A couple of mailboxes, a shed and several trees were all “holes” when decades ago I played disc golf on a self-designed course in the neighborhood where I grew up. I even chucked a Frisbee over the roof of my house in a bid to make par on one hole.
Fast forward four decades. I finally went official. Kerr Park in Downingtown hosts 18 glorious holes on a designated disc golf course.
Just like with the conventional golf that Tiger and Arnie play, each hole features a tee area and a basket or “hole.” Hazards are everywhere. Each hole is a par three, about 300 feet long and a chain link basket seems to suck in a putted shot.
Much like playing conventional golf, Kirk D’Angelo carries a well-packed bag to play disc golf. (BILL RETTEW – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
This weekend, I threw a disc with Downingtown Mayor Phil Dague and a couple of his buddies. I hadn’t chucked a disc in about a decade. I shanked several of my tee shots, but my play was still respectable. (personal opinion only)
Dague told me he had initial misgivings and was very leery about allowing disc golfers in Kerr Park.
“Would disc golf take over the park?” Dague had asked.
Kirk D’Angelo, left, Dan Wilson, and Downingtown Mayor Phil Dague play disc golf in Kerr Park. (BILL RETTEW – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Since its Downingtown start four years ago, disc golf has happily sparked visits to local businesses.
“People who never had a reason to come to Downingtown play here,” Dague said. “And there are more eyes in the park.
“I’d recommend it to any community.”
As an added bonus, many golfers pick up trash along the way and leave the park looking better than when they started.
Kirk D’Angelo helped to install the course. For the most part his shots were long and straight. He did bounce off a few trees, though he didn’t seem to mind.
During the pandemic, D’Angelo noted an increase of families golfing.
“It’s one of the few activities you can participate in and social distance,” he said.
Golfer Dan Wilson enjoys the competition, comradery and community when visiting the park. He said he plays for the stability and to preserve his mental health.
Dague noted that disc golfers use parts of the park that were rarely visited.
“You are so close to where everybody is going by and it’s also a place where people don’t come back to,” Dague said.
This is a beautiful area and the Brandywine Creek regularly comes into play.
On one memorable hole, the golfers are forced to clear the creek or go fishing for an errant disc. Much like some conventional golfers, D’Angelo even carries a disc retriever or retractable pole, with a hook to reach a dunked disc and not get his feet wet.
There is a ton of strategy involved. Go left or right around that tree. Throw the disc hard and risk hooking it. Take a big chance and reap the benefits … or not.
There are no mandatory lines at Kerr Park. For a casual round, disc golfers can make up their own rules. Moving in closer is fine. Throwing three discs and picking the best lie is okay too.
Many golfers carry backpacks designed to hold dozens of discs of varying weights and thicknesses. Every disc is certified by the Professional Disc Golf Association.
The thinner the disc the farther it goes, but with more chance of curving off course and into a tree.
These smaller discs don’t wobble like the big Frisbees I once threw did. And the drivers go twice as far. The putting discs are thicker and heavier and consequently it’s easier to keep them level.
If playing the whole course, which is optional, an average first time golfer might spend two hours on the links. Experienced golfers might play a round in an hour and fifteen minutes.
After play, Mayor Dague and I sat at a picnic table and talked about Downingtown.
We discussed the historic Log House dating to the early 1700s that sits alongside the Lincoln Highway. Dague said that most guests are surprised by how large the four-room structure seems from the inside. He also told me that it was moved about 20 yards to higher ground due to regular flooding.
During the warmer months, tours of the Log House are available on the first Sunday of each month from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
We talked about Ida, the storm that devastated the town along the Brandywine Creek. Dague talked of the tenacity of the business community, with most struggling with the floods and the pandemic.
I learned about a recently established flood committee that will try to identify any actions that can be taken to alleviate future flooding. The mayor hopes to work with neighboring communities.
“Intense floods are very demoralizing,” Dague said. “Some are feeling very helpless.”
Dague told me that by design the town was built on the banks of the Brandywine to power its many paper mills.
“We are in a highly developed region, we are in the bottom of the bowl,” he said.
Talk then turned to Downingtown’s huge role as a host for many destination events.
“I’m proud of Downingtown,” Dague said. “It’s great to have company and to show it off.”
The Memorial Day Parade will take place for the first time since 2019, with events at the Veteran’s Memorial at Kerr Park.
I’ve enjoyed visiting Downingtown for Good Neighbor Day, held on July 4, but chose not to run in the 5-10 and 15-K races.
Dague told me he runs in the 5K because he is so busy. The mayor also revealed some bad news about the annual Independence Day event — this year there will be no fireworks display since several licensed companies went out of business and the rest were already booked.
The annual duck race will continue with proceeds earmarked for the Log House.
From June 21 to 25, the St. Joseph’s Community Festival will feature rides, BINGO, plenty of food and fireworks on June 24.
The Summer Jam Series will feature live music and beer in Kerr Park on June 25.
Kerr Park will be the site of Wellness Day on June 12 where ways to cope with everyday life will be explored.
The Fall Fest will take place on the last Sunday in September.
There are several disc golf courses located in the county, including at Thornbury Park, French Creek, Anson B. Nixon Park in Kennett Square and Reservoir Park in Phoenixville.
Discs can be purchased through Frolic of Exton and Home Again Disc Golf, but there is no reason you can’t play with just a regular Frisbee.
The non-profit Chester County Disc Golf hopes to soon hold a tournament in Downingtown.
Yes, I’m hooked by this fast growing sport. It’s a blast and nice to safely play outside. Plus, the course in Downingtown has just the right amount of challenge and is gorgeous.
See you there.
Bill Rettew is a weekly columnist and Chester County native. Duck if he yells “FORE!” The best way to contact him is at [email protected]