number of players, especially over the last year in a half since COVID and the pandemic hit,” he said. “Not much was open so the sport picked up a lot of new players. There wasn’t much else to do. A lot of them have stuck with it and continue to play in leagues.”
Hoeltke said the club runs leagues on Monday through Saturday. He said it doesn’t cost much to play, either.
“You can get a beginning set of three discs for around $30,” he said. “The majority of the courses in the area are free to play. It’s much cheaper than a round of golf, I’ll tell you that much.”
The courses vary in size and degree of difficulty, he said.
“Some courses are championship-level larger courses and we have some courses that are in your small town or city park. Both work,” he offered. “From what we’ve seen, honestly, when there’s a course that goes into a smaller park, usually the park gets cleaned up. We pick up trash; we have work days. We care about the property that the course is being put on.”
He said that disc golfers are passionate about the sport and see it as a positive addition to a municipality.
“Usually the community ends up embracing it even if there is a little bit of push back. They realize that there are people out there using this land that wasn’t used before. And you see less litter because now the park is being controlled and monitored by people who care about it – and are happy that there is a disc golf there and they take pride in it.”
Hoeltke said it costs between $5,000 to $10,000 to put a course in, depending upon if it’s a nine-hole or 18-hole layout, but “in relation to putting in a tennis or basketball court, it is significantly cheaper.”
The discs are made out of plastic but are heavier than a Frisbee, Hoeltke said.
“When you throw them, that gives them that extra swipe into it and they’ll go farther,” he said. “They go pretty far if you give them a good huck. And there are eight to 10 manufacturers, with some used as putters, midranges, fairway drivers and distance drivers. It kind of mimics ball golf in that regard.”
He has been playing competitive disc golf for 10 years. While some players carry a backpack specially designed to hold discs, water bottles and extra towels, Hoeltke said he uses a cart when he competes.
“Disc golf is whatever you want to make it. If you want to get into the competitive side, then start joining leagues and tournaments, buy a bunch of discs and a bag, everything,” he advised. “Or if you want to go out once a week with some friends and have fun, you can do that, too. It’s is casual fun to highly competitive.”
Another area organization is the Greater Rochester Disc Golf Club, which lists 21 courses on its website, including one in Bergen and another in Darien Center.
Other courses are located in Churchville, Sweden, Waterport, Parma, Chili, Spencerport, Rochester (two), Henrietta, Scottsville, Monroe Community College, Webster, Williamson (two), Victor, Canandaigua, Greece, Geneseo and Naples.
Photo at top: A disc golfer lets one fly off the tee at a tournament in Ransomville last year. Courtesy of WNYObserver.com.