Armed with bottles of black spray paint, a group of unknown University of Massachusetts students ventured out into the woods near the Sylvan Residential Area a few years ago and created a disc golf course of sorts by tagging trees with hole numbers and par signs.
Without actual metal holes, the objective of the game at the time was to throw the disc so that it would slam into a tree.
Now, the University of Massachusetts is taking a slightly more sophisticated approach to disc golf and installing a real disc golf course in the fields and woods between the Orchard Hill Residential Area and Sylvan residential area later this fall, according to UMass graduate and course designer, Brian Giggey.
Giggey, a self-professed disc golf nerd, dreamed up this project during the first year of his graduate work when he was assigned to come up with a plan for the Orchard Hill area.
“Not a lot of people were encouraged to use the space,” Giggey said. “There was nothing going on.”
That’s when he got the idea to connect Sylvan and Orchard Hill with six disc golf holes, three going to Sylvan from Orchard Hill and the same amount going to Orchard Hill from Sylvan.
From there, the idea expanded to include Sylvan’s forest area and a field that is located just behind the woods.
“It was just basically a labor of love,” said Giggey, who has turned planning courses into a career. “To put it on the flagship University is a great way to bring attention to the sport and to the University.”
Giggey is currently working with the University of Maine, where he did his undergraduate work, to plan a course for them as well as several festival grounds in the United States.
Disc golf – like the name suggests – is a combination of golf and frisbee. Much like golf, a disc golf course has 18 holes. However, disc golf holes are metal baskets that one has to throw a frisbee-like disc into. The person to get the disc into the hole with the fewest number of throws wins.
Quickly growing in popularity, over 2,500 courses have been built since 1970 when the sport was created. The UMass disc golf course will be the state’s 19th course, according to a publication by Innova, a company that makes disc golf equipment,
Days after Giggey proposed the course plans to the UMass Campus Planning Committee, sophomores Cole Theriault and Zack Hathaway approached him about placing the course into Registered Student Organization (RSO) status.
“Literally, two days later they reached out and wanted to get moving on this,” Giggey said. “They have already done the work and are very excited.”
Theriault has been playing disc golf since high school. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “And it would be an improvement to the area where they are trying to put it.”
By starting the RSO, Theriault and Hathaway are “trying to show the administration that there is a group on campus who would really appreciate this,” Theriault said.
While the group already has the 10 members necessary to start an RSO, it is still looking for members. Theriault suggested that interested people find him on Facebook and send him a message including their student identification number.
“We aren’t really short on people who are interested in the sport,” Giggey said. “But we don’t think a lot of people know what is happening.”
The course will be installed in either October or November according to Giggey. Dave Balkema, who owns the Highland of Conway, is donating nine of the holes and Innova is donating the other nine holes.
Those interested in helping out can email Giggey at email@example.com.
Katie Landeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.