Disc golf takes flight

Disc golf takes flight

Burgeoning sport sees rapid growth in St. Charles County with the opening of new courses

By Brett Auten

Disc golf is starting to take flight in St. Charles County.

According to the Pro Disc Golf Association, disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, players use a flying disc or Frisbee. The sport was formalized in the 1970’s and shares with ball golf the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or fewest throws). A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target which is the “hole.” The hole can be one of many disc golf targets; the most common is called a Pole Hole, which is an elevated metal basket.

As a player moves down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw has landed. The trees, shrubs and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. Finally, the “putt” lands in the basket and the hole is completed. 

There are ample opportunities to play locally, thanks to the St. Charles County Parks Department.

Quail Ridge Park, located at 560 Interstate Drive in Wentzville, was the first of three-disc golf courses to be built in St. Charles County’s regional parks system. The course boasts challenges for beginners and experts and features long and short tee pads situated along rolling terrain and in wooded areas of the park. The SCC Park’s disc golf courses are located at Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville, Indian Camp Creek Park near Wentzville and at College Meadows Park, located on the campus of St. Charles Community College in Cottleville. A new champion premier course is being developed at The Park at New Melle Lakes near New Melle and is scheduled to open to the public next month. 

St. Charles County purchased the former New Melle Lakes Golf Course on Foristell Road near Highway Z in 2016, and the property had been held in reserve for future parkland. The parks and recreation department kicks off the opening with the Inaugural Disc Golf Tournament on Sept. 23, on the new, premier 18-hole championship disc golf course. It is excellent for beginners, as well as professionals. Details and registration information for the tournament are available online.

From 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 29, the public is invited to experience park amenities and participate in activities, including:

The annual Disc Golf Glow Tournament held Sept. 8 at Quail Ridge Park near Wentzville.

Experienced disc golfers and anyone new to the sport are invited to compete for cash and prizes at this nighttime tournament in the park.

In partnership with the St. Charles County Disc Golf Club, the St. Charles County Parks and Recreation Department the tournament offers a mix of short and long holes that travel in and out of the woods. Baskets lined with glow sticks mark the course of this 18-hole event. Each player will need to bring their discs; a limited amount of LED lights will be available for purchase at the event.

The cost to enter the tournament is $10 a person and is limited to the first 72 players that register from 6:30–7:15 p.m. on the day-of-event. The tournament kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with a shotgun start.

For more information about the tournament, call the St. Charles County Parks and Recreation Department at 636-949-7535. 

The St. Charles County Disc Golf club started nine years ago at a time when there was only one course in the area. Tim Wiegard is the club’s park liaison. Wiegard not only competes nationally but also helps design courses locally. He has seen the club’s membership grow from barely reaching triple digits to now eclipsing 250 members. 

“Some of the friendliest people you can meet play disc golf,” Wiegard said. “Most club members are always willing to help out and progress the sport and get more people involved. Some people enjoy being out in the parks and it is much closer to the trees and nature than being out in a wide-open fairway.”

Wiegard, of O’Fallon, says that disc golf shares the same joys and frustrations of traditional golf, whether it’s sinking a long putt or hitting a tree halfway down the fairway. There are plenty of differences, though. Disc golf rarely requires a greens fee, you probably won’t need to rent a cart, and you never get stuck with a wrong “tee time.” It is designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages, male and female, regardless of economic status.

“It’s cheaper, by far, compared to regular golf,” Wiegard said. “You’re looking at $20 a round compared to hundreds when you factor in the clubs.”

Disc golf is also starting to catch on with the youth, which could make it grow even more. Schools are beginning to incorporate it into its physical education and Wiegard said that the local League of the Future that caters to players aged five-16 has grown two-fold in just a couple of years. 

O’Fallon’s Debbie Polkinghorne and her daughter Virginia are avid disc golfers and recently gained worldwide recognition for their skills.  At 10-years-old, Virginia is already a two-time world champion, and Debbie took fourth place in the Master’s division in 2017. While the entire Polkinghorne clan enjoy the sport, it is Virginia who has broken out from the pack and has even earned sponsorship. 

“She plays a couple of times a week and competes in leagues and tournaments on the weekend,” Debbie Polkinghorne said. “It just all depends.”

The duality of the sport, from ultra-competitive to entirely recreational is part of its attraction and can explain its growth. 

“It’s an easy, and fairly cheap, way to get in some fitness,” Polkinghorne said. “Ninety-percent of the courses in the area are built for fun. Disc golf has been a thing for a while. We have four within the county and probably another 25 within a 25-mile radius.” 

The growth of disc golf coincides with the overall increase of parks in the area. The St. Charles County Parks and Recreation Department is adding three new parks from August through fall of 2018. In addition to The Park at New Melle Lakes, the Riverside Landing boat ramp and dock opened in mid- August and Veterans Tribute Park in Weldon Spring begins this fall. This increases the total number of County parks open to the public from 12 to 15 and the total amount of acquired park land to 3,643 acres.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos

Cover-Disc1 The annual Disc Golf Glow Tournament held Sept. 8 at Quail Ridge Park near Wentzville. Experienced disc golfers and anyone new to the sport are invited to compete for cash and prizes at this nighttime tournament in the park.

Cover-Disc2 Nine-year-old Virginia Polkinghorne of O’Fallon competed in the Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur and Junior Disc Golf World Championships held in 2017. It was Virginia’s second Amateur World Disc Golf Championship.