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New baskets give new life to disc golf

From left, Bud Pell, Darren McKee and John Conte of the West Sound Disc Golf Association display one of the new baskets recently erected at the NAD Park course. - Sean Janssen
From left, Bud Pell, Darren McKee and John Conte of the West Sound Disc Golf Association display one of the new baskets recently erected at the NAD Park course.
— image credit: Sean Janssen

When the going gets tough, the tough get better, stronger equipment.

That’s what members of the West Sound Disc Golf Association combined to do along with Bremerton Parks & Recreation for the disc golf course at NAD Park.

Since the course opened in May 2004, vandalism has often been a problem.

John Conte of the WSDGA said the first bent basket was discovered last summer. More and more were bent until finally someone stole two this past spring. The baskets are equivalent to the hole in standard golf.

The baskets were on loan and were removed from the park July 9.

Now, the local disc golfers’ organization has successfully raised $3,000, had those funds matched by the city parks department and has purchased an entirely new set of baskets and re-opened play.

Which is not to say the sport ever disappeared entirely. Conte said a number of young players played the course using makeshift targets like sticks they found and propped them up.

“That was encouraging to see,” Conte said. “That kind of dedication to the sport.”

The newer baskets are much stronger than their predecessors and will not damage as easily. They feature round locks to prevent anyone who would attempt to steal them using bolt cutters.

“There are things we can keep doing in order to make sure the vandalism stops happening,” Conte said.

Conte said that in his years of playing and working on courses across the sound in Seattle, catching most vandals has led to a positive experience.

“Normally, when we caught kids messing with the baskets, we’d turn them into disc golfers and get them turned on to the game,” he said.

Conte said the new baskets are just one of a number of improvements coming to the course in the near future.

“We’ve got the baskets in place, but we’ve still got some work to do,” he said. “Reconfiguring holes and putting up new signs and things.”

He said second pin placements are something he would like to see down the road, which allows players to play the same course almost as if it were two separate ones.

Another thing to tackle is improving safety of holes by moving tees to keep players playing one hole from crossing discs with those playing another.

Golf discs are a bit heavier than regular flying discs and are not likely to cause serious harm, but getting hit by one can certainly sting.

One of the successes of the course since its opening has been in drawing families.

Disc golf enthusiast Bud Pell said the family element of the game is unique to the Pacific Northwest and rare in other areas of the country.

“In the other places that I’ve played, you might see a father and son playing,” Pell said. “But here, you see entire families, everyone out with discs flying around. It’s great for promotion of the game.”

Disc golf enthusiasts are happy to welcome new players.

“I’ve been playing for about a year now,” Darren McKee said. “I came out with a big Ultimate Frisbee and these gentlemen (Conte and Pell) set me straight.”

Pell also hopes to see more seniors get out on the course as well.

“This is a great senior game. I’m trying to get the guys I play senior softball with at Lions Park into this,” Pell said. “I have a lot of fun and we old guys can have some success in handicapped tournaments.

“It’s exciting that way. Everyone can compete.”

Conte agreed that the game has a sort of universal appeal.

“It’s a nice low-impact walk in the woods in a nice park setting,” he said.

The success of the Bremerton course has also led to expansion of the game all across the West Sound region.

Courses are in the works all over Kitsap, including an 18-hole in Bainbridge, a 9-hole in Port Orchard of a shorter distance to accommodate high school and middle school players and beginners, and 27 holes near the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

Conte said his organization is also consulting with Jefferson County officials for a course there.

“We’re here to expand the courses. If you’re here to make money off disc golf, you’re in the wrong place,” he said. “Back east, there are tournaments with million-dollar purses spread out (among) the competitors.”

Instead, WSDGA has taken the non-profit route, applying for 501(c)(3) status in March and receiving their non-profit exempt tax code from the state recently.

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