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Disc golf on the rise in Iowa City

BY CONRAD SWANSON | JUNE 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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The sport of disc golf has blossomed for people of all ages in the last few years. It’s easy to learn, inexpensive, inclusive, and available to everyone from rank amateurs to more serious competitive players.

Although the sport has been around the Iowa City/Coralville area for decades, there has been a recent uptick in the number of participants. Bill Kallaus, who owns Funcrest Bait and Tackle near the Coralville Reservoir and sells discs, said he has noticed a substantial growth in the past five or six years.

“I see a lot of new faces,” he said. “I think it’s something to do with more college kids moving in.”

Participants have mixed opinions on the effect UI students have on disc-golf activity. Some say it’s a lot calmer on the area courses after most students leave for the summer, but others say the locals come out more often as soon as the students are gone. Kallous has noticed that when the students leave, the number of people playing “drops off somewhat, but there are still a lot of local people.”

Joshua Peary, who has played disc golf for five years, says he doesn’t view the students as too much of a problem.

“Crowds can pick up,” he said. “You see the occasional large group — usually students — [but] then you go.”

Peary estimated that the disc golfers can be male or female and run the ages between 15 and 50, which speaks to how diverse the players can be.

The courses can get crowded at times, however, making it difficult to play a round at a reasonable pace.

“I wish they’d put a new course in to take the pressure off,” Kallaus said when discussing the Turkey Creek course by the Reservoir.

Because disc golf has the potential to be a group activity, it has a large draw. People from all around the state can come and play nearly for free — the only cost is the one-time investment in a disc.

Many, such as 55-year-old Jim Albrecht, are introduced to the sport by their friends, and they find easygoing outdoor activity appealing.

“It’s not a competitive thing,” said Albrecht, who has played for around 10 years. “You pick up and you go.”

Many people have begun traveling to different courses. The Professional Disc Golf Association says Iowa has around 152 courses, each with its own geography and landmarks — similar to the way more traditional golf courses differ from one another. Peary lives in the Cedar Rapids area and frequents the local Jones Park course, but he also travels to Iowa City several times a week to play courses here.

Kallaus’ shop has a larger-than-average selection of discs, he said, which attracts people from out of town. He estimated Funcrest sells approximately 125 discs a week, and disc golf makes up between 60 to 70 percent of his business.

“I draw a lot of people out, some from as far as Des Moines,” he said. “If I didn’t have that going on, I’d be hurting.”

Kallous tries to specialize in knowledge about the discs, and sometimes he helps beginners learn more about the sport. He said he figures the simplicity of the sport is a large part of the attraction.

“There are no tee times,” he said. “You just buy discs, and away you go.”


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