When Steve Borgerding was the Melrose Scoutmaster, a post he held for 21 years, he was always on the lookout for something new and entertaining his troop could do. He was first introduced to disc golf at Camp Stearns near Fairhaven.
“We played in the snow,” he said. “If the snow wasn’t deep, we put on boots, but if it was deep, we played in snowshoes.” Intrigued with this new sport, Steve soon had a practice basket in his back yard.
Steve Borgerding at the first hole of the new disc golf course in Melrose. Photo by Jean Paschke
In 2014 at Melrose’s Nite to Unite, he laid out a small course and persuaded City Administer Michael Brethhorst to join the fun. By the following May, a course had been plotted, baskets installed, and a midrange disc golf course appeared in the Melrose City Park, joining area towns such as St. Joseph, Albany, Waite Park, Clearwater, and Sauk Centre, and most area Scout camps, all ahead of the curve in disc golf.
“This game is more common than you think,” Steve said. It was a collaborative effort of the Scouts–Steve is now cub master and Scouting committee member–and the city of Melrose. The ribbon-cutting took place on May 11. Steve, the Scouts, and the Melrose Parks and Recreation Board all took a hand, designing the course to run around the perimeter of the park, leaving the middle free for the usual soccer games and family picnics. It starts and ends in the parking lot. The city further cooperated by installing little signs warning against flying discs, course rules and a mailbox to hold score cards.
Disc golf is also called Frisbee golf for the obvious reason that Frisbee-like objects are thrown into baskets, also called pins, set around a course. But these aren’t ordinary Frisbees. They are smaller, heavier, and more lethal.
“You do not want to play catch with these,” Steve said, opening a case of colorful discs. “They will rap your knuckles. They come in long range, midrange and putters.” The rules of the game are borrowed from golf: work your way around the course, and the fewer the throws, the higher the score. The baskets are sturdy metal set in concrete footings, with a cage of chains inside to trap the disc as it lands, with any luck. Melrose’s baskets are considered to be the Cadillac of their kind, powder coated in bright orange to increase their visibility. The course consists of nine holes and is midrange in difficulty, with distances ranging from 210 feet to 351 feet. There are even a few hazards, such as low-hanging branches, and a wrong throw can land a disc in the Sauk River. Players can form teams, play solo, or just ignore the scoring and have fun.
Disc golf is one of those things that seem to have started independently in many places and at many times. Originally tin pie plates were thrown at a post. Generally acknowledged as the “father of disc golf” is “Steady Ed” Headrick, designer of Frisbees at the Wham-O Company. He designed baskets with chains and was the first to market and promote disc golf as a sport in the 1980s. Today there is a Disc Golf Association, headquartered in California, which hosts leagues and tournaments.
“One nice thing about disc golf, it’s for all ages,” Steve said. “Parents, kids, and everybody can play.”