By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Disc golf may be coming to Cobourg next year, if the enthusiasm of council and a spokesman for local disc golfers is any indication.
Drew Johnson shared his passion for a sport that he says is catching on with people of every age and ability, explaining how it is played. Instead of hitting a ball with a stick, Johnson said, you throw a plastic disc. And instead of aiming for a hole, you aim your disk for a metal basket.
The game exploded in popularity during the pandemic, when people needed new ways to remain active, and now there are 22 courses within an hour of Cobourg.
“Ten of which didn’t exist before 2021, and only three of which existed before 2014,” Johnson added. The nearest one is at the Haute Goat farm north of Port Hope, a pay-to-play attraction 20 minutes from Cobourg.
Professional players, male and female, are making six- and seven-figure salaries from the sport, he said.
“The next big name in the sport could be right in our backyard.”
Johnson called for Cobourg to establish its own disc golf course, saying, “We are getting to the point where every community of a certain size should have a disc golf facility, just like an arena, ball diamond or tennis court.”
It’s easy to learn, anyone can play, and it can be enjoyed at any time of the year. And it’s affordable – usually it’s free to play or, if not, just a matter of a few dollars. The disc itself costs $15 to $25.
It’s a social sport that inspires a wonderful camaraderie, he said. Or it’s easy to play solo, if you prefer.
The course itself requires little in the way of maintenance, as it utilizes the existing topography – a dedicated player likes to play on different terrains, so the only maintenance required is grass cutting. And installation can be as simple as setting up the baskets and the signage.
“It can be built on under-utilized and neglected spaces,” he pointed out.
And unlike basketball and tennis courts, a disc-golf course is not tied up for long periods of time by small groups of players.
“It will attract people from other communities, since we disc golfers like to be challenged by new and different courses,” Johnson predicted.
He had two suggestions for a location, both of which are already well maintained by parks staff. One is the James Cockburn Park that is actually a conservation area and, therefore, would require the approval of the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, The other is on the Legion Fields property near the Cobourg Community Centre.
Asked how much installation of a course would cost, Johnson provide an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. Mayor Lucas Cleveland – who later admitted he is a disc golf enthusiast himself – said that the Haute Goat course (“one of the premier courses in Ontario”) cost $22,000.
Director of Community Services Brian Geerts said that the town had approached the GRCA several years ago about using the James Cockburn park for just such a purpose.
“At the time, the feedback was that its designed to be a passive area, so they weren’t interested in promoting more sports activity at the site,” Geerts reported.
Interest in the sport has only grown, he added, saying he would be willing to reach out again.
Councillor Miriam Mutton said she could easily imagine a family taking a young person to play at Legion Fields, and using the opportunity to get in a game of disc golf. Geerts agreed it was a good option, with a parking lot and restrooms already there.
Councillor Brian Darling pointed out that several sports groups are already stepping forward to pursue a 50-50 deal with the town – raising money through various avenues to get a facility for such pursuits as pickleball and skateboarding. He asked Johnson if local disc golfers would be interested in such an arrangement.
“Absolutely,” Johnson declared, adding that they would also be willing to devote volunteer hours to help in such maintenance activities as keeping the grounds clean.
“Having a group like this come forward with this kind of enthusiasm – it’s paramount to the success of any of these initiatives,” Cleveland said.
“It really does come down to the volunteers.”
Councillors unanimously passed Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty’s motion to engage with the GRCA about potentially siting the disc golf course in the James Cockburn park, while also considering Legion Fields as a potential site – and also to cost out a disc golf course for 2024 budget deliberations (which are scheduled to begin only about three months into the future).