Disc golf is taking off in Saskatoon — 5 issues it’s essential to know

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The sport appears to be seeing a surge in interest in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Bryn Levy Jeri-Ann Brownbridge tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Jeri-Ann Brownbridge tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Photo by Scott Chapman /Scott Chapman

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Victor Malafronte’s The Complete Book of Frisbee suggests disc golf may have been born in Bladworth, Sask. in the late 1920s.

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The story is that a group of elementary school pals made a game of seeing who could toss tin lids into circles drawn in the dirt in the fewest number of throws. However, the game — as it is played today with participants looking to land a disc in a chain-lined basket in as few shots as possible — was developed in the U.S. in the ’60s and introduced (or perhaps reintroduced?) to Canada in the ’70s.

Regardless of how it got here, disc golf has taken off in Saskatoon.

Scott Chapman, course development co-ordinator for Saskatoon Disc Golf Inc., spoke with the StarPhoenix about the sport’s growth in the city and shares a few pointers for anyone looking to take up the sport. Here are five take-aways from that conversation.

1. Anyone can play

Chapman said SDG Inc. has seen paid memberships roughly double since mid-2020. This year, there are more than 200 members.

Chapman believes disc golf’s accessibility is a big reason for its rising popularity.

“It’s an at-your-own pace, lovely walk in the park,” he explained. He said SDG Inc. runs clinics and other programming for kids, seniors, new Canadians and anyone else interested in taking up the sport.

“There’s timing, there’s finesse,” Chapman explained. He pointed to American professional disc golfer Paige Pierce as an example: “She is a smaller person, she can throw well over 500 feet. It’s all about technique and timing,” he said.

Daniel Prange tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Daniel Prange tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Photo by Scott Chapman /Lithic Images

2. Three courses in the city

Diefenbaker Park is the most established disc golf course in Saskatoon, having started as an unofficial “object course” in the early 2000s, with trees and other landmarks as targets. These days, the park includes a full 18 baskets.

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William Reid Park and Donna Birkmaier Park have nine baskets apiece, with Reid Park including two sets of tee boxes.

Wendy Chapman putts during the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon on July 24-25, 2021. Wendy Chapman putts during the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon on July 24-25, 2021. Photo by Scott Chapman /Lithic Images

3. Low cost to entry

Low costs have also added to disc golf’s appeal, Chapman said. Courses typically don’t charge fees to play and while disc golf is best played with specialized discs made for it, starter sets can typically be purchased brand new for $50-$60, with used options also plentiful online.

In any case, Chapman suggested beginners really needn’t stress too much about gear.

“You can use a Frisbee, you can use an Ultimate (Frisbee) disc, you can use a pie plate, you can use disc golf discs,” he said.

Colin Lee takes a shot during the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Colin Lee takes a shot during the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Photo by Scott Chapman /Lithic Images

4. Courses are subject to change

As disc golf has surged since 2020, Chapman acknowledged that wear-and-tear on the courses has increased. He said he expects course layouts will change in coming years to give some of the grass a rest, but there’s only so much SDG Inc. can do on the maintenance side as a member-funded non-profit.

“We would love to have more involvement from the City of Saskatoon from a funding and, kind of, design point of view,” Chapman said, adding that it’s expected to take a number of years of ongoing dialogue to continue growing the relationship with the city.

In the meantime, Chapman advised people to get the UDisc smartphone app or check the SDG Inc. website for course information.

Jeremy LeBlanc tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Jeremy LeBlanc tees off at the Escape Sports Open Powered by Innova disc golf tournament, which ran in Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon July 24-25, 2021. Photo by Scott Chapman /Lithic Images

5. Opportunities across the province

Disc golf course installations sprang up in communities throughout Saskatchewan and Chapman encourages people to get out and try some of the courses.

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He points to the Jackfish Lake course in Battlefords Provincial Park as “probably the nicest course in Saskatchewan right now,” and the course in Eagle Creek Regional Park as a great option near Saskatoon.

Beyond that, Chapman said if you enjoy the game, the world is your oyster.

“I have a group of friends, we started golfing together 2014, maybe 2013. And now, we take trips around North America,” he said.

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