Disc Golf, Anyone?

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Disc Golf, Anyone?

Disc Golf, Anyone?

People from near and far are interrupting their travels on I-75 and stopping in Henry County for a new sporting adventure.

What started as an ordinary recreational offering for local residents is rapidly growing into something much bigger. J.P. Moseley Park has become a destination of choice for many aficionados of disc golf, one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.

The park now has a 37-hole layout that gives players the option of choosing whether to play nine, 18, or all of them in one day. The more recently developed holes are especially challenging, and the officials would like to see the park in the future become a host for national tournaments featuring top players.

Here is what happened just in April, according to the UDisc app, which is used by players to record their activities. A total of 548 rounds were recorded during the month by 247 different players, of whom 55 visited the course for the first time. Fifty-six players came from more than 30 miles away, 25 from more than 150 miles away, and 20 from more than 300 miles away. Players from 15 states visited the course, including disc golfers from Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

The course was initially developed in 2003 as a much simpler concept than what sits on the eastern edge of Stockbridge today.

“The county bought some baskets, as municipalities will do, and just stuck them in the ground with no idea of the concept of designing a course where you try to get the players to utilize different throws,” said Mike Haney, who has been involved in the course’s activities for a number of years.

“When Moseley was first established, the county basically bought 18 baskets placing them with a sewer line running down the middle of the course,” explains Haney. “Then there was another way back, basically put in a line. You just throw 250 feet, put it in the basket, throw again, throw it again.”

Most of today’s disc golf competitors are more serious than that. They can carry up to 20 different discs in their bags, with a specific disc for each throw, just like various clubs used for traditional golf. Some are designed to go left or right. A driver has a sharp edge so it will keep going if it hits a tree. A putter is rounded off so as not to smash through the chains surrounding a basket, which is the “hole” in disc golf. The goal is the same: get to the hole, or the basket, in the fewest number of attempts.

You can go to pdga.com, the official website of the Professional Disc Golf Association, and search for courses in your state or region. There are nearly 150 Georgia courses in that database; Haney said disc golf is the second fastest-growing sport behind only pickleball.

Not only that, but people are making a living at this sport. A few top players earned more than $100,000 in prize money in 2022, on top of what they make from equipment manufacturers in the sport for using their discs and other items.

The PDGA is based in Appling, near Augusta. It is the sport’s major governing body, setting rules and approving tournaments just like traditional golf. Players are ranked using a point system, similar to several professional sports. Fans can watch events online via the Disc Golf Network, a paid streaming service.

Henry County Commissioner Vivian Thomas, whose district includes J.P. Moseley Park, has shown interest of late in seeing the sport continue to grow and having Henry County attract national events. This is part of the reason for recent upgrades at Moseley.

A separate course was installed in McDonough in 2021. There is also a nine-hole beginner course at Salem Baptist Church.

There are big plans in the works at J.P. Moseley Park for August 5, which is National Disc Golf Day. There will be a large carnival-type event to celebrate 20 years of the sport in Henry County.

According to the Henry County Disc Golf page on Facebook, the Georgia Club Championships are scheduled for September 23 at the J.P. Moseley Park course. That social media page, maintained by the Henry County Disc Golf Club, is a useful tool for keeping track of league play in the area as well as major tournaments.

It looks like things will get busier and busier for local players in the years to come.

 “For me, the big thing is that you’re outside, you’re getting some exercise, you’re getting people off the couch,” said Haney. “It’s great to see families out playing together and you can take it to whatever level you want. You can choose to be a casual weekend recreation player or you can make a living doing this.”

By Monroe Roark