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Disc golf popularity soars at Robbins Island

WILLMAR -- These days, it's par for a different course at Robbins Island in Willmar. The city park installed a disc golf course a little over a year ago and it's become a popular attraction.

"We have a lot of people playing," said LeAnne Freeman, in charge of senior citizen and intergenerational programs for Willmar Community Education and Recreation. She said many of the players on the course appear to be in their mid-teens to mid-20s.

What makes the sport so appealing? Karl Klint of Willmar said he got started playing disc golf because his cousins made him play.

"I have a lot of cousins that play -- have played for 15 to 20 years," he said. "They made me come out and play. I keep doing it because I want to stay active."

Klint said he isn't able to play other sports like softball because of a bad shoulder. He uses a side-arm throw for playing disc golf, which is easier on his shoulder.

"You can still be very active with a sport if you can't throw a ball like a football or baseball," he said.

Klint was on the Robbins Island course with Matt Hagen, also of Willmar. Hagen said one of his friends got him started playing about two years ago at the disc golf course in New London. He usually plays three to four rounds, once a week, with a group of friends.

Klint said he plays three to four times a week, in the mornings, and mostly alone. He doesn't mind hitting the course on his own.

"It seems if you go to a disc golf course, if there's somebody else by themselves, you'll start talking to them. It's one of the friendliest sports I've ever played," he said.

Also on the course were Mike Erickson, Devin Norris, and Levi Brown, all of Willmar. Erickson said he got started playing disc golf when a group of friends started going to the course in New London.

It's a fun social activity, the trio agreed. It's a great way to be active outdoors and they usually see one or two groups of three to four people on the course when they play.

Another draw is the fact that disc golf is easy and inexpensive to play. Klint and Hagen said the same rules apply to disc golf that apply to regular golf. The point of the game, like traditional golf, is to get the disc in the basket in the least number of throws.

Hagen said discs made for the sport are pretty inexpensive. "Your initial investment is a lot cheaper than buying a bag of golf clubs and golf balls," he said.

"When you buy a disc for $10 or a sleeve of golf balls for $10, you can lose the balls in one day or the disc you can have all summer," Klint agreed. "For myself, I actually enjoy the disc golf more than regular golf."

Beginners should just buy a disc and have fun, Klint said. He brought his mother to the course last summer to teach her how to play.

"She was blown away by how fun it was," he said. "She told me that this is something where she could come out after work and just play."

"Plus, it's good for all ages," Hagen added.

Freeman echoed that sentiment. She said disc golf is a great sport for the whole family. The activity is so popular that WCER is starting a disc golf league, open to all ages, at 8 a.m. Wednesday mornings at Robbins Island.

The first few weeks of the league will include walking people through the course and explaining the basics of the sport, Freeman said. After that, they will form different teams from the group.

To see what all the fuss is about, be at Robbins Island from 1-4:30 p.m. on June 28. Willmar Community Education and Recreation and Q102 are hosting a Disc Golf Party at Robbins Island during Willmar Fests. Freeman said there will be door prizes and disc golf activities available for the whole family.

The party includes age group challenges for longest drive at Hole 9, Closest to the Hole at Hole 3, and an obstacle challenge at Hole 5. Freeman said she's hoping more families will be on the course that day for the Parent/Kids Challenge, and those who feel up to it can also play Challenge the Staff with WCER and Q102.