Disc golf continues to grow in Iowa City

BY CARLOS SOSA | JULY 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Jeff Harper is a professional disc golfer and one of the reasons Iowa City has become a more and more popular place to throw the disc.

Iowa City, in the disc golf world, is known for its prominent courses, such as Turkey Creek and Sugar Bottom.

"The course at Turkey Creek has been around since the mid-1980s," Harper said. "A lot of kids go out, and give it a try, and fall in love with it."

The sport of disc golf benefits from people inviting their friends to play at such courses as Turkey Creek. It's not a sport that regularly offers camps or training sessions — the disc-golf community relies on word of mouth to attract players.

People such as Alex Ludvicek, a former University of Iowa student and current Iowa City resident, began disc golfing two years ago because of friends.

"Friends of mine were disc golfing, and one day they invited me to play," Ludvicek said. "I lost a lot of their discs, so I had to buy some more, and I just kept playing."

Ludvicek said one of the reasons he became interested in disc golf is that he finds the sport relaxing.

Disc golf can be considered a leisure sport. For some, it's a way to relieve stress.

"Part of it is a meditative escape, and part of it is friendly competition," Iowa City resident Morgan Varner said. "It's nice to have peaceful surroundings and to have a way to get away from your day. It's nice to throw something hard, like when you're bowling."

After trying the unusual sport, many fall in love with it. And for this reason, disc golf is growing.

"The more players we have, the more exposure [disc golf] gets," Harper said. "Having more people trying and playing the sport gives us more opportunities for more courses."

The Turkey Creek and Sugar Bottom courses have attracted most of the Iowa City disc-golf population, but Harper was a part of a group that built the new course in Peninsula Park in 2006.

The 18-hole park is the evidence that disc golf is in high demand.

"There were so many players at other courses. Turkey Creek had a lot of people playing on it," Harper said. "So we went to the Iowa City Park and Recreation Commission to add a course, and [the members] said yes. That's how we were able to choose Peninsula."

Peninsula Park, however, is still viewed by some as a more professional course.

"Peninsula was the newest course in the area," Iowa City resident Brian Potter said. "And it's a pretty challenging course."

Harper has also gone through different methods to introduce disc golf to different parts of the community.

"My wife worked for the Iowa City schools, so I went and did stuff for the PE classes," Harper said. "I also worked with Unified Sports in Iowa City and Des Moines."

When disc golf began, it was viewed as a "cult sport"; not many people played. But now in cities such as Iowa City, it has grown to be a sport similar to basketball — people can just go out and play.

"Disc golf in general is getting a lot more popular with college students and people outside of college," Ludvicek said. "The industry has grown, and it has become more than hippie crews throwing a Frisbee."

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