GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When you walk into Great Lakes Disc, you will quickly find that there’s a lot more to disc golf than flinging a disc.
While the costs of getting into the game of disc golf are low (courses are commonly located in public parks where play is free), enthusiasts have a wide variety of choices. There are discs designed to fly in various ways, they can be of varying weights, there are bags to carry them in. Some players choose to carry up to 50 discs with them.
"Currently, we're seeing an explosion in the growth of disc golf,” says owner Shea Abbgy. “We have a lot of kids are discovering disc golf through the YouTube media, and also a lot of older people, looking for a way to stay active that has low impact and not real risk of injury.”
There are even professional disc golfers, some of whom will travel to Grand Rapids to play in the tournament that Abbgy’s store sponsors, the River City Open July 9-11. The tournament will be played on disc golf courses at Riverside, Johnson, and Brewer parks.
“We've had players from seven different countries play over the last three years, generally get players from 20 to 30 states a year that come to Grand Rapids to play that event,” Abbgy notes.
That's the high end of disc golf. Abbgy says all you need to get started is maybe a $5 used disc and a familiarity with the simple rules: “Disc golf is played a lot like traditional golf, where you start at a designated tee pad location, and you throw it to a target. Instead of hitting a ball with a stick, you're throwing a disc to that target, and you are counting the number of throws it takes to complete the hole or put the disc in the basket.”
Noting that disc golf is great as a family sport, Abbgy recommends making allowances for children: “If you have real little kids, don't have them throw 500-foot hole. They're probably going to throw just 50 feet; and just have them throw it somewhere near the basket so they can feel like they're part of the action.”
Abbgy is well connected in the disc golf community, maintaining relations with local parks departments and neighborhood associations on course improvements and safety. Further, he is reaching out to disc golf communities in New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
That fits into park of Abbgy’s dream: We're looking to start marketing nationally next year. So hopefully, with our online store and a national media campaign, we can become a larger retail store.”