By Tom Rohrer
For years, disc golf enthusiasts around South Puget Sound had to improvise, since courses were not set up for competitive play.
“We used to play object golf at the Washington State Capitol Campus. The course was made up of different objects,” said Chris Gilberts, the President of the South Puget Sound Disc Golf Association. “You would start at a particular spot, throw to a park bench or a light and then continue on.”
A popular sport throughout the rest of the United States, disc golf has not seen nearly the same popularity in our time zone. However, a host of new courses have been erected or are currently under construction over the past decade in the South Puget Sound area.
Thanks to the efforts of the City of Lacey, and in particular, Lori Flemm, Thurston County now has its own nine whole course within the Woodland Creek Community park. Saint Martin’s University, also in Lacey, has a course that was privately developed and installed as well. Another course is currently in the stages of construction in Olympia. Gilberts plans to release the location soon. Heading west on Highway 101 lies a “tight knit” disc golf community (said Gilbert) that now has a top flight, public course open for free.
Morgan Rothrock began playing disc golf five years ago and now, due to his responsibilities as President of the Mason County Disc Golf Association (MCDGA), his time is spent mostly “promoting and spreading the word” of disc golf rather than playing it.
Frustrated with traveling long distances to other courses, Rothrock and other disc golf enthusiasts in the Mason County area began exploring the idea of creating a course that could be accessed free of charge.
With the help of the City of Shelton Parks Director Mark Ziegler, the idea became something tangible. Ziegler identified a 240-acre aquifer recharge area within the city limits.
Any sort of structure, such as parking lots and buildings, cannot be built on the recharge area, so the MCDGA made a proposal and now lease the property from the city.
Now, the course has become one of the most renowned in the state, if not the entire Pacific Northwest region.
“We built and maintain a disc golf course that is free to the public. It’s open around 360 days a year, completely serviced and maintained by our organization,” said Rothrock of the course, which is named Shelton Springs. “As of right now, it’s the number one rated course in the state.”
Rofrock says there are several reasons behind the course’s high rating.
“There’s a couple key factors. One is that it’s got a lot of space,” said Rothrock of the 70-acre, 18-hole course. “It’s a par 63, not a par 54. Almost every course in the state is a par 3. The tee pads are 5 x 12 feet, most are 4 x 8. The black course is died black, red dyed red. They are dyed to match the tee, and some courses don’t have the signage we have. There are a lot of courses in Washington, where the whole package wasn’t there. We think we’ve put that whole package together.”
If looking for further evidence supporting the course’s reputation, look no further than the participation in this summer’s Showdown in Sheltown held at Shelton Springs.
The tournament drew 72 players, with the amateur entries filling out the tournament in less than ten minutes. Players from Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle came to play in the pro division, while the majority of amateur players were from Mason County. Seeing such enthusiasm, participation and high level disc golf is significant to Rothrock.
“It means a lot, just seeing the atmosphere, all the players,” said Rothrock. “It’s one of those things we set out to do. As a club, we only want to run that one tournament, so we can pull everybody together and hold a great tournament.”
Rothrock and the rest of the 45 club members are in constant contact with other disc associations on the peninsula and to the west. Gilberst, who is a member of the MCDGA as well, works on the Showdown with Rothrock, and enjoys the camaraderie between fellow players.
“People who play the sport are friendly, always looking to get others to play,” said Gilberts, who is also a member of the Pierce County Disc Golf Association. “The friendly atmosphere was one of the things that got me into the sport.”
Gilberts, Rofrock and the rest of the disc golf enthusiasts in the state will certainly be coming together next year, as the Disc Golf World Championships will be held in Portland. The date has yet to be decided and it’s the first time the tournament has come to the Northwest.
“It’s a week-long event. The best in the world come out and it’s huge for our region in general,” said Rothrock. “It’s something we will look at in the future, the possibility of holding one of the big major worlds somewhere in South Puget Sound. That requires lots of coordination but would be huge.”
A transition from having no courses to hoping to host a future world championship shows just how far the sport of disc golf has come in the area.
For more information on the South Puget Sound Disc Golf Association contact Dave at Package Express in Olympia (which sells discs for the sport) at (360) 352-1596 or Chris Gilberts at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the sport of disc golf, including official rules and regulations, visit http://www.pdga.com/.