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New course means new challenges for disc golfers

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If you have a grudge to settle with Whistler’s disc golf course, now’s the time to settle it – in a month’s time it will cease to be.

Not that the municipality is leaving the local disc golf community hanging. A new course is being built in Spruce Grove, which the municipality’s Keith Bennett says will be open to the public before the old course is closed down.

"The original course was never sanctioned, but we allowed it to exist because it’s a legitimate recreational activity and we didn’t have an alternative in place," says Bennett. "Around three years ago we looked into making a full size course – the first one is very small – that’s world class and up to the Professional Disc Golf Association standards."

The old course will be removed and rehabilitated, according to Bennett.

"The use patterns have increased to the point where the entire landscape is trampled," he said.

Although a few complaints relating to noise on the course were received and there was some garbage and reports of players parking in the wrong area, the main reason to relocate the course was to make it better, Bennett says.

The bike trails in the same area will also be contained to allow the area to recover.

The municipality contacted Michael McCrae, a representative of the British Columbia Disc Sports Society, to design the new course. The BCDSS has 3,500 members and administers both Ultimate and disc golf in the province.

Work on the Spruce Grove course started earlier this year, primarily under the B.C. Hydro lines. Brush has been cleared and cement poured for the installation of professional "Mach III" chain link baskets, which will replace the tonal poles (fence posts wrapped in stove pipe) used on the previous course.

The work is nearly complete, except for the installation of the long and short tee boxes and a map of the course. There are only 13 holes on this course, but the municipality is looking into expanding the course further into Lost Lake Park next summer to make it a full 18 holes.

"It’s a lot different to play than the course that’s up here now," says McCrae. "The holes are a lot longer, and it’s a lot more wide open. We have the Mach III baskets, which are the best in the world. The last course was more of a jungle-style course, short and through the trees."

The first half of the new course is relatively flat and open, while the second half winds up the hill and into some larger trees.

"Our concerns were in terms of meeting community needs," he explained. "A lot of the people who worked on Spruce Grove played the old course a lot, and they are stoked on the new course. Myself, I would like a world-class tournament here. Because it’s Whistler, it would be huge."

If you’ve never played disc golf before, the rules are simple. You stand in a tee box and tee off a special disc in the direction of the hole, whether it’s a basket or a tonal pole. You walk to wear it lands, and throw it until you either hit the stove pipe or put the disc into the basket. As in regular golf, each toss is counted as a stroke, and your strokes are added up over the day to determine your score in relation to par.

It is estimated that between 5 million and 10 million people around the world play the sport. The PDGA has over 18,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, and sponsors a pro tour with over U.S. $350,000 in prize money.

The popularity of disc golf is also growing in Whistler. Russ Long, the manager of Katmandu – one of the growing number of local stores to stock golf discs – says there has been a noticeable increase in sales in recent years.

"There are definitely more people getting into the sport," says Long. "I’d say that we’re selling 10 golf discs to every regular disc."

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