About 100 people converged on Deer Run Park on April 16 for the grand opening tournament at its disc golf course.
Their ages varied from teens to “Legends” — the Professional Disc Golf Association’s name for the 70-and-older — and they included Nashville’s own Hannah Jones, who took first place in the women’s red tee category.
Brown County father and son Steven and Trever Allender were there to try the course for the first time.
Trever, 14, enjoys disc golf as a friendly competition with his dad.
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“He tried to wear my arm out,” Steven said.
“We’ve actually played a lot other places, so I’m glad to see one in the county,” Steven said.
The Deer Run course meanders around the county park, sometimes following the course of Salt Creek, sometimes cutting into the woods.At the start of each hole, a sign post has a map that shows the location of the basket, what areas are out of bounds, and the direction of the next “hole.”
Players are challenged by trees and terrain as they try to get their discs into the basket.
For every hole — whether it’s the straight, open lawn shot on the 18th or through the trees on the third — there’s a disc and a strategy to match it, said Scott Wertz, the maintenance supervisor for Brown County Parks and Recreation and an avid disc golfer.
Jonathan Rey, with disc golf company Dynamic Discs, takes 10 different discs with him when he plays.
One is for cutting to the right, another to the left. One is for distance and another for straight, short shots.
There are even different types of plastic, though most people starting out won’t notice the difference. Discs can cost $10 for a basic disc up to around $30, he said.
“As they get serious, they know exactly which plastic they want because of how their throw affects it,” Rey said.
Brown County Discgolf Alliance founding member Chris Baker put a lot of thought into the design of each hole and took a lot of input, said Wertz, who worked with him.
The Deer Run course takes into account right-handers and left-handers, beginners and experienced players, Wertz said.
Baker’s experience came in handy during design, when considering all the possibilities of shots, said Steve Shively, owner of the Brown County Country Club, which has Brown County’s only other disc golf course. Baker knows what a course needs for players to be challenged, yet still have fun.
“There’s a fine line between challenging and impossible,” Wertz said.
Josh Knipp, who came with a group of friends from Bloomington said the Deer Run course offers a unique experience for the area. He’s been playing the sport for about two years.“It’s got a great combination of distance, challenge, water, out-of-bounds play — as well as some really difficult woods technical shots,” he said. “So, it’s got a really great variety — and the landscape’s beautiful.”
Jeff Nugent, from Morgan County, has been playing disc golf since 1987 and he still found the course challenging.
But that’s what attracts Nugent to disc golf, he said — competing against his friends and against himself.
Vietnam veteran Gary Vandagrifft, who was in Nugent’s group, said his friends are what brings him out.
“I just picked up disc golf last summer and just fell in love with the sport,” he said. “I’ve been playin’ all winter, even in the snow.”
Rich Beedle, who was in the same group, started playing about 10 years ago. His obsession with the game began as a way to connect with a friend who was suffering from depression.
From there, Beedle began reconnecting with other old friends who played the sport and making even more new friends, he said.
Taking a deep breath and pausing to take in the scene around him, Beedle had a different take on the trees and terrain than the challenge they offer.
“Just the fact that it’s out in the woods; I just like having the hills, and the trees and — that’s more why I’m here,” Beedle said. “I like to compete, but I like just to be outside.”
After Kiel Sargent finished the course, he headed to his car for his waders. As he passed other players in the parking lot, he told them he was heading into the creek to find a disc he’d lost and offered to look for anything others had lost.
Disc golf is a friendly, helpful community, Sargent said. There’s no doubt a lot of competitiveness on the course, but there’s a lot of help, too.
Though he watches online videos for tips and tricks — such as an underhand flick he used to get back out of the woods — he learned most of what he knows from other members of the Bloomington Disc Golf Club.
Down the line
Brown County Parks and Recreation Director Mark Shields is pleased with how the course has turned out.“It’s actually surprised me in how elaborate it’s become compared to what I first envisioned,” he said.
The course is getting some use from locals, too, Shields said. He has spotted people out on their lunch breaks and even a few families throwing discs in the evenings.
His hope is to see that increase, he said.
“I think the biggest challenge right now is that not a lot of people know that it even exists,” he said. “Hopefully, now that Chris has put in all this work, we’ll start seeing some more people get out here and take advantage of it.”
Once all the questions of sales tax are resolved, Shields said he would like to be able to sell $10 starter discs through the parks office to encourage people to try the sport.
Advanced: Blue Tee
First (tie): David Smith, Bloomington; TJ Lewis, Ellettsvile
Third: Chris Baker, Bloomington
Intermediate: Blue Tee
First: Tim Moseley, Bloomington
Second (tie) Jeremy Robinson, Bloomington; Trent Fred, Bloomington; Rick Donnely, Bloomington
Recreational: Red Tee
First: Clay Thomas, Bloomington
Second: Todd Robinson, 57, Valparaiso
Women: Red Tee
First: Hannah Jones, Nashville
Second: Cassie Robinson, Valparaiso
Third: Tabitha Kepilino, Bloomington
Doubles: Blue Tee
First: Jonathan Ray, Memphis, Tennessee, and Steve Andrews, 49, Bloomington (course doubles record)