James LeMeuse said a gem for disc golfers has been plopped down in a previously underutilized Chattanooga park.
The Chattanooga Flying Disc Club and the city of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department recently partnered to install a nine-hole course in Portland Park at the corner of Signal Mountain Road and Suck Creek Road.
"It's a good one to start with if you're beginning [the sport]," said LeMeuse, 45, a North Georgia resident who often plays area courses with his brother, Chuck.
The park makes the seventh free disc golf course opened in the region since 2005.
Portland Park has seen more visitors in the past four months than it has in the past 15 years, according to Scott Homberg, disc golf director of for the Chattanooga Flying Disc Club.
"Our club goals are to get kids out from in front of the TV, off the couch and outdoors," he said. "It's a sport they can play with their families, and that helps build bonds and keep them out of trouble. We feel like it's a win-win situation, and there are no [age] limitations as to who can play."
Prior to the installation of the disc golf course, Portland Park sat dormant for 15 to 20 years, Homberg said. "People drove right past it and didn't notice it," he said. "Since people didn't use it, it was not high on the list of parks to be maintained. It was a good piece of property that kind of fell unnoticed by the community."
Rhonda Seeber, communications manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, described the facility's previous use as "more of a passive park."
She said the department provided the equipment for the course installation in the form of baskets and concrete pads, and nonprofit Flying Disc Club volunteers did the design, layout, and work to set up the course. She said the department is working with the club on signage.
James said the Portland Park course is smaller and not quite as challenging as other area courses. However, he said, those are also its upsides. "It's short," he said, "so you don't have to walk a million miles. It has a nice park atmosphere."
Portland Park is a good course on which to practice for other layouts or to try out a new disc, James said.
"Each course has its own challenges," he said.
The course was laid out and the baskets put in the ground in November, Homberg said. After a few modifications, the tee pads were installed in late February or early March. He said the materials cost about $4,000.
"As far as sports and sports facilities go," he said, "it's probably the cheapest recreation you can put in the ground to accommodate so many people."
DISC GOLF LOCATIONS
Chattanooga: Portland Park Disc Golf Course, Signal Mountain and Suck Creek roads; The Sinks Disc Golf Course, DuPont Park, 4501 North Access Road; Shepherd Recreation Center Disc Golf Course, 2124 Shepherd Road; Carver Recreation Center, 600 N. Orchard Knob Ave.; Southern Adventist University, 4881 Taylor Circle, Collegedale, Tenn.
North Georgia: Jack Mattox Disc Golf Course, 749 Pine Grove Road; Heritage Point Park, 1275 Cross Plains Trail, Dalton, Ga.; Cloudland Canyon State Park, 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn, Ga.
Homberg said disc golf is growing around the country but is booming in Chattanooga.
Since the Sinks Disc Golf Course opened at DuPont Park in 2005, he said, the sport has welcomed hundreds of new players a year. Today, DuPont Park hosts more than 1,000 people a week, making it one of the city's busiest parks.
Although the sport provides low impact exercise, according to the national Disc Golf Association, it has additional benefits. "Schools are finding that kids not only love the sport," said the association's website, "but that it helps develop critical thinking through scrutinizing and negotiating obstacles, it provides a safe means of exercise and [it] can be used for other life lessons like ecology, planning and socialization."
Homberg said disc golf has been used in physical therapy and offers a "kind of hidden exercise" in addition to getting people outside and moving.
"The twisting and turning of the upper torso is kind of like doing sit-ups," he said. "You're strengthening the stomach and back muscles [used in sit-ups]. It's a mild form of exercise."
Seeber said the recent addition of courses at the Carver Complex and Shepherd Recreation Center made it even accessible for even more youth and children.
"It's a great, fun thing," said Seeber.
Disc golf can be played with any Frisbee, or participants can purchase an official Golf Disc for $6-$15 at most sporting goods stores.