08-08-2019 Tri-City Area Sports

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

Berrien County disc golf, can be an enjoyable, and challenging walk through nature

For anyone getting bored with their exercise routine, or their body can no longer handle the kind of stress some sporting activities put it through.  Or maybe as the end of summer nears, they’re just looking for something new, and inexpensive, that they can enjoy with the whole family, and not have to drive a half a day to get to.  Then they should check out a game or two of disc golf.

FOR THE LOVE OF DISC GOLF! Pictured (from the left) are disc golf aficionados Mike Reed, Tom Krisher, and Tim Stump. According Madeline Bertrand county park manager Jay Dean, the trio play disc golf almost every Thursday, when weather permits. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

Disc golf offers all of this and more, and this area happens to have two of the more beautiful and scenic disc golf courses in Michigan, right here in our own back yard. Madeline Bertrand County Park, just outside of Niles, in the south of Berrien County, and a beautiful disc course laid out in Flaherty Park, in the City of Watervliet.

Disc golf is growing in popularity across the country as the population looks to remain active, and is looking for more ways to keep themselves fit, without the impact some sports have on the body.

Most disc golf courses are laid out similarly to regular golf courses, of nine or eighteen holes, but the distances of each hole are much shorter, and measured in feet instead of yards.  The courses are walked by players who throw their discs, (Frisbees), from a teeing area, with some having concrete pads.  The target is an elevated basket, above which hangs a string of metal chains which stop the disc in flight, and then the disc drops into the basket to end the hole.  A score is kept on the number of throws it takes to get your disc into the basket, and just like regular golf, the lower the score the better it is.  It normally takes about 45-60 minutes to play a round of disc golf, with most golfers playing two or more rounds each time they play a course.

According to Jay Dean, who is currently the park manager at Madeline Bertrand County Park, and has worked there for 30 years, the disc golf course has been there for 35 years.  It was designed by Ed Headrick, who is considered the father and inventor of disc golf, and the inventor of the Frisbee.  He designed over 200 courses across the U.S., including the very first course in Pasadena, California in 1975.  The MB Park course winds through the woods and a ravine and is extremely popular with hundreds of golfers playing the course on most weekends.  MB Park also hosts, three sanctioned tournaments each year, in the spring, summer and fall, with contestants participating from around the country. They are sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association.

The cost for regular play is $4 for the day of golf. There is also a $3 parking fee at the park, and you can rent a disc for $1.  They also have season passes to make it more reasonable for frequent guests. The park is open all year, and is open daily from 10 a.m. until sunset from April to October, then in the cooler months they are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday thru Sunday.

The disc course in Flaherty Park opened in 2012. It was designed by Andrew Menz, Todd Tracy, and Travis Prueter.  It is a beautiful course located in downtown Watervliet, with Mill Creek winding through the woods and hilly terrain.  It is a challenging course for even the most skilled disc tossers.  There is no fee schedule for this course which makes it a great place to bring the kids for a day outing, because it also includes a picnic area.

There is also a league which plays each Wednesday at Flaherty Park, it runs for 23 weeks from May to October.  The Railhead league has 32 members currently in their first year, according to Andy Jegier, who organized the league.  There is a $5 weekly league fee, which pays for the prizes awarded each week.

Golfers come from all over the state and Midwest to play at Flaherty Park, as it keeps growing in popularity and word keeps spreading among the disc golf community.  The Watervliet Parks department keeps the park trimmed and picked up.   New signage and trash receptacles have been added recently, and future improvements are still in the talking stage.