BURRILLVILLE — Disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and Burrillville Town Councilman John Anthony Scott thinks Burrillville should get in on the action.
At a council meeting Wednesday, Scott said the town should consider its own professional-level disc golf course for both residents and tourists to enjoy.
Rhode Island is home to only three disc-golf courses – Slater Park in Pawtucket, Ninigret Park in Charlestown and Willow Valley in Richmond – while there are 51 in Massachusetts and 29 in Connecticut.
Scott says Burrillville could be the perfect location for the state’s fourth Professional Disc Golf Association-regulated disc golf course.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me saying they would love to have a course in Burrillville,” Scott told the council Wedneday. “There are a lot of people in this area who play, but they’re going to courses in Thompson, Connecticut, or Webster, Massachusetts. If we had a regulated course right here in town we could bring in a lot of people from all over and that would be good for our restaurants and local businesses.”
Disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc or Frisbee. The sport was formalized in the 1970’s and shares with traditional golf the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest throws).
A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target which is the “hole.” The hole can be one of a number of disc golf targets; the most common is an elevated metal basket.
As a player progresses down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw has landed. The trees, shrubs, and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. Finally, the “putt” lands in the basket and the hole is completed.
Scott says disc golf is exploding in popularity across the nation and that the numbers back it up.
According to the PDGA, from 2011 to 2016, the number of traditional golf courses in the United States dropped from 15,751 to 15,014 – an average loss of 147 per year. In comparison, disc golf is experiencing rapid growth and may be nearing a tipping point. In 2011, there were 2,982 U.S. disc golf courses. By 2016, this number nearly doubled to 5,467 – an average gain of 497 courses annually. If this rate continues, disc golfers will have almost as many places to play as ball golfers in a decade.
Earlier this month, the sport drew nearly 300 athletes from all over the world to Vermont, to test their skills and compete for more than $100,000 in prize money in the 2018 Professional Disc Golf World Championships.
“I think it would be a good addition to the recreational opportunities we already offer in Burrillville,” Scott told his colleagues on the council. “There’s nothing like it in the area.”
Finding real estate in Burrillville for a disk golf course would be the least of the town’s problems if it were to move ahead with the proposal. There are several recreational fields under the supervision of the Parks and Recreation Department as well as public and privately-owned open space.
As for the cost, Scott said constructing a course wouldn’t be expensive, assuming the land is already available.
“I think the biggest expense would be the baskets and maybe some trash cans at each hole,” he said.
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, a bare-bones installation with light-duty baskets, natural tees and simple wooden signs and do-it-yourself design can be installed for about $350 per hole. A full service community course with a heavy duty basket, dual cement tee pads, nice dual tee signs and two sleeves for basket placements on each hole could run up to $1,000 per hole which includes a basic design fee on a property with little clearing to be done. The design fee could be $2,000 to $3,000 higher if the course requires lots of fairway clearing thru woods and the designer is involved in supervising that process. An added cost might be if the clearing is done by outside hired professionals versus park staff and volunteers.
Additional amenities that may be considered would be an information sign board at the start of the course and benches at several or all holes. In short, a good course can be installed for $20,000 in most places where not much clearing is required.
The council was receptive to the idea of a course in Burrillville and agreed to forward the proposal to the town’s Recreation Commission to be considered as part of a more comprehensive town recreation plan.
“This is another great idea,” said Councilman Raymond Trinque. “We’ve been hearing a lot of great ideas like this and I think we have enough proposals to come up with one cohesive plan and go forward with it.”
In a unanimous vote, the council agreed to forward the disc golf idea as well as any other recreation proposal to the commission, which will draft a plan for the council’s approval.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7