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Disc-golf numbers 'explode' with Barrie club bringing in crowds

Barrie Disc Golf Club will host Sandy Hollow Open in late August with close to 200 players

The sport of disc golf has not only grown around the world but right here in our own backyard where there's a full 20-hole course free for anyone to use.

The Sandy Hollow Disc Course, located on Ferndale Drive North near the water tower, officially opened in 2014.

David Pringle, who is a member of the board for the Barrie Disc Golf Club, spoke to BarrieToday during Tuesday night’s league play.

“Basically, it's the same as regular golf in that it’s still stroke play, you’re throwing off a tee or designated spot, you’re aiming for a hole, and playing it where it lies," he says. "The obvious main difference is that instead of a ball being put in a hole, you’re aiming a disc for a basket.

“We even have the same phrases like bogey, par, hole-in-one. It's very similar in that way.”

The sport seems a little more laid back than regular ball golf. During last night's league play, some players walked the course in their foursome with music playing from their equipment bag and attire being whatever one felt comfortable in.

The local club also has Master’s Monday, which is for players 40 and older, Tuesday is weekly league night, which averages around 60 participants, and Friday is doubles night and sees up to 30 or more people.

Disc golf in Canada continues to grow and the country now trails only the United States and Finland for the amount of courses. 

With more than 700 courses nationwide, over half of those have been built in just the last few years.

Pringle says the pandemic helped disc-golf numbers soar in recent years.

“COVID helped explode it because the sport was among the very few that was able to keep going," he says. "We’re outdoors, distanced, it totally fit the criteria for being open.

“It's also cheap, way cheaper than ball golf. Many courses, including this one, are free to play, so that helps a great deal," Pringle adds.

The local course, situated in the northern section of the Barrie Landfill and Environmental Centre, is open all week if someone wants to come out and walk the course at their leisure to practise, the club says. 

Orillia resident Jeff Sieger started playing the growing sport casually about 12 years ago, but hit the links more consistently in 2019.

“I honestly don't remember why I started. I think one of my friends started playing and got me hooked,” he says. “I think part of the appeal is that once you throw the disc and it's in the air for a fair bit of time, you don't control it once it's out of your hand.

"I mean, I’ll yell at the disc, but it doesn’t do anything," Sieger says with a laugh. "But there is this excitement, anticipation ... I can’t describe the emotion. It's like in basketball with the half-court heave. You have four to five seconds of waiting to see if your shot will end well and it's exciting.” 

And just like traditional golf, the Barrie club has big events throughout the year, including the Sandy Hollow Open on Aug. 26 and 27. It's a sanctioned event through the Pro Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

"We sold that out for this year with 188 players,” Pringle says. “That brings a ton of tourism to the area and we’re glad to help do that. At our league kick-off event, we had 88 people out and at the end of the season we’ll have a season final where we crown a champion.”

The league final is scheduled around when the club begins to run out of daylight in the evening.

Despite the road to the course being lined with vehicles on Tuesday night as the league night was packed, Pringle hopes others will come out if even to just try it.

“Don’t be nervous or discouraged because you’re new or haven't played at all," he says. "Everyone here is friendly and we love seeing new people trying the sport. But again, the course is open to everyone and if you want to come out and give it a try on your own one day by all means do so.

"You’ll love it, I’m sure.”

For more information on the Barrie Disc Golf Club, check out the Facebook group by clicking here.