Disc golf takes flight in Edgerton

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Neil Johnson
Friday, May 30, 2014

EDGERTON—Edgerton resident Brian Dudgeon handed me his worn, blue disc golf disc Friday morning.

“You can keep that one. It's like a broken-in baseball glove,” he said.

I was trying out the new, nine-hole disc golf course Brian and his wife, Annie, organized and built last fall on the wooded south end of Racetrack Park in Edgerton. It was my first time playing.

From his wheelchair at the first-hole tee, Brian showed me how to hook my fingers under the bottom lip of a disc that was about the size of a dessert plate.

“Keep your arm tight and inside your shoulder when you throw. It's like pulling the ripcord on a lawnmower, but you finish with your index finger pointed at the target,” he explained.

Brian rotated in his wheelchair and fired an arrow-straight toss between two big oak trees. The disc landed in the grass about 75 feet from the metal and chain basket at the end of the first hole.

It looked easy.

I stepped up to the tee. My plan was to span the 150-foot length of the first hole with one chuck of the disc. Instead, my throw tailed off hard to the right. My disc bounced off a park shelter and died about 100 feet to the right of the basket. 

“For a first throw, that's not bad,” Annie said.

It turns out even a novice with a ridiculous Frisbee hook can hang in there at the new course. At the first hole, I sunk my disc in the basket in four throws—just one over par.

For the Dudgeons, that is the point of the new course. It is set up as a beginner's par-3 course with short-distance holes. It's also designed for new players to bone up on the sport, which is scored the same as golf, and for more seasoned disc golfers to practice.

“Some local courses are for the experts and the diehards. This one's for fun. It's for the excuse to walk around. I think of it as exercise in stealth mode,” Brian said.

Brian has health problems he says have led to partial amputation of both his legs. He's now fitted for one prosthetic leg, and he'll hit the new disc course with a second prosthetic leg he's getting in a few weeks.

Brian and Annie spearheaded and built the course last year as a way to walk and enjoy nature concurrently. They've been disc golfing for about two years, mainly at the disc golf course in Milton.

“We thought, 'Why not do one here in Edgerton,'” Annie said. 

Brian and Annie used social media to raise about $2,800 in sponsored donations last year. The money fueled baskets and signs to mark each hole at the course. Edgerton's parks and recreation committee and city council approved the couple's proposal for the course last September.

At the time, Alderman Mark Wellnitz championed the course as a creative use for the south end of Racetrack Park. The course runs through a hilly, wooded area with 100-year-old oak trees. It's separate from a ball diamond and soccer complex in the center of the park.

“The best part of having disc golf here is it protects the park's old trees. You've got something there now, disc golf baskets and a course, so you can't come in and cut down nature. The city really appreciated that,” Annie said.

The course is one of the few locally that is open year-round, allowing people to practice in the winter. Brian said the course is on a ridge so it drains well, and the tree cover protects it from deep snow.

Brian hopes to host an “Eskimo” tournament in winter. If there's snow, the course will be marked red with grenadine.

Business and community groups, including the Edgerton School District, pitched in to help make the course a reality. A shop class at Edgerton High School designed signs for each hole using computerized cutting tools. Edgerton Middle School Principal Phill Klamm helped the Dudgeons finish putting in the course's baskets and signs last November.

“We worked at night using our car's headlights,” Brian said.

The Dudgeons donated a portable disc golf basket and discs to the middle school so students could practice. The school now shuttles students to the park to play the course as part of its physical education program. 

The course is free for anyone to use during park hours. There is enough room for four people to play a hole at one time.

Brian, Annie and two other Edgerton residents have organized Tuesday and Thursday night leagues that will run June through August. A citywide championship tournament is planned in August. The couple also is planning workshops for youth players and beginners. 

Unlike some local leagues for more advanced players, the Dudgeons said their league doesn't have a pot that pays out to winners.

“We thought that would turn inexperienced players off from joining,” Brian said.

Brian said the league is “casual,” adding that it is designed for beginners and those still learning the sport. The couple also has a supply of discs people can buy. 

“I'd love to see new players show up without even a disc of their own. That's the whole point—to get people started,” Brian said.

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