Nearly a quarter century ago, city officials in Boise made a discovery: a booming game of golf, inspired by Frisbee, was a hit in Ann Morrison Park.
After years of negotiations, the Gem State Disc Golf Club was allowed to pay for and install a nine-hole course. Soon, new faces flooded the park. “Ka-chinged” flying discs in chain baskets. Crowds of players waited their turn at the teeing grounds.
“The packed disc golf course has the city looking for another site to play,” an Idaho Statesman headline proclaimed in 1998.
“We are considering a second course,” a parks official said in the article. ” It succeeded. At any time of the day, you find people using it.
“We see a need for a second.”
Twenty-four years later? Boise is still waiting.
But relief is coming. Although a second crucial full-scale course is not guaranteed, dozens of additional baskets and starts are planned in city parks.
For enthusiasts – who range from competitive tournament players to casual discus throwers like my kids and I – the action is long overdue.
The Ann Morrison Park course has become a magnificent 18-hole destination maintained by the Gem State Disc Golf Club. Loved by all ages and skill levels, Ann Mo has also fallen victim to her own popularity.
I was part of the ragtag gang that lobbied the Boise Parks and Recreation Department at the time. I even convinced the Statesman to sponsor a hole for a few hundred dollars. But soon enough, the bottlenecks of humanity in the course kept me out. These days, I’m more likely to enjoy a round when visiting my brother in Austin, TX than in Boise — though I do occasionally take my family to other courses in Treasure Valley.
How much does this city need this second option now? With our booming population? With disc golf soaring around the world thanks to a pandemic that has pushed everyone outside?
“Desperately,” says local pro shop owner Jason Oxsen 208 discs2619 W. Camas St., and a member of the Gem State Disc Golf Club Board of Directors.
Coming soon: nine-hole course
Disc golf courses are flourishing in Idaho state parks, as Idaho News 6 recently reported. Towns near Boise, such as Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and Kuna, also have courses.
But the capital of Idaho still only has a throughout its network of parks? Unlike the colorful, inexpensive discs in the game, the excuses don’t fly.
Doug Holloway, manager of Boise Parks & Rec, is a fun guy. So I talked to him for a bit in a heated phone conversation. He has other pressing problems. (Pickleball courts! Boise needs more pickleball courts!)
Yet why – if the city identified a need decades ago – has it never been met? “That’s probably a good question,” says Holloway. “I think part of that, quite honestly, is that disc golfers traditionally haven’t been squeaky wheels.”
Parks & Rec is not “anti-disc golf,” he says.
“It’s important to me!” said Holloway. “It’s close to my heart. I probably don’t care as much as you do, but I don’t play as much as you. But I see the people there. …and we understand that we need more.
Soon, says Holloway? Two new nine-hole courses.
Five baskets were installed at bowlers park in the Surprise Valley southeast of Boise. Four more have been ordered. “As soon as we have them, we will have them installed,” he says.
Next year a nine-hole course will be built at Magnolia Park7136 N. Bogart Lane, adds Holloway.
Further in the future? When the master plan is updated to Bora Park801 S. Aurora Drive — likely this coming winter — it will include nine holes of disc golf.
Call me hopeless, but Boise needs way, way more.
The number of disc golfers here has doubled in the past three years, Oxsen estimates.
“It’s a low-cost activity that kind of fits the demographics of Treasure Valley, as it is,” he explains. “People like to recreate here. They like to go out. They like to do things.
It’s not just Idaho. It’s global. “This sport is no longer your fringe hobby”, Canadian magazine Kootenay Mountain Culture recently wrote, “it explodes.” In 2021, Paul McBeth, the sport’s most accomplished professional player, signed a 10-year, $10 million sponsorship deal with disc golf company Discraft. I am don’t make it up.
Veterans Park: “The Answer”
The potential game changer for Boise? A tree-lined course Veterans Memorial Park930 N. Veterans Memorial Parkway.
If all 18 holes occur.
“Veterans are literally the answer, in my opinion,” says Oxsen.
Carrying portable baskets, the Gem State Disc Golf Club hosts an annual 18-hole Veterans’ Winter Series. A permanent course would no doubt help ease the pressure at Ann Morrison Park.
Disc golf will be part of the master plan for veterans when it’s updated this summer, says Holloway. But there are concerns that 18 permanent holes will be difficult to fit into the area. “If we can get 18, we’ll definitely try to do it,” Holloway says.
A full-size course would be a huge benefit to disc golf in Boise. Other? Complete the 17 hole course. Or 16. Or 15. Not just nine. Every additional basket counts. And it can’t happen soon enough.
Unfortunately, a veterans course, no matter how small, will not materialize overnight. Funding must be allocated in the city budget or obtained elsewhere. A “very nice” 18-hole course can be designed and built for around $20,000, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association.
If a private donor wanted to write a check? Or even offer matching funds? A veterans course could probably start moving faster.
Either way, Holloway says, “I want to speed things up.”
“You stirred things up a bit, Deeds,” he explains good-naturedly, “so now we have to do something. Put it this way: I don’t blow smoke. Everything I tell you, we will try to do. You have my commitment to that. This is an important thing for the public. I understand.”
Another future possibility for nine holes, says Holloway? Eight unused acres at the Charles F. McDevitt Youth Sports Complex in West Boise at the intersection of Eagle and McMillan Roads. “I could see a combination of disc golf/pickleball — two of the fastest growing sports in our community — sharing these eight acres,” says Holloway.
Disc golf > pickleball, by the way.
(Just kidding, grandma!)
‘Help is on the way’
When my eldest son asked to play Ann Mo for his 14th birthday a few weeks ago, I immediately started thinking of less busy alternatives. We love Eagle Island State Park. And Julius M. Kleiner Park at Meridian has nine holes, but we still haven’t gotten there.
“It’s definitely a short course,” says Oxsen. “but it’s quite fun.” And that’s where I send a lot of new players when they don’t want to get stuck in Ann Morrison.
Hopefully other parks in Boise will become attractive options before my sons grow up and move out. Throwing records with them is a moment that I savor as a father.
After talking to Holloway, I became a cautious, if impatient, believer. With a chip on my shoulder created by a Parks & Rec quote from years and years ago. But I’m really hopeful.
“Is it 20 years too late? Holloway asks. “Nothing is ever too late, as long as something can be done.
“Help is on the way, man,” he promises. “Help is on the way.”