Aug 2, 2023 - Sports

Growing disc golf in Detroit

Chris McTaggart finishes a hole at Palmer Park's new beginners disc golf course.

Chris McTaggart finishes a hole at Palmer Park's new beginners disc golf course. Photos: Joe Guillen/Axios

Palmer Park, home to the city's only 18-hole disc golf course, is expanding with a new beginners course to introduce the sport to new players.

Why it matters: Enthusiasts see fertile ground for disc golf to grow here — large tracts of underutilized land aren't hard to find, and the sport is both affordable and accessible.

Driving the news: The new nine-hole course will be finished this month with funding from the Paul McBeth Foundation, a national group that supports about five projects a year in places without solid disc golfing options, and Discraft, a Wixom-based equipment manufacturer.

What they're saying: Chris McTaggart, a self-described "old disc golfing head," serves on the People for Palmer Park's board and has been leading the effort.

  • "Let's bring an actual high-caliber course to the city of Detroit to expose people to what's possible with the sport," McTaggart tells Axios.

Catch up fast: In disc golf, players begin each hole from a tee pad, where they hurl a disc toward a chain-link basket several hundred feet away. Novices usually sink their disc in two to four throws.

  • It's somewhat similar to the traditional sport played with clubs and a tiny white ball, but a major difference is cost.
  • All you need is a single disc, which runs about $10-$20. Playing at Palmer Park is free.
  • In comparison, 18 holes with a cart costs $52 on weekends at the city-owned Rackham Golf Course.
James Hang, of Warren, throws a disc at Palmer Park.
James Hang, of Warren, at Palmer Park's 18-hole disc golf course.

The big picture: Belle Isle had disc golf more than a decade ago, but most courses around here are in the suburbs or at Metroparks.

  • Interest has been strong at Palmer Park's 18-hole course since its installation in December 2021, McTaggart says, adding that about 5,500 rounds were logged last year on the UDisc app.

Zoom in: A couple players were stretching on the first tee pad when we stopped by the course Tuesday.

  • "It's honestly the best course around for challenging yourself with distance, with shaping shots as well," Ryan Bridges, who plays almost daily, tells Axios.

State of play: Bright red baskets have been installed and downed trees have been cleared for the beginners course near the park's community building. Concrete for the tee pads will be poured within a couple weeks.

💭 Joe's thought bubble: I played the first few holes of the beginners course with McTaggart and his dog, Homer.

  • With distances between 100-150 feet, the holes are shorter than the existing course. But surrounding trees and bushes still present challenges for a novice like me.

What's next: Several community outreach events are being planned, including youth leagues and partnerships with local schools.

  • McTaggart says he's finalizing plans for a demonstration with pro players in town for the 2023 Discraft Great Lakes Open Aug. 17-20 at Kensington Metropark.
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