With the flick of a wrist, a little luck and some friendly wind, almost anyone can become a star in the world of disc golf.
Advocates of the game say it’s a fun, family-friendly sport that all ages can play. There are dozens of courses throughout the province, with places to play in remote areas like Pender Island to small towns like Lytton and even Whistler resort.
A small group of disc golf enthusiasts put together courses in Valleycliffe, Mamquam and Brackendale, but appear to have run into some resistance. Discs are no longer flying at two of the three courses since last Thursday (July 5).
The underground Squamish disc golf group was forced to dismantle the Valleycliffe and Mamquam courses, which were located on private land. Disc golf enthusiasts say the people want to play but it could be a long time before they can legally hit the links in Valleycliffe or Mamquam again.
“Kelowna, Whistler and all of these other areas have them and I don’t think council knows how popular they are and how great the results out there have been,” said local disc golf advocate Dax Braby. “We just don’t see what the problem is. We’re the least impact out of everything. You walk in the forest and see dirt bike jumps all over the place and we’re using land that’s unusable. All we’re doing is walking around.”
According to David Rittberg, a land developer with the Cardinal Group, the problem is that the group set the courses up on his property without permission.
“Right now it’s not a permitted activity,” he said, noting he was unaware of the course until the group advertised a Father’s Day event on his land. “They never asked for permission to construct these courses and we have not approved them. We want to see everything removed.”
Rittberg added that illegal tree cutting was also reported to him on the Mamquam course.
Braby said the removal of the signs will not stop disc golf players from playing at the Mamquam or Valleycliffe courses.
“We need a spot to play because we’re going to keep playing,” he said. “Everybody is still going to keep playing but now it’s going to get worse. We were being polite before and plus we’re below the water line on the Mamquam course — he can’t build anything there.”
He refuted Rittberg’s claim about the disc golfers damaging trees.
“We aren’t cutting down trees,” he said. “We’ve had our own signs damaged and the tree he’s talking about was cut down at least two years ago, not by us.”
The Brackendale course is still open for the time being, but Tim Hoskin, recreation program manager for the District of Squamish, said it’s on Crown land and that the group should work with the DOS to help legitimize their activities.
“Looking at other communities, many other disc golf advocates have set up community clubs or societies and that way they are able to promote the sport and ensure events are insured,” Hoskin said. “It also gives them some weight when working with landowners to get the necessary permission. They need to respect landowners whether it be private, Crown or DOS land.”
Coun. Bryan Raiser echoed Hoskin’s statements.
“As a resident, I love it,” he said. “I was actually trying to make one before I got distracted and had children, but I see these similar to how the mountain bike trails started — people just build it. I always liked the idea of a course going around Brennan Park but it's a great family, get-out-and-have fun activity. No one can be against that.”
Raiser recommended Braby and his group get involved in drawing up the DOS’s recreation master plan. Hoskin agreed.
“We’d encourage them to take part in the parks and rec master plan and bring forth their ideas,” he said. “There’s a provincial society of disc golf clubs and that’s set up to help communities like ours to work with the provincial group. In Nelson, for example, they started a society, lobbied and generated some funds and brought some sustainability to their courses.”
Braby might want to look to Whistler for his group’s next step. According to the Whistler Disc Golf Club’s Craig McConnell, the course is busier than ever and can accommodate up to 100 golfers at once on the course’s 27 holes.
“The municipality provides gravel and tools for us, but the club does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintenance,” McConnell said. “I know that they purchased the baskets for the course, but that was before my time. Because the course is on RMOW property, we need to have insurance for club events and tournaments. The Whistler club is under the umbrella of the B.C. Disc Sports Society, which is the governing body for disc golf and ultimate in B.C. They help us out with insurance and other support.”
McConnell said the Whistler course started like the ones in Squamish, with locals playing on the back side of Lost Lake Park about 15 years ago. He’s also involved in the new course in Pemberton.
“Pemberton is similar to the situation in Squamish,” he said. “A course was built by locals in a spot that was on First Nations land, they pulled it, the Village of Pemberton got involved, and we started looking for a new site.
“After spending nine months looking for a spot that would be suitable, we have found one and the course is slated to get built by the middle of September. In this case, the Village of Pemberton has been responsible for doing the necessary land use paperwork, permits, and buying the baskets. The club will lay out the course and do the installation.”
He said Squamish is an ideal location for a course.
“Squamish is long overdue for a course,” he said. “I know that there is quite a few avid players in town, and if they have the right support, they could have a world-class course and attract a lot of people. I am actually surprised that the town has not been more involved with putting a sanctioned course in, given the pride Squamish takes in being the outdoor capital of the world.”
Braby insisted that, one way or another, legal disc golf will come to Squamish.
“We’re ready to get petitions signed and drum up support,” he said. “People walk their dogs on private land and we see no fence stopping them. We aren’t damaging anything, we aren’t cutting trees. We just want to enjoy nature and get out there and have fun.”
For more information on disc golf in Squamish, contact email@example.com.