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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

How to ensure the longevity of disc golf courses in your area

This week, Vortica dives headlong into etiquette and spells out exactly why it’s so terribly important for the future of the game in New Zealand and overseas. And so we ask you, the serious disc golfer, to help ensure your communities will always love the DGCs installed in their public spaces.

Disc golf has recently surged in popularity all over New Zealand, particularly in Christchurch, and especially since we came out of Covid-19 Lockdown. Jellie Park is now extremely busy, and the weekends are getting a bit crazy with waits to tee off almost guaranteed. As the course designer, this is deeply humbling, but it presents some problems as well.

PCM8 2020 player keepsakes. Everyone gets one.

This is one of the major reasons I elected to switch the location and format of the Peter Crowther Memorial, a tournament I host in Christchurch, NZ each year; the idea of preventing the enjoyment of many hundreds of players over a weekend by closing Jellie Park to casual play was not appealing to me. Especially when I have two of my other favourite course designs to showcase which are not incredibly busy... yet.

With the country’s DGCs rapidly filling up, a very nice problem to have – we admit, it presents some challenges at the local level, where not everyone understands or knows about the PDGA Disc Golfer’s Code, below.

The PDGA's Disc Golfer's Code

Most especially, the Player’s Code means disc golfers are always the lowest priority users of any public DGC, and it is absolutely essential all players come to know this. As a disc golfer, it is vital you and your friends spread the word to anyone who is behaving contrary to this code.

Recently we have had related to us a few situations where new(ish) disc golfers have shouted at local park users, or thrown when people could potentially be hit by discs. This is entirely unacceptable behaviour, and it needs to be strongly discouraged, but in a kind and gentle manner, preferably. It’s not generally a good idea to shout at people who are shouting at people.

Disc golf courses rely entirely on the goodwill of the local communities which host them, and bad behaviour of any kind directed at local residents by disc golfers reflects very poorly on the players, and can potentially cause the removal of a course in the worst possible scenario.

Even Easier: One Sentence Does Trick

In Wanaka recently, the club has condensed the Disc Golfer's Code still further, in an effort to get through to players with just one sentence.

Disc Golf Wanaka making it easy to understand.

Guarding other park users

It sometimes happens that people set up their picnic on or close to a fairway, without realising it. In these situations I am always very careful with my approach: I'll go up to them and say something about what a wonderful day it is for a picnic, and what a great place the park is, and get their agreement. Then I'll say, "I'm sure you weren't aware of it, but there's a disc golf course here, and where you are is likely to mean people approaching you and guarding you against any errant throws they may make, which is why I'm here now."

Ordinarily, as soon as you say this, they'll ask if they should move, and I usually say that it would offer them a more peaceful experience if they did so, but that they are under absolutely no obligation to move if they are happy where they are.

I advise new players to be extremely careful not to upset park users by using the wrong sort of language, by being aggressive, or by asking people to move, or by getting impatient with people ambling aimlessly and slowly down a fairway.

Patience is a virtue

Truly it is! Those players who have learned patience are best equipped to handle interruptions, whether it be in casual or tournament play. Hint-hint!

Free-to-Play means Free-To-Wait

Only when you pay-to-play, should you expect no delays, and only when you pay green fees should you expect the course to be free of random walkers and picnicking families.

Not everyone loves disc golf in their park

Locals who do not like disc golf will use any and all possible opportunities to try to get rid of a DGC. We have seen this repeatedly in Queenstown Gardens over the years, with the Queenstown club being able to respond well in each instance, to preserve the first official course in the country.

It is therefore extremely important not to give local anti-disc-golfers any ammunition they can use to try to close the course. And we need to be very careful indeed here, as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) can often wield significant influence in local politics.

The DGC as a valued Community Asset

The course is not owned by the players, they are merely its users. The owners of the course are the community which support it, regardless of who paid the bill, and they are able to have a DGC removed if a significant portion of locals begin to oppose it. It is, therefore, vital for all players to enforce the rules about guarding people against being hit by errant throws, and to allow park users to peacefully navigate the park without being harassed. It is vital communities feel their course is a valuable asset to the community.

As the popularity of disc golf increases, local clubs, custodians of DGCs, and even local players are now beginning to face some nice-to-have problems, and we’d like to suggest a few ways in which you can ensure your DGC is around for the foreseeable future, and the local community recognises what a great recreational resource it has in its midst.

The unwelcome you get at a ball golf course

Displaying the Player’s Code

at pedestrian entrances

The Player’s Code is all that is required to inform local park users that they have nothing to fear from disc golfers.

This is in direct opposition to the exclusive nature of ball golf courses, as we can see to the right. Not only does ball golf not permit non-golfers to roam about, but they can also be subject to trespass prosecutions!

Disc golf IS golf for the 21st century, and we should all ensure this continues to be the case by gently reminding people of their lowest-priority-use at any public DGC.

Disc Golf is highly democratic

Disc golf is accessible to almost everyone. It is not a formal game. Disc golf is free to play. Discs are not expensive. Disc golf is fun. And disc golf is healthy! These, and many other reasons tend to make disc golf almost a social movement rather than a sport or a game, and Community Courses installed in local parks are field-of-dreams type stuff; If you build it, people will come.

But we have to ensure they keep on coming, by displaying the Player’s Code prominently and by ensuring we teach our new players well.

If we do that, then the future is assured!

Littering and alcohol consumption

We are strongly against littering of all kinds, and we pick up rubbish when we play as a matter of course. We believe the best disc golfers are those who pick up rubbish left behind by thoughtless people, whether they be disc golfers, or not.

We suggest you pick up as much litter as you possibly can, and encourage everyone else to do the same.

It's not that we are against alcohol on the course; far from it! We encourage moderate consumption, including alcohol. A tipple on the course is acceptable for adults of drinking age, any time except during PDGA rounds at a tournament.

To our minds, the only issues with alcohol consumption are the empty cans and bottles left lying about the course.

Course Vandalism

Can vary from something as apparently innocuous as graffiti on a bench, all the way to damaged or stolen baskets. ALL such course vandalism should be firmly and publicly condemned by the local club. Graffiti should be removed as soon as it is discovered.

If you see other players cutting or breaking branches to make the course easier, please approach them quickly, and firmly ask them to stop. You cannot un-chop a branch, and removing them will upset local players and councils.

The danger of glass in parks

Here in NZ, we are very lucky to have the experience of being able to go barefoot in our public parks with little fear of standing on broken glass. However, a park only stays glass-free until one or two people leave bottles behind, and a lawnmower distributes thousands of shards in all directions.

It is therefore extremely important that you pick up any bottles, and especially take the time to thoroughly pick up any broken bottles, and all their broken parts.

I wish I had a dollar for every minute I've spent carefully collecting every tiny shard of glass I can find where a bottle has been broken on a course. I usually carry a small fabric bag I can safely carry the broken glass in.

Course flow is vital How a course flows when it gets full is vitally important to the players and the residents, as it allows maximum enjoyment of the space by all parties. Holes which inevitably cause delays need to be looked at carefully, in order to reduce delays but keep risk/reward factor high.

With almost 60 years experience in disc golf, myself and Martin now have a deep understanding of these issues, and consciously design Community Courses to minimise delays even when the course fills up, as all our Community Course designs eventually do.

The community respects those who respect it

When disc golfers are seen to give way to pedestrians and other park users, it creates good feelings in the minds of local residents, who are generally very happy that "their" park is getting more use, and being enjoyed by more people.

Locals who notice a reduction in litter and hear the excited shouts of people having fun playing disc golf are highly unlikely to ever be critical of disc golf.

Residents who see children enjoying the course, and families having (free!) fun with frisbees are more likely to try the game, and more likely to support the course's existence.

So, please keep the good vibes flowing on the Disc Golf Course this summer.

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