With Booming Popularity, Disc Golf Courses in Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids Are Taking on New Life

The sun sets June 29 over a disc golf cart at Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Hiawatha’s Austin Zobeck lines up his first shot of the night June 29 at Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Logan Bentley of Cedar Rapids sinks his golf disc June 29 at Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids’ Juan Garcia lines up his shot June 29 at Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids’ Connor Rissi hits his shot June 29 at Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

With interest in disc golf surging as people seek more outdoor recreation during the pandemic, two local courses — one in Hiawatha and one in Cedar Rapids — are receiving new landscaping and being cleaned after the derecho of 2020.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Disc Golf Club has been working between preparing a new layout on the Fay Clark Park course in Hiawatha while breathing new life into the Shaver Park course in Cedar Rapids, one of the parks damaged on August 10 . 2020, storm.

The club works with various cities and generally performs disc course maintenance and minor updates on the four main courses: Clark Park in Hiawatha, Jones Park southwest of Cedar Rapids, Shaver Park northeast of Cedar Rapids and Legion Park in Marion.

Club president Michael Deeter said there were about 20 trees lost to derecho at Hiawatha’s Clark. But with the City of Hiawatha tree concessions following the derecho and replanting underway in Clark, this was the perfect opportunity to rework the course itself.

“It would have been easier before or after Shaver, but we think it’s important,” Deeter said. “Shaver probably won’t open until next year. Legion at Marion is not due until next year and Jones is now a very open and rather boring hill. This one will take a lot of work.

Legion, between Thomas and Hanna Parks in Marion, was also heavily damaged in the derecho. Today, only the last nine holes are open on the 18-hole course.

The club has been working on Shaver since May, holding weekly work parties where volunteers come out and clean up debris and weeds throughout the park to prepare for its course. Shaver will also have a new design when completed, by renowned disc golf course designer John Houck.

“Houck’s name alone will draw a lot of people here,” Deeter said. “It’s going to be a great run. It will be one of the best courses in Iowa.

The new Clark course will feature multiple tees for experienced and novice players as well as new tee boards and baskets. This will be the course’s first new layout since its inception in 2008 and could be ready by the end of July.

The club began raising funds for the course improvement in March. Since then, he has received sponsorships for the 18 holes, which will include new baskets. Volunteers also planted over 60 new trees with the goal of one day having a course with mature trees that will add new challenges for players.

“Most of the club members have given feedback on the improvements,” Deeter said. “My biggest thing was trying to get a united voice.” The club has about 80 members.

“Once you’ve gone through a complete overhaul, city parks want to be involved,” Deeter said. “We presented designs to Hiawatha and they approved. At Cedar Rapids they said do anything because the course was destroyed, so we got the ball rolling.

increasingly popular

Over the past two years, participation in disc golf has increased due to the pandemic and increased interest in outdoor recreation.

In 2017, the professional disc golf association celebrated 100,000 total numbers. Then it hit 200,000 members in 2021. Iowa is known as an active disc golf state, with many tournaments and other events.

“In 2016-17, I would recognize everyone who came in,” said club vice president Aaron Swander, who also works at Titan Disc Golf in Cedar Rapids. “Now I’d say it’s about 50% of customers stopping by that I’ve never seen before and that’s great. People come to the state to visit the yards and specifically stop at the store.

The club has also seen continued growth in the weekly Monday night league game which began in 2015.

“At first it was maybe 20 players the first year, then it was 30 to 40 the next two years,” Deeter said. “This year it’s been around 100 players and it’s not the same 100 players either. Last year we had 400 different players playing in the league. It’s definitely boosted and it’s not slowing down .

Titan Disc Golf co-owner Joe French said in 2021 his in-store sales in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines skyrocketed. Titan also added an online store, which also generated more sales.

“The pandemic has changed everything. It really has to do with all the new players,” said French, who has been playing disc golf since the 1990s. “I always try to remember all the new faces, but now it’s honestly impossible.”

Deeter and French said the Cedar Rapids area needs course improvements, but the community still needs more courses.

“Cedar Rapids is crying out for good disc golf courses right now,” Deeter said. “I think the change to Hiawatha, Shaver and Legion will make the CR area a mecca for disc golf.”

“The future here looks incredible,” added French. “But if we had three more 18-hole courses, they would be full every day. Collecting Shaver and Legion will be helpful, but we need more and we need more badly.

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Michael C. Ford