No sooner had the season for the Midland Disc Golf Club (MDGC) started, than it had ended.
“[In late March] we had a message from the Professional Disc Golf Association (the sport’s governing body), basically discouraging play,” says Josh Mace, co-president of the MDGC.
In an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Ontario amended its March 30th emergency declaration, thereby closing all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds, effective immediately.
“We’ve done the same,” says Mace. “We’ve suspended our leagues for the past couple of weeks; respecting the closures, respecting the fact that we’ve got to distance.”
Continuing until at least April 14, the Town of Midland closed off Little Lake Park to recreational uses (besides walking, biking and/or jogging) with fines in place for people failing to comply, as enforced by the Ontario Provincial Police and Municipal Law Enforcement Officers. The closure has since been extended until at least April 14.
Midland’s 30-hole Little Lake Disc Golf Course has been host to the annual Summer Solstice tournament over the past decade and its postponement for 2020 could mean lost tourism dollars to the area.
“[Co-president] Rob Coulas and I took it on in 2016 to say, ‘let’s get this up to what could be a world-class course, and let’s expand it so that we can attract more people and have premiere events there, bringing more money into the community.’” Mace recalls.
“The last four or five years, a lot of the focus has been on growing our course and building our player base in the whole region. We run a large provincial-level tournament every June; it attracts about a hundred players from across the province. It brings about $20,000 into the community every year.”
The course takes full advantage of the hilly woodlots above as well as the beachside flats below, and was installed in August 2008 by Dave Bopp, Aaron Coutts and Dusan Nedelko with support from the town’s recreation department.
“We [the MDGC] self-funded the expansion,” says Mace regarding the upgrade from 18 to 30 holes. “We’ve paid for all the equipment and we do all the labour. It gets more people in the park, to all areas of the park and not just the beach.”
Similar to regular golf in concept, disc-golf players use various weighted discs thrown at length into suspended chain-mesh baskets.
“But it’s not exactly something people know about,” Mace explains. “Even now, people may look at these baskets in the park and think ‘Oh, they’re weird-looking barbecues, or they’re garbage bins.’
“Four or five years ago, you might have seen people camping out on the tee-pads and cooking meals, that sort of thing. We don’t really see much of that anymore. We’re 11 years in and it’s now not uncommon to see the park full of people playing, which is fantastic.”
The history of disc golf dates back to the early 20th-century with the first recorded instance happening at a Bladworth, Saskatchewan elementary school in 1926 when a group of school friends threw tin plates at various neighbourhood objects and called their sport Tin Lid Golf.
In 1959, Street Frisbee Golf was played as a tournament sport in Newport Beach, California.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a couple of champions in our club, and some of the best and longest throwers in the world,” Mace says, noting A-tier player Thomas Gilbert (the winner of the 2019 Summer Solstice) frequently plays on the Little Lake course when in the area.
Mace also has high praise for the regular players in the MDGC, who will “drop everything to come and help out, and who are caretakers of the park as well.”
For those looking to get started into the sport once the current quarantining measures have been reduced, beginners sets and advanced discs can be purchased locally at Midland’s Minds Alive! in Midland and at Top Link Disc Golf in Barrie. Both of these businesses ensure via their websites that regarding COVID-19, all purchases are handled with appropriate care with the customers’ total safety in mind.