DCR floats 'disc golf' idea for Pope John Paul II Park

A rough sketch that was passed around this month's Neponset Greenway Council meeting has some devotees of the flying disc flying high.

Drawn up by an intern at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, according to sources who were there, the sketch envisioned a nine-hole disc golf course in a lesser-used section of the Pope John Paul II Park.

"It's just an idea at this point," said Wendy Fox, spokesperson for the DCR. "We're just looking at it."

But for enthusiasts of the sport, which has a strong following in just about all points west of Dorchester and at least a trace of one in the neighborhood, a course inside the city would be a miracle come true.

"I'm all for it," said Phil Lindsay of Samoset Street in Dorchester. "The closest disc golf course is down in Sharon - Borderlands State Park - 20, 25 miles away."

The cost of gas, he said, forced him to buy his own portable "pole holes" as the metal basket-like targets in the game are called. Occasionally he sets them up in Franklin Park.

"Inside the 128 belt it's pretty tough to find open real estate," said Gary Cyr, president of the New England Flying disc Association (NEFA). "You have about 20 courses in Mass."

Disc golf shares basic principles and rules with golf, save that disc golfers are allowed a running start when they tee off - and that would be called a throw, not a swing. The "holes" are baskets suspended on poles that trap the discs.

Golf discs are smaller and a bit heavier than the standard Wham-O Frisbee most remember, and Cyr admits they could hurt a person at close range. But unlike golf balls, the discs are highly visible and hover in the air longer, giving more time to shout fore if a collision is imminent.

"I've seen a player hit another player, but I've never witnessed a walker-by being injured by a Frisbee," said Cyr, who owns more than 400 discs and carries 18 in his car. "A true disc golfer will hold their throw until somebody clears the field. But on the other hand, they might not go to that course if that happened over and over."

Paul Nutting, who sits on the council, said he was undecided on whether the idea is good or bad.

"My major misgiving is just that it's the passive end of the park," said Nutting. "[But] it could be a good thing to bring more people into the friends group."

Currently the most consistent users of that northwestern section of the park are dog walkers. And none of the holes in the sketch cross a walking path, though a few holes are near the path.

Cyr offered to have NEFA take a look at any plan that DCR might develop, to determine whether the shared use of the park would make sense or not.

Disc Golf, as far as can be determined, began catching on in 1974 when a group from Rochester, N.Y. held the "American Flying Disc Open." The winner took home a brand new Datsun and was hired by Wham-O to promote the sport soon afterward. Today there are well over 1,000 courses in the country and more than 16,000 members of the Professional Disc Golfing Association.

"It's a great sport in that it's an inexpensive activity for kids," said Cyr. "It's undergoing a huge boom in New England."

"It's free!" said Lindsay, who said fellow supporters could contact him at rhlwool@aol.com. "Ten bucks for a disc and you're in."