John Gianpapa (L) instructs Needham residents (L-R) Peter Katz, David Gluck and Tom Anderson at the disc golf event in December / Credit: Needham Disc Golf

Area disc golf players are getting closer to their goal of creating a course in Needham. 

After making their case before the Conservation Commission on March 28, Needham Disc Golf got the go-ahead to hire a disc golf course designer, former world champion Avery Jenkins, to review potential sites in the Town Forest near Central Avenue and in Ridge Hill Reservation. Jenkins’ mission will be to assess whether it’s feasible to put a course in either area. The feasibility study will cost $1,200, paid for with funds raised by Needham Disc Golf through GoFundMe.

And what is disc golf? Think of the text on the underside of early Frisbees: “Flat Flip Flies Straight–Tilted Flip Curves, Experiment!” It’s a lesson local disc golfers take to heart as they spin their way from “tees,” or clearings where a hole begins, to large baskets that serve the purpose that a hole does on a traditional golf course.

“Disc golf is garnering a lot of interest,” said Sam Bello, vice president of Needham Disc Golf. “Back in December, we had a pop-up disc golf event at Claxton Field, across from the dump, and about 120 people showed up in a span of about five hours. There were families, old and young, solo players, and some area players who heard about the event.” 

Globally, the game is growing rapidly — more than 14,000 courses have been constructed. According to Business Research Insights, the sport is growing at more than 17% per year, representing a $205.7 million market globally in 2022. Proponents point out that while the word “golf” conjures images of formality and bending nature to the game, disc golf is informal, family-friendly, and low-impact.

New England courses are typically in wooded settings with short, “technical” holes that do not require significant pruning or maintenance. The holes on a Needham course would range from about 150 feet to 300 feet from tee to basket. Still, a course does take planning, space and construction. The poles for the baskets have cement footings and the tees are typically stone or pavement or platforms.

Bello, who’s in his 20s, got interested in the game as a way to enjoy the woods when he can’t be on his mountain bike or skis. It helped that his neighbor, Bob Baker (a Needham Observer contributor) was a passionate disc golfer who had founded Needham Disc Golf. “You can disc golf in the summer and the winter,” said Bello. “Right? You just have to put on your snow boots.”

Jenkins is expected to conduct his feasibility study in July. Then Needham Disc Golf plans to bring a comprehensive proposal and budget to the town. An 18-hole course would cost about $115,000, Needham Disc Golf estimates. A 9-hole course would be about half that. 

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