Flying saucers invade Kenai

New disc golf course brings popular sport to Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005


  Ross Baxter tosses a disc at the new Kenai Eagle Disc Golf Course during a demonstration of the game last week. Baxter created the course next to Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai earlier this month. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Ross Baxter tosses a disc at the new Kenai Eagle Disc Golf Course during a demonstration of the game last week. Baxter created the course next to Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai earlier this month.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The disc golf craze has arrived on the central Kenai Peninsula.

The Kenai Eagle Disc Golf Course, located in East End Park, is ready for play and is free to the public. According to the Web site, the Kenai Eagle course is the seventh disc golf course in Alaska.

The course is nine, par-3 holes ranging from 150 to 300 feet. Although the holes are short, the number of trees blocking sight lines to the holes and the wind that's usually blowing in that part of town promises to make for a challenging course. It is best accessed from the entrance to East End Park on Tinker Lane.

Disc golf is played like its ball brother, except that in disc golf the object is to get a disc in the basket, instead of the ball in the hole.

An article in the January 2005 edition of Parks & Recreation magazine said disc golf has grown rapidly since the first, formal pole-hole course was built in Oak Grove Park, Calif., in 1975. As of July 2004, there were 1,572 courses in the world. Nonurban areas, like Kenai, have seen more of the growth in disc golf since the mid-1990s.

The Professional Disc Golf Association estimates there are 5 million regular players of disc golf.

The Kenai Eagle course is being used to revitalize East End Park, according to Bob Frates, the director of the city of Kenai Parks and Recreation Department.

"The East End trail itself encompasses a mile worth of trails," Frates said. "About half was getting regular use, but the portion directly behind Oilers field wasn't getting utilized the way it could be."

Ross Baxter is the driving force behind the new Kenai Eagle course. Baxter, 45, took up the sport in Atlanta about 13 years ago.

When he moved to the central peninsula in 2002, Baxter made it his mission to bring disc golf along with him. In 2004, he got to work on the course and its completion took just a year.

That short turnaround time partly explains why disc golf has been able to grow so rapidly.

According to Parks & Recreation magazine, courses are easily constructed. Courses are part of the landscape and require little or no landscaping. They also require little maintenance.

Parks & Recreation said courses cost between $500 and $1,000 per hole. Baxter was able to secure sponsorships from area businesses for each hole for $500.

While disc golf courses do not cost as much as golf courses, they still provide the challenge of trying to direct an object to a target.

"It's a great challenge for all people," Baxter said. "You have to coordinate all aspects — footwork, the attitude you throw the disc with, controlling the disc. It's similar to the way you control a tennis ball or a golf ball."

Disc golf can be played by nearly all ages. While it contributes to fitness, a player does not have to be in excellent shape for the low-impact activity.

Playing disc golf also is very cheap. Baxter recommends that players buy a golf disc, which is different from a frisbee. Discs can be had for under $9 to $21. Players can get discs that perform specialized functions, like driving and putting, or just play with one multipurpose disc.

Discs will be available for purchase for $15 at the grand opening of the course on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event also will feature free hot dogs, soda and balloons. Course T-shirts will be for sale for $18 and information will be available on how to play the game.

For those who can't get to the grand opening to purchase a disc, Baxter said discs will be available for purchase at Beemun's Variety in Soldotna in the near future.

Baxter said a disc golf course is more than just a place for people to enjoy the sport. Disc golf also can contribute to a healthy community.

"It's a low-cost way for families to enjoy outdoor recreation," Baxter said. "It's also good for the community in the sense that tournaments and fund-raisers can be wrapped around this course."

To that end, Baxter has formed the Kenai Eagle Disc Club. He said at this point he is the club's lone member, but he hopes that as interest in disc golf expands community members will step forward to lead the club and organize tournaments and fund-raisers.

Baxter said he has already given a disc golf demonstration at Skyview High School and said students were enthusiastic about it.

The course also is one more thing the central peninsula can use to market itself.

"Here's another marketable sport on the Kenai Peninsula," Baxter said. "Disc golfers travel the world playing this sport — playing in different tournaments and playing different courses."

Baxter said he hopes the course will one day expand to 18 holes. Frates said he will wait and see what kind of use the current nine holes get, but he has a hunch how popular the sport will be just by talking to those who have been exposed to it elsewhere.

"Those people who are familiar with it are just itching to play," said Frates, who used to play the game back in college. "They think it's a great thing.

"I can't wait to get my kids out there. They might show me up."

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