Set your foot on Jellie Park and you don’t have to look for a lot of disc golfers.

Whatever day of the week or time of day, you’ll soon see them throwing their records at the baskets, or hear the chains jingling on the Christchurch course.

It is also becoming common in more and more parks across the country, as the sport explodes in popularity around the world.

But no disc golf course is as crowded as the 18-hole course in West Christchurch in New Zealand and Australia, with up to 500 players roaming it on a busy day.

READ MORE:
* Disc golf tournament a first for Timaru
* A disc golf injury that could have cost the woman her eye “shouldn’t have happened”
* Earthquake-ravaged golf course, left idle for nine years, reopens for disc golf
* A new course lands in Christchurch

One of nearly 50 courses in New Zealand, a number that is set to increase, it hosts more than 2,000 active players, said Christchurch Disc Golf President Paul Deacon.

“After the lockdown ended last year we saw an explosion of new players, now it seems to be repeating itself at the moment, not unique to New Zealand as well.”

Christchurch Disc Golf President Paul Deacon.

CHRIS SKELTON / Tips

Christchurch Disc Golf President Paul Deacon.

Having started in California in 1975 with the invention of the metal basket, the game is very popular in the United States, where a record manufacturer estimated that more than 5,000 people play the sport every day.

It is also very popular in Finland, where there are more than 600 courses for the 5.5 million inhabitants.

New Zealand’s first course was installed in Queenstown Gardens in 1996, almost two decades before the flagship course opened when Jellie Park opened in 2015.

Today there are some 20,000 recreational disc golfers in the country, 18 disc clubs affiliated with New Zealand Disc Golf, which is affiliated with international bodies, the Professional Disc Golf Association and the World Flying Disc Federation.

“I can’t follow. We sell a starter pack, which is a three pack with a driver, a putter and a midrange. We sold 700 of them last week, ”said Simon Feasey, owner of RPM Discs.

“It’s like 700 new people. Typically, once you play the game, you don’t buy a starter pack.

RPM Discs owner Simon Feasey pictured competing at Timaru this year.

JOHN BISSET / Stuff

RPM Discs owner Simon Feasey pictured competing at Timaru this year.

Feasey, who started playing disc golf in 1999, won national titles, represented New Zealand at the World Games in Japan in 2001, and competed in 13 world championships.

He started RPM Discs in Auckland in 2006, using the knowledge he gained from traveling the world and meeting disc golf fanatics.

“Our business has practically doubled in the past two consecutive years,” he said.

“We have now established ourselves as an international brand. In fact, we export over half of the records we make. We are in great demand.

“We’re still a bit of a boutique compared to the big guys, but we’re now at a point where our next order will be a full container to the United States. That’s 40,000 records.

Disc Golf South President Martin Conway.

John hawkins

Disc Golf South President Martin Conway.

Records typically sell for between $ 16 and $ 30. A starter pack of three discs, depending on the quality of the plastic, will set you back between $ 43 and $ 60 at RPM Discs, which names their discs after the native birds of New Zealand, including the Kiwi and the Kea.

So what’s the secret to a good record?

“Plastic is really important. It’s important to get a plastic blend that is tough and pleasant to the touch, ”said Feasey.

“We are all competing at a high level. We play with our own records, we test constantly, we have played internationally.

The attraction of disc golf

The affordable price of discs is one of the factors that contributes to making disc golf accessible and therefore increasingly popular.

Forget about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on golf clubs. Forget about paying green fees or booking a lesson.

Then there’s the fact that you can get through an 18-hole course in about an hour, and age isn’t a barrier.

“I compete in open fields against the best players in New Zealand and I’m 54,” said Feasey.

Jellie Park in Christchurch is the busiest course in New Zealand and Australia.

CHRIS SKELTON / Tips

Jellie Park in Christchurch is the busiest course in New Zealand and Australia.

“I won national championships a few years ago. So you can still compete at a high level even as you get older. This is a skill-based game, it is not a strength-based game.

He believes the influx of players over the past two years is due to Covid-19 wreaking havoc in organized sports, forcing people to just look for something to do.

However, as a tournament director, he is well aware that the sport is not immune to the impact of the pandemic.

“Like any demographic, 10 percent of people might not want the vaccination, so what does that mean? Now you tell 10% of the players that they can’t play.

“Personally, I don’t really agree with that. I am the tournament director of several events per year and I am not ready to organize events in this context [traffic light] framework. So it’s going to be interesting what’s going on.

Who plays disc golf?

“He’s a cross section of society,” Deacon said of those playing the sport he first met in the United States in 2009, before playing regularly after the Jellie course opened. Park.

“We aim to play three generations. The only area over the past two years where we have seen a significant increase in participation is that of women and girls.

Students from Makikihi School at the Waimate Disc Golf course opening in 2020.

Things

Students from Makikihi School at the Waimate Disc Golf course opening in 2020.

“We’ve reached the take-off stage, it’s happened in the last three years, and it’s exploded. And I don’t see any prospect of it slowing down. It’s addicting, people are excited, and they bring other people into the game.

The influx of new players has accelerated the need for more lessons, especially in the Garden City.

Having recently opened a new course in Ashburton, Christchurch Disc Golf, a registered charity from 2020, is set to open four more in Christchurch in the coming months.

In addition to the three public courses – there are two more private – in the city, another has been approved at QE II, while others at Hornby, Bromley and Broomfield Common are to follow, subject to funding and agreements.

“The next step is to look at the next two or three years of course facilities … our main priority is Christchurch as this is where the people of Canterbury live, but our next phase, we’re going to start looking at the cities. satellites – Lincoln, Selwyn, Rolleston, Rangiora, Kaiapoi, ”Deacon said.

Given that Canterbury’s population is expected to grow by 60% over the next 15 years, he is planning more than 100 courses in the area in the future.

Waimate's nine-hole course opened at Victoria Park last year.

Things

Waimate’s nine-hole course opened at Victoria Park last year.

“The beauty is that you can integrate them into the parks. A lot of them are underutilized parks, ”he said.

“We have had very good feedback from people who live next door to Jellie Park, that since the start of the course there has been a reduction in litter, roaming and vandalism, and they feel safer. They like the increased vitality of the park.

Get serious

While the New Zealand tournament scene has a long way to go, there is money to be made in disc golf.

Look no further than the Disc Golf Pro Tour in the US, which gives away up to US $ 20,000 (NZ $ 29,000) to the winners.

But the real money comes through sponsorship. Just look at the American Paul McBeth, who is considered the “Tiger Woods” of disc golf.

He signed a $ 10 million deal with Discraft until 2031 in February, the richest deal in disc golf history.

By comparison, having turned pro in 2008, the career earnings of the five-time winner of the PDGA Pro World Championship are around US $ 600,000.

“It becomes more visible on ESPN and stuff like that. It’s always a good sign, ”Feasey said.

“There are now professional tours in many countries, the highest prize we got in New Zealand is around $ 1,000 for first place.”

Deacon said the New Zealand tournament scene was in “growing pains” due to high demand for seats, predicting it would take two or three years of construction to establish a quality system.

“I expect that even before that [five years] we will see the pro international tour coming to New Zealand. But it depends on having courses of sufficient quality.