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Disc golf making waves in the community

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011 7:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
From underneath tree limbs, Luke Samson, 17, of Mundelein, putts into Hole 9 of the Adler Memorial Park Frisbee Golf Course in Libertyville Aug. 11, 2011. Samson and his friends come to the Adler course because of the challenges presented by the hills and trees, and because it is close to home. “I learned a lot from the Tuesday-evening leagues here; from the other players,” Samson said. (Joshua Beckman)

When Brett Comincioli moved to Round Lake 10 years ago, it wasn’t a local eatery or store that caught his eye – it was something he hadn’t seen before: a disc golf course.

“I moved to Round Lake and noticed the course on Fairfield Road,” Comincioli said. “I learned about the sport and course ... I’ve been playing ever since.”

Disc golf, also known as Frisbee golf and frolf, can be played at more than 15 outdoor courses in Lake County.

The game is played like regular golf, except players use a flying disc and try to throw the disc from a tee area into a target – an elevated metal basket, with hanging chains to catch the discs. A variety of disc shapes – akin to different types of clubs in regular golf – are used to achieve different distances and shots.

Comincioli began playing disc golf professionally in 2005 and currently serves as the president of the local Lake County Disc Golf Club and Illinois state coordinator for the PDGA.

The sport offers inexpensive fun for people regardless of age or technical ability, Comincioli said.

“It’s cheap and fun to play,” he said. “It’s the fastest growing recreational sport in the United States.”

He said members of the Lake County Disc Golf Club range between 10 and 70 years old and that the club fluctuates in size between 78 to 150 members. 

How the park districts see it The Tim Osmond Sports Complex in Antioch offers one of many disc golf courses in the county.

Mike Kudla, director of parks and recreation in Antioch, said disc golf appeals to a wide range of people, especially teenagers and young adults who don’t often have a lot of public recreation offered to them; that’s why it’s important for park districts to provide courses – to meet that need, he said.

“It’s a hard age group to serve. If you think about all the playgrounds for [younger children] ... [there’s] not really a facility where teenage kids can go and play on their own,” Kudla said. “It’s kind of like a skate park; normally [skaters] would not have an outdoor facility where they can go and play on their own.”

Kudla said the majority of players he has observed play with friends and in groups.

“It’s a very nice thing,” he said. “It’s an outlet for kids to get some exercise outdoors and just play on their own.”

Julie Ludwig, recreation manager of the Libertyville Parks and Recreation Department, home to the Adler Park Disc Golf Course, said disc golf courses are a worthwhile investment for parks.

“It’s very popular,” Ludwig said. “It brings more people to your parks that enjoy the outdoors. Any age can do it.”

The sport is also becoming popular in local high schools, where students are throwing discs with their peers in after-school clubs.
Disc golf in schools
When Steven Jacobs prepares to throw during a game of disc golf, he imagines the path it must take to land in the target.

“I just try to take a big breath and focus on the shot and throw the disc,” said Jacobs, a senior at Warren Township High School and member of Warren Township High School’s Frolf Club. “I visualize the shot.”

Jacobs won the junior world title sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association at the PDGAAmateur Disc Golf World Championship held in New York earlier this summer.

“I love watching the flight of the disc,” he said of his attraction to the sport. “It’s an amazing feat to throw it over 450 feet.”

Adam DeBaker, frolf club adviser and teacher at Warren, said the club is the brainchild of a group of students who approached DeBaker about starting the club six years ago.

He said the club offers an alternative activity for those who aren’t typically interested in other co-curricular activities.

“These students meet other students with the same interests and start developing friendships and new talents,” DeBaker said.

“This particular school activity provides a safe, fun environment for students to just get outside, interact with other people in the school, learn and practice new techniques and compete against each other,” DeBaker said about advantages to having the sport at the high school.

The Grant Community High School Disc Golf Club is entering its third year, said Bill Stanton, club sponsor and teacher at Grant. Stanton said he was involved with the sport for about a decade before coming on staff in 2009. After talking with a fellow staff member and observing the passion students had who played the sport, they felt they had enough support to make it a popular club, he said.

“We ran with the idea and have enjoyed some great student participation as a result,” Stanton said.

Stanton also believes the disc golf club offers a great alternative activity for students who might not be interested in getting involved otherwise.

“Disc golf allows students an opportunity to engage in the school community,” he said. “The fact that we play on the weekend gives the participants a chance to get up off the couch and spend some time outside.”

He said he has observed how the club’s members have come to care for each other and also have furthered their appreciation of the outdoors.

“Camaraderie is essential for teenagers, and this club has really helped students connect to each other and share a common interest,” he said. “The students better acknowledge responsible practices to maintain a clean environment.”

Comincioli has shared the game with Carmel Catholic summer school students working as a physical education teacher at the high school and now shares it with students at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Waukegan, where he currently teaches.

“If they saw the world’s best players throwing they would be amazed,” Comincioli said about those who might not be familiar with the sport. “You’d be surprised how far and accurately they can throw [the discs].”

To learn more about the Lake County Disc Golf Club and find course locations, visit www.discontinuum.org. For more information on how to play disc golf, visit www.pdga.com.

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