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Published June 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Disc golf spins farther out

Cities’ flooding sends players to small towns
Finding a disc golf course takes a lot of driving this summer – the kind done in a car, not on a tee pad.

By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM

Finding a disc golf course takes a lot of driving this summer – the kind done in a car, not on a tee pad.

Thanks to flood damage, one of the metro area’s two 18-hole courses, in Oak Grove Park in Fargo, will close for a month starting today. The other, in Woodlawn Park in Moorhead, was unavailable for weeks, so inundated by floodwaters that the last of the dead fish were only recently cleared.

The local space crunch on disc golf – a fee-free golflike game with discs replacing balls, chain-draped baskets instead of holes – has driven players to small 9-hole courses in the area.

“Horace (N.D.) is getting played. Barnesville (Minn.) is getting played. (Detroit Lakes, Minn.) is getting played,” said Byron Klevgaard, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Disc Golf Club.

That’s irritating to serious disc golfers like Klevgaard, who’s been clanging baskets for 30 years. To put it in club-golf context, the difference between the 9-holers, like those in the smaller cities and the still-open Iwen Park course on 52nd Avenue South in Fargo, is bigger than the difference between the par-3 El Zagal and Edgewood, one of Fargo’s full courses.

“To play a really decent course, you have to go to Grand Forks,” Klevgaard said. Many of the area’s best players have had to sit out regional tournaments because their games aren’t sharp enough, he said.

The irritation with the smaller courses could end up being mutual. There’s been no public outcry so far – Todd Pillen, a park board member in Horace, said he isn’t aware of any complaints there, for instance – but disc golf courses have a history of irking the neighbors.

It happened earlier this spring in West Fargo, when the Park Board closed a 9-hole Armour Park course due to residents concerned about traffic and vandalism.

Klevgaard sees disc golf’s stigma as unfair and thinks local parks officials don’t give the sport its due.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “The same thing goes on whether disc golf is there or not.”

That’s why Klevgaard is worried that the one-month closing of Oak Grove will quietly become permanent.

“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they didn’t put them back for two years,” he said of the Oak Grove baskets.

Dave Leker, parks director in Fargo, said the closing is temporary and is meant to give the flood-ravaged grass a reprieve. He said he’d actually like to see more courses in Fargo. Flood-spurred buyouts of riverside lots could make for potential new spots.

“We’ll have to see what land the city acquires,” Leker said.

Klevgaard said he’s skeptical of such pledges, and thinks the best chance for a new course is probably in the countryside.

Barb Erbstoesser, West Fargo’s parks director, said an 18-hole replacement for Armour Park is under way in Rendezvous Park. Nine baskets are in place, and the other half should follow by July 1, she said.

The concerns raised this year about Armour Park opened the eyes of park officials there, she said. The demand for disc golf is on the rise, but location must be perfect – isolated but not too isolated. Like Leker, she said she wants more courses.

“That’s one thing we’ve grown to realize this spring. It’s such an extremely popular sport,” Erbstoesser said. “We’ve taken greater notice.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535