Disc golf is a lot like ball golf. Except there are no pricey green fees, or the expensive equipment, or even the fancy shoes and plaid shorts. And that it's a game played with frisbees.
Communities across southwest Minnesota have been installing disc golf courses since the late 1990s, and more are popping up every year, including a new nine-hole course at Garvin Park.
Will Schindler prepares for a forehanded drive from the eighth tee that sits on a cliff at River’s Edge Disc Golf Course in Granite Falls.
"They put the holes in last fall and installed the tee posts this spring," said Brooke Wyffels, Lyon County Parks and Fairgrounds Programs supervisor. "We're hoping to get the tee signs up later this summer. We've seen people coming down and using the course already this spring."
The course at Garvin Park consists of many tree obstacles and elevation shifts across the nine holes.
"You get to throw down the big tubing hill," Wyffels said, "and a lot of people like that."
Wyffels said she played disc golf in college and enjoyed the game because "it's a sport that you don't have to be really good at to enjoy. It's something that everybody can do."
Having fun playing the game isn't the only easy thing about the sport. Unlike ball golf, there isn't a need for high-maintenence landscaping or pristine putting greens. Just a tee marker and a target.
"It was pretty inexpensive to install, and it brings a lot of people to the park," Wyffels said. "It's not a lot of maintenance, and the goals stay in all winter so it's really easy to maintain."
Golf in winter? With disc golf it's possible.
"There were tracks on the course last winter so someone was playing in the snow, at least on the warmer days," Wyffels said. "And it's probably easier to find your disc in the snow."
Another new course just opened in Cottonwood next to Lakeview School. The nine-hole course circles around the pond and wildlife area south of the school building.
Karen Meiners, Cottonwood Community Education director, said that the money for the course came from a Statewide Health Improvement Grant. Cottonwood is in the process of going through another grant application to get the money to add another nine holes to the course this fall. Meiners said they also received a grant from Play 60 to buy discs for community members to use to try out the game.
"The course was completed in October 2013," Meiners said. "But it was too cold to really use it then." On May 20, Cottonwood Community Education held a "Learn to play Disc Golf" day. Student volunteers Brianna and Jaden Hoffman were at the course that afternoon offering free lessons on how to play the game.
"It's an enjoyable game," Jaden Hoffman said. "We like being outdoors, and the competition is fun." The Hoffman siblings took the time to show other kids around the course and give tips on throwing techniques and how to keep score.
Jacob Meiners was one of the kids trying out the sport for the first time.
"I liked it," he said. "I'll definitely be back to do it again."
In Granite Falls, the River's Edge Disc Golf Course was installed in 2012 and has already seen a lot of play the past two years. Earlier this week, Nathan Smith and his son, Gage Smith, were playing a round with their friends Brent Hall and Will Schindler.
"We play as much as possible when the weather permits" Smith said.
"We've even played in the rain," said Hall.
Their favorite spot on the course is the eighth hole, which features a stone-step path up to the tee that sits on a cliff roughly 20 feet high.
"It's a lot of fun to throw from up here," Smith said.
Another golfer at the River's Edge course, Loren LaBatte, said he has been playing "since they put the course in" and that he enjoys exercise he gets from the sport.
"Once you learn how to throw well, you can get very accurate and have a lot of fun," LaBatte said. "I've even gotten a couple hole-in-ones here."