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Disc golf popularity continues to grow in Grand Rapids community

As the sport using discs- or frisbees- continues to bring more players into its fold, the community in Grand Rapids encourages those interested to pick up a disc, come out and play.
Rick Marritt flings a disc toward a basket at Riverside Park's course

Rick Marritt flings a disc toward a basket at Riverside Park's course /Nicholas Garbaty

Gear up for Disc Golf

Mystic Realms will take 10 percent of a purchase by mentioning this article.

Other places to buy disc golf supplies in the area:

Frisci Disc Golf Pro Shop

Alpha Players

Hyzer's Pro Disc Golf and Smoke Shop

Mystic Realms sells an assortment of disc golf equipment along with items with a fantasy theme

Mystic Realms sells an assortment of disc golf equipment along with items with a fantasy theme /Nicholas Garbaty

/Nicholas Garbaty

Casual Riverside Park-goers walking through the park a few weekends back might have encountered dozens of Frisbees- or "discs," as they're called in the sport of disc golf- flying through the air. Competitive disc golfers at the “Dunkin’ Doubles” disc golf tournament contributed to that influx. While not a new sport by any means, disc golf persistently gains more ground around West Michigan.

For the uninformed, disc golf is essentially golf with Frisbees. There are discs for putting, mid-range and driving and it can be played alone or with a group. Players start off on a tee and instead of throwing the disc to a hole, it’s thrown to a basket or pole. Depending on the course, obstacles may appear between the tee and the basket or may not appear at all.

The Professional Disc Golf Association estimates more than 5,000 courses exist worldwide. There’s at least one on every continent, even in Antarctica.

In the Grand Rapids area, plenty of options exist for newbies and veterans alike to start playing. On the social side of the sport, many clubs, such as Alpha Players and Grand Rapids Dogs of Disc, actively play year round.

“It’s a very broad community,” says Rick Marritt, president of Grand Rapids Dogs of Disc. “There’s people that play disc golf professionally, but there’s also people like me, who play it because they enjoy playing it.”

Originally founded by Joe Gill, vice president of Gill Industries, the club has been active in Grand Rapids for decades. According to Marritt, it has helped populate West Michigan with several other clubs and courses, most notably Earle W. Brewer Park in Byron Center.

Grand Rapids stands in a unique position in that many courses of varying size and difficulty are scattered throughout area, including Cascade Township Park, Fallasburg Park and Cornerstone University’s campus lawns, just to name a few. Still more courses are set to open in the future, like the one in Plainfield at Grand Isle Park.

The prospect of a new course excites Craig and Tracy Vandrese, owners of Mystic Realms, a local disc golf store, since the store sits between the Riverside and Grand Isle Parks. Besides providing disc golf essentials like discs, bags and scorecards, they also play a key role in the community at large.

“We do lots of sponsorships with all the tournaments that come through in the area and give out coupons for weekly leagues,” Craig Vandrese says. “For this little area we have nothing but friendly people coming in here.”

Along with shops, disc golfers have several options if they want learn more about the sport in their area. Websites like The Disc Golf Scene, Disc Golf Course Review and Disc Baron, as well as common word of mouth, provide information and the tools for creating a disc golf outing.

“You create yourself a username on one of these sites and you pick that course you want to go to and say ‘I am new to this sport. I wanna learn: who’s willing to help me?’” Maritt says. “There’s always going to be someone who says ‘Hey, come out, let’s play.’ That’s the disc golf community for you.”

The community and the sport are undoubtedly intertwined. Getting involved opens up opportunities for new connections and events of which anyone can be a part. Whether throwing in a tournaments or just tossing with friends, the main goal behind the sport is simply to enjoy it, no matter the player’s skill level, says Maritt.

“If you enjoy nature all for itself, grab yourself a disc and go,” Maritt says. “You’re out there to have a good time.”

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