In just over a month, Waunakee’s parks offer a new form of recreation.
With the support of some residents, the Waunakee Parks and Recreation Committee has approved the village’s first disc golf course in Ripp Park, where the facility was designed.
Waunakees Community Services Director Sue McDade said the park committee has spoken about disc golf a number of times in the past.
“We used to beat up and say, gosh, this is something we don’t have and the pieces just didn’t seem to go together,” said McDade.
Then, in early 2021, Waunakee resident Ryan Gilles reached out to the committee. At the same time, McDade received information through an online webinar from Commercial Recreation Specialists with a half-hour tutorial on disc golf courses.
“The services they offer are the design and creation of signs that we may need,” said McDade. Their proposal was sensible in terms of the dollar, so it was placed on the agenda for the next parks and recreation meeting. McDade said the parking department’s pay-as-you-go account could cover the costs.
“We had eight other citizens show up and they said, ‘That would be something we’d love,'” said McDade.
At their meeting in September, the committee met at Ripp Park to review the proposed course. Now baskets have been ordered and traders create the signs. It is estimated that the course will be ready this month.
“I’m delighted to have a facility that anyone can join,” said McDade, adding that it is free to play.
Waunakee resident Vincent Weisman attended the planning committee meeting to show his support. Weisman said he learned to play when a family friend from the Netherlands came to visit and they took a class in Madison.
Since he became an avid gamer, he loved seeing all the different courses and layouts in different parks, he said.
“It’s a great sport for everyone, regardless of height or weight,” said Weisman.
Weisman has attended and taught at a professional level in Oregon. He said he would like to teach on site and play in a field close enough to be able to ride a bike.
“I think it’s going to be a new beginner class for people trying to get into the sport,” said Weisman. He foresees lessons and leagues starting to get people involved, he said. It could also be used for fundraising campaigns.
Disc golf has grown in popularity especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pat Blake, the village’s disc golf course designer hired by Commercial Recreation Specialists. Blake described disc golf as a “safe outdoor activity” that gives players plenty of space.
“You use your own equipment. It’s a contactless sport, ”he said.
The courses are free, so only the discs need to be purchased. Only one disc is required to start, although discs for driving, putting and other strokes such as golf clubs consist of different weights.
The rules are similar to golf.
“It’s really easy for people to get in. It’s a healthy activity out there. You’re going to go at least a mile, ”Blake said.
The game is shorter than golf and takes around 20 to 30 minutes to play on a normal 9-hole course like the one at Ripp Park.
At professional tournaments, Blake has seen the sport grow every year and said, “Disc golf is just fun.”
“The feeling is hard to describe when you throw a disc well and watch it fly. Simply put, it feels great. I’ve been addicted since my first drive on hole 1 on the first course I played in high school “I’m 43,” said Blake.
Blake has designed disc golf courses for 15 years. He said the Waunakee Parks Committee asked him to rate the Ripp Park site and members’ ideas in creating it. It’s located near the water tower in the park and the only other activity is walking.
“I evaluated the property several times during peak hours to monitor pedestrian traffic and the concentration of park users,” said Blake, adding that the first goal in designing the route was safety. “I tested the layout and made minor changes to improve security.”
Blake coordinates with Waunakee’s Public Works Department to build the course according to the design specifications.
Blake created enough challenges for it to be at an intermediate level. He found that the challenges lay in the length of the holes and the differences in elevation. No trees had to be removed.
“We could very well open the course next month,” said Blake.
However, it could take a little longer for new players to try the new facility.
“With the sport’s explosive popularity, discs and discs are sold out,” said Blake. Pro shops announce when they come in orders and people are waiting outside to buy them, he added.
Blake urged new players to go to a pro shop for the discs instead of ordering them online to find out about the various weights and features. Players should touch the discs before buying them, he added.
“It’s a very tactile game, the way a golfer adjusts his grips according to specifications or wears gloves … but more than that. In fact, we’re touching and holding the object we’re going to toss through the air, ”added Blake.
Two pro shops are in Madison, one on the east and the other on the west, he said.