The Kingston Parks and Recreation Department opened its new disc golf offering on Saturday, April 27, bringing to the public a nine-hole course at Kingston Point Park. Kevin Gilfeather, superintendent of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the popular sport is like golf, but much more egalitarian, requiring little more than access to a plastic disc, popularly known — but definitely trademarked as — a Frisbee.
“It’s similar to regular golf,” said Gilfeather. “But the neat thing about disc golf is you don’t have to worry about a tee time, you don’t have to pay for greens fees, though there might be a nominal charge if there’s a tournament going on. We really believe it’s going to be a great asset to our parks system. We’re really pleased to have this happen.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, the concept is simple: Disc golf is similar to traditional golf, but rather than hitting a small ball with a long stick into a hole in the ground, players toss a plastic disc into baskets. Disc golf originated in the first half of the 20th century with kids throwing tin can lids into circles traced in the sand on the grounds of a Canadian elementary school, but it wasn’t until the ’60s when tournaments began cropping up across the United States that it entered what’s known as its modern era. Prior to 1973, disc course “holes” included everything from trees to trashcans, gazebos to lampposts. In an effort to standardize play in the growing sport, “Steady” Ed Headrick created the Disc Pole Hole, which today looks like a basketball hoop with a chain-link net stuck inside a metal basket.
The genesis of Kingston’s disc golf course can be traced back over two years when KC Keegan-Twombly, an environmental educator with the parks department, spoke to Gilfeather about the disc golf course she’d helped design at the Mine Kill State Park in North Blenheim, around 60 miles northwest from Kingston. Gilfeather said that Keegan-Twombly and Courtney Carroll, a recreation leader with the parks department, played the game in a tournament at Wilcox Park across the river in Milan, where they met up with Dan Doyle, a professional disc golf player, and began wondering where they might establish a course in Kingston.
“They walked different parks and decided there was enough space at Kingston Point behind the BMX track, behind the dog park area and softball field, a little bit into Rotary Park where they could put a nine-hole course in,” said Gilfeather. “They sat down, the three of them together, and then they brought it to me and said it would be a great use of space that was already available. So I thought it was a great idea, I brought it to our Parks and Recreation Commission early in 2017 and the wheels began to turn.”
Around that time, Gilfeather and Doyle walked the proposed course in the kind of weather that might have made it difficult to grasp the vision.
“There was heavy snow in late winter, early spring, and there was a lot of snow when we walked the potential course, and I was not properly attired,” said Gilfeather. “As the snow melted the design of the course began to come into play.”
Last week, Gilfeather said he’s become a recent convert to the game.
“I knew nothing about disc golf,” he said. “I had the opportunity to go over to Wilcox Park with Courtney [Carroll] to a meeting, and they allowed us to play a little bit. That’s the best of the best, it’s all manicured and wide open and challenging. Ours, we’re getting there.”
Tee spots are sponsored, which allowed the disc golf course to happen when there wasn’t money in the city’s budget to cover its creation.
“We’ve been told this is a really neat course to play, especially for beginner-level players,” said Gilfeather, who credited sponsors, his department’s grounds crew and Mayor Steve Noble for helping bring the course to life. Gilfeather added that it would not have been possible without Keegan-Twombly and Carroll. “My hat goes off to KC and Courtney for the time and effort they’ve put into making this a reality.”