Like the swish of a basketball net or the hollow click of a hole-in-one, the metallic jingle of a disc golf basket is a satisfying reward for precision, patience and skill.
For the many members of the Guelph Disc Golf Club, it’s a sound that rings through the air at the Riverside Park Disc Golf Course every time they gather for some fun and friendly competition.
The club was formally established last spring, and the course itself was installed just one year prior. But the sport is enjoying a boost in popularity and a surge in local membership and now the club is advocating for the opening of a full 18-hole course elsewhere in the city.
“It’s great to see so many people out, and especially to have more women playing,” said Pauline Ciolko, a club member who started playing disc golf two years ago. “I love the disc golf community. Everyone is so welcoming and open to meeting new people and promoting the sport.”
The rules aren’t much different from regular golf: the object of the game is to complete the course in as few throws as possible. Players throw a disc from a tee pad, and continue to throw from wherever it lands until they complete the hole by landing the disk in the metal chains or the base of the basket.
Kevin McIntosh is the president of the GDGC, and he says the sport attracts a wide range of people – particularly those that might be dissuaded by the cost of golf course memberships.
“It's significantly cheaper. There’s no cost to play at Riverside and you don't need a full bag of clubs … all you need is one disc. On top of that, the entry level to play disc golf is open to everybody. That's one of the beautiful parts … our club members are so varied,” he said.
The club has just over 40 registered players, but its Facebook page boasts more than 300 members. Royal City Brewery even spotlighted the sport by featuring the disc golf course on its Riverside IPA can.
The first nine-hole course was installed in the University of Guelph Arboretum in 2007. The Riverside course was opened in 2018, and McIntosh says awareness of and interest in the sport has been growing ever since.
“The visibility and accessibility of the course has really skyrocketed the registration numbers in Guelph. When we're on a tee next to the [Riverside] path, people are always out, they watch us, they ask us questions, and we can engage them [to join the club].”
Last summer, the GDGC conducted a survey that revealed over 90 percent of 150 respondents would like an 18-hole course in Guelph. Nearly three quarters of those respondents had only started playing within that year, indicating a need to further accommodate rising interest.
The existing nine-hole courses at the Arboretum and in Riverside Park have a maximum player capacity of 36 people, or four people per hole, which means anyone additional players have to wait their turn to tee-up. McIntosh says they’re advocating for the installation of an 18-hole course in the city, and they’re eyeing the Eastview Community Park as one option. The club is also in contact with the Grand River Conservation Authority, the city and with some privately-owned golf courses to find or adapt a suitable piece of land.
“Disc golf can make use of land that isn’t useable for any other purpose. We like to have terrain, elevation and thick wooded areas because we like having that variety. At Riverside, it’s a very beginner-friendly and kid-friendly course, which is fantastic. However, an 18-hole course offers more flexibility and choice if (players) want a bit of a challenge,” said McIntosh.
Skilled players, including Ciolko, compete at regional tournaments as well as at the provincial and national levels. But McIntosh insists the club is open to everyone interested in trying out a challenging but fun activity that can be played all year-round.
“We’re trying to encourage people to bring out their friends, bring out their partners to try out the sport and be more aware of disc golf. This sport is a little bit newer … it's about getting the word out.”
The club meets at the Riverside course every Tuesday night for a 6:30 p.m tee off. For more information, visit the Guelph Disc Golf Club Facebook page.