published Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Disc golf tournament a delight for all ages

Mathew Crider  putts on hole 7 during the first round of the Face 2 Face Ice Bowl disc golf tournament at the Tennessee Riverpark on Saturday.
Mathew Crider putts on hole 7 during the first round of the Face 2 Face Ice Bowl disc golf tournament at the Tennessee Riverpark on Saturday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

Just do it once — you’ll be hooked.

That’s what David Lane, a German teacher at the Baylor School, had to say about the sport of disc golf.

“And don’t be afraid to talk to people when you’re out playing, because everybody’s really friendly and welcoming,” said Lane, who’s been playing for three years. “Nobody’s going to be rejected from this sport. It doesn’t have its own definition or clique yet.”

Some 90 players, ranging in age from 8 to the upper 50s, competed Saturday as the Chattanooga Flying Disc Club hosted a Professional Disc Golf Association-sanctioned tournament at the Tennessee Riverpark on Amnicola Highway. Tournament director Scott Snow said the ranks included novices to professionals.

He said the club is hosting a larger event in May that he expects to draw at least 150 players.

“It’s much like the traditional game of golf — disc-golfers refer to it as ‘ball golf,’” Snow said. There’s a teeing area, players count their strokes, discs are thrown toward the goal and wherever one lands is where the player throws from next. Most holes are par 3, but some of the longer ones are par 4 or 5.

There are also discs for specific tasks, such as the putter, midrange discs and drivers, Snow said.

Disc golfers say the low cost to participate makes their sport more fun than traditional golf.

“I played ball golf in high school, and ball golf required just a ton of money up front for clubs and balls and bags and stuff like that,” said Joey Lutz, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student and one of the club’s pro players. “But [in] disc golf you only need one disc — it’s, like, $5, and you can have a great time.”

There are no greens fees, either, since all of the area courses are at local parks, said Snow, who began playing about five years ago.

The Sinks at the North River Soccer Complex, dubbed “Chattanooga’s best disc golf course,” is one of five public courses in Chattanooga. Others are in Signal Mountain, Collegedale, Dalton and Ringgold. The course at the Riverpark was a temporary course specifically set up for the tournament.

The CDFC was founded in 2004 and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to promote disc sports in the area — such as disc golf and Ultimate Frisbee, Snow said.

Saturday’s tournament was a fundraiser for a victim-offender reconciliation program in the Chattanooga area. The program works to bring crime victims and perpetrators face-to-face with the help of a trained mediator. The goal is to personalize the crime for the offenders and allow the victims to speak their minds and contribute to the healing process.

The youngest competitor, Erica Bannister, 8, has been disc-golfing for about a year and is ranked No. 4 in the world in her age group.

Erica said she got into the sport after seeing her parents playing and having fun.

It’s a good way for people to get exercise and spend time with their families, she said.

“I like having a good time with my family, and especially being out on the nice days,” Erica said.

Contact Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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