By Cyrus Gutnick
There is no comparison to the quality of the 27-hole disc golf course tucked away behind the city golf club at DeLaveaga Park right here in Santa Cruz. The course requires a player to negotiate obstacles as well as confront sheer distance drives, attracting a range of disc golfers from the weekend warrior to the aspiring professional.
And now, especially as spring turns the corner and green returns to all the open meadows, its beauty only bolsters its reputation as one of the finest and most challenging disc golf courses in the area.
Despite all this, the UC Santa Cruz Disc Golf Club would like to set up a course right here in the back yard of the UCSC campus.
A course on the UCSC campus would foster a return to the days of old.
According to the second edition of the student-produced manual “An Unnatural History of UCSC,” the oldest organized flying disc activity at UCSC can be traced back to a disc golf tournament held in 1974 around Stevenson and Cowell Colleges. This was two years before disc golf became an official sport with the development of the “disc golf basket” at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena, Calif. In 1981 UCSC created a simpler target system made of wooden posts.
But when DeLaveaga introduced modern chain baskets around 1986, the allure of UCSC’s object course diminished. The game made a slight return on campus with the help of promoters, but it didn’t last long.
“I had three baskets donated from the Godfather of disc golf, Ed Headrick from the Disc Golf Association (DGA),” said Kevin “Skippy” Givens, director of club sports. “Those baskets were stolen around 2001 and never replaced.”
This time, however, the club would like to establish a permanent course on campus that would utilize the landscape to incorporate many of the features that DeLaveaga Park already has.
“The terrain would be good,” club member Zach Ateman said. “There is such a huge variety of terrain, tight wooded holes, open meadows and plenty of elevation change.”
These factors would require a player to use techniques such as air shots (forehand and backhand), overhand shots, straight shots, and rollers.
But the challenge of creating a field doesn’t lie in finding land suitable for a course. Chris Edwards, president of the UCSC Disc Golf Club, already has plenty of ideas about where to place the course, with possibilities ranging from targets scattered about the rolling hills of the Lower East Field to baskets weaving a course through the woods around Merrill College and Colleges 9/10.
“There is so much space,” Edwards said. “So many places that could have Frisbees flying through them.”
The real problem is financing the project, and then getting permission from the University to lay the course.
The gears are already in motion to solve the first of these problems. The club hopes to receive sponsorships from local businesses to help with finances, especially now that they are competing in the Disc Golf Association (DGA).
Edwards explained that each club receives an allotted amount of start-up funding from the school. With some of this money, the club invested in discs from the DGA on which they will get “UCSC Slug Disc” printed, so that they can sell them for profit.
The next problem is getting permission to put a permanent course on the campus.
“Are there limits to where you can walk on campus?” Edwards asked. “No. Are there limits to where you can throw a Frisbee on campus? No. Unless it’s inside, but we are not trying to play inside.”
Disc Golf Club members do recognize the concerns the school may have with a course on campus. In their mind, the biggest concern would be trash left out on the course, but they feel that the scope of this problem shouldn’t be the sole reason to nix an on-campus course.
Ateman said that the worst-case scenario is that someone might get injured, but because the course would be designed in places that do not experience heavy amounts of foot traffic, the chances of this happening are slight. With the addition of signs that would alert passersby of possible disc golf activity, and with the growing popularity of the sport, the course’s presence will be heightened. And as is exhibited at DeLaveaga, players are always looking out for others.
Even before the cost of the baskets, maintenance, and other factors are tallied, the traditional channels leading to a course would cost thousands of dollars — the club would need to file Environmental Impact Reports and other processes the administration requires.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to get an on-campus course, but this is not to say that getting a course is impossible. Disc golf’s popularity is growing immensely and the club would like to see increased access to the sport made available for the team as well as for the community; especially for a population like UCSC’s, with a predisposition for playing in natural, organic surroundings.
“Not everyone wants to go to the gym,” Ateman said. “Disc golf is a sport that you can do till the day you die.”