Disc Golf Course Rises on Belle Isle

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:23 am
This week, the finishing touches were put on a new disc golf course, which has been quietly established on Belle Isle. Finished July 23, it’s the result of hard work from Detroit Disc Golf co-founder Chris Haag and Up in the Air Disc Golf’s Andrew Frazier, as well as several other dedicated course administrators. Although disc golfers have been using 6-foot-tall wooden posts for the past six months, the organizers have just finished installing 19 disc golf baskets into the ground, fulfilling the requirements of the Professional Disc Golf Association for hosting sanctioned tournaments.

Haag was introduced to the sport 10 years ago, at a course called Flip City in Shelby Township. Over time, Haag’s disc golf skill and passion grew. He says he loved the sport because it was, “easy to pick up and play, yet challenging.”

His group, Detroit Disc Golf, gelled in 2010, after Haag and co-founder Joe Robinson had both recently moved to Detroit. “Basically, we were sitting at a bar one night, talking about how much we missed having disc golf courses near us,” Haag says, pointing out how few, if any, decent disc golf courses are within a 40-minute drive of Detroit. “Four or five beers later, we were pounding fists on the bar, saying, ‘We’re gonna build a disc golf course on Belle Isle.’”

The two then planned an outing, with no planning other than their vague idea about playing disc golf on the island park. Hag and Robinson advertised the event on their newly created Facebook page, “Detroit needs a disc golf course on Belle Isle,” and, in Haag’s words, “people just started showing up, saying, ‘If you guys need any help, just let us know.’”

Such aid would come in handy, allowing the disc golfers to plan for a formal course able to hold professional tournaments. That possibility became a reality when Detroit Disc Golf Club received a letter of approval from Belle Isle Park Manager Keith Flourney, allowing them to start building the baskets on Belle Isle’s old, neglected golf course. Unfortunately, disc golf baskets can cost between $350 and $400, thwarting DDGC’s plans — at least until the Michigan Disc Golf Organization donated three baskets and a private anonymous donor offered another 16.

Since the DDGC’s initial outings, feedback has been emphatically positive. Haag says, “[Belle Isle Park] loved it.

Everybody was asking afterward, ‘When are you guys gonna build a permanent course here?’” He adds that it has been all the people involved who kept the DDGC on an upward trajectory. “When we need to have a cleanup, [when] we need to fix something, [when] we need to get a crew together to dig a hole

sometimes 30 people will show up.

It was sort of just an accident that I got involved in [the DDGC], and now it’s taken on a life of its own.”

Since the DDGC now has its baskets, they will host their first Professional Disc Golfing Association-sanctioned tournament on Aug. 25 — the third-annual Battle for Belle. Last year, 150 golfers played in the tournament, and, afterward, more than 50 players returned weekly for regular league play.

But the Detroit Disc Golf Course still needs more work to become the “world-class course” of Haag’s dreams. To realize its full potential, Haag says he wants to build concrete tee pads (the disc golf launch sites) and signage, needs money to mend fences, secure certain buildings and shift the course around according to players’ feedback. He aims to raise between $30,000 and $50,000 over the next several years. “Three or four years down the road, we want to bring the [disc golfing] world championship back to Michigan.”

The course is open every day and is free to the public. Leagues play every Sunday at noon.