May 01, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Jonathan Burnicle's father, David, picked up a disc golf basket at a garage sale last summer.
The pair bought some discs and the family has been playing since then in their backyard. Jonathan also plays at local courses, including one at Holly Recreation Area, but is hoping a new disc golf course will be established at the Brandon Township Community Park, 1414 N. Hadley Road.
"Disc golf is something that's fun, a little different," said Jonathan. "And it's easy to do, you don't necessarily need a lot of skill and practice to play. It's something you can pick up and play casually. It's essentially just like golf, but instead of different clubs you have different types of Frisbees that fly in different ways and the goal is to get it into a standing basket instead of a hole."
Development of a 9-hole disc golf course at the park has been in the planning stages since 2009. The Parks and Recreation subcommittee considered a plan for the course at meetings in February and March. The cost of construction and materials, roughly $6,000 total, would be paid for by sponsors and Bory Landscaping has offered to do the installation at no charge, resulting in zero cost to the township.
During an April 1 meeting, however, the board took no action on moving forward with the course as they investigated further whether the disc golf course, proposed to have six holes in phase 3 of the park, would interfere with the "passive" nature of that section of the park.
Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the township is not bound by any definition of passive in the grants the township has received from the DNR for development of the park.
"It's a total board decision, we're not violating terms of the grant," she said. "I am supportive of the disc golf course. It's a form of recreation and that is what the park is for and there seems to be interest by our residents."
Tonja Brice, a township resident, wanted to make sure the township board knows there is interest and so she started a petition for the Brandon Township Disc Golf Course at change.org.
"There is so much interest in disc golf," said Brice, a mother of three. "My entire family plays disc golf, the in-laws, grandparents, it's serious. Our spring break was going to Kentucky to play disc golf, because it's warmer. And my sons played four different courses. One they played was #4 in the nation, a professional course… I think it's good for them, it's cheap, and 9 months out of the year you can do it… It's meant to be built around nature and through nature."
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (pdga.com), "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 "ball golf" the object of completing each hole in the fewest number of strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest number of 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 called a Pole Hole, an elevated metal basket.
As a player progresses down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive shot 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. Disc golf shares the same joys and frustrations of traditional golf, whether it's sinking a long putt or hitting a tree halfway down the fairway. There are few differences, though. Disc golf rarely requires a greens fee, you probably won't need to rent a cart, and you never get stuck with a bad "tee time." It is designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages, male and female, regardless of economic status."
Kevin Loughlin, 19, began playing disc golf about four years ago. The 2011 Brandon High School graduate now attends Kettering University in Flint, but during the summer, plays the sport 2-3 times a week, usually at Holly Recreation Area, Baycourt Park in Clarkston, or at Seymour Lake Park in Oxford.
"The best part is hanging out with friends and it's cheap," said Loughlin. "It's pretty easy to get into, there are a lot of different techniques and throws you can learn and there is always room to improve. In just my couple years of playing, disc golf has really increased in popularity and a lot of parks are flooded with people. It would be fun to play another course and spread people out so they wouldn't be as busy… There are plenty of parks where walking paths go through and everyone is respectful of each other."
Recreation Director Fred Waybrant is concerned that the park may get so crowded with disc golfers that the passive aspect where it would be located would disappear. He noted that portion of the park is intended for walking, reading books, and an area for schools to take field trips so students can study trees.
Still, he is conflicted on the issue, as he notes that a disc golf course would present additional recreational opportunities for his department, such as offering instructional courses for youngsters on the game, and tournaments could potentially bring revenue for development of the park.
"I don't make the decision— I will see it through, whatever the board decides to do," he said.
The next township board meeting will be 7 p.m., May 6, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville