Those unfamiliar with the sport of disc golf often confuse it with ultimate Frisbee, but there’s a big difference. “It’s basically ball golf with Frisbees,” says avid disc golfer, Jesse Ingram, 34. “You want to have the fewest amount of shots in a round.”
Ingram grew up in Selah and graduated from Selah High School in 1997. After two years at YVCC and bouncing around colleges on the west side for the next few years, he moved back to Yakima in 2011. He’s now pursuing a degree in education at Heritage University, while delivering pizzas at night.
Ingram’s interest in disc golf was piqued when he lived near a course in Snohomish from ’05-’09. It didn’t take long before he gave it a try, and a single round immediately led to playing daily.
“I got hooked,” he says.
But when he moved back to Yakima, disappointment set in. The nearest course was in Tri-Cities.
With a burning desire to play, he and his friends settled for objects as holes — like trees and benches at Randall Park. But that didn’t cut it — Ingram wanted a real disc golf course.
In October 2011, Ingram pitched the idea for a disc golf course at a City Council meeting, and the council directed him to the Parks & Recreation Department, and its manager, Ken Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was all for the idea — but the project needed someone in the community with time and energy, as well as additional volunteers and funding. Ingram didn’t let his busy schedule stop him. He was more than ready to take on the task.
He began by attending park commissions meetings, laying out proposals and giving presentations. He then set out to talk with local businesses, hoping to collect donations.
In a little more than a year, Ingram raised more than $6,000. A third of the funds came from small businesses, and the remainder came from the Yakama Nation’s Legends Casino in the form of a grant. Since each of the nine holes (which are made with “tee pads” that are sunk into the ground and stabilized with cement) costs around $600 to furnish, this was more than enough to break ground.
The course at Randall Park has been a work in progress. The Parks and Recreation folks have put some manpower toward the course, too, with some of its employees helping to dig the holes and pour the concrete to set the collars. They also mow the course, and have helped out by sponsoring events, tournaments and promotions. And although it’s not quite complete, it’s been playable for quite some time.
“I see people out here all the time that I’ve never seen before,” says Ingram. It helps that local sporting goods store Sporthaus jumped on board — both by sponsoring a hole and becoming a local distributor of the discs and gear.
The discs are rather inexpensive, ranging from about $6 to $20, depending on the type of disc and the plastic. Much like ball golf, players use drivers, putters and everything in between.
The discs are made with different flight characteristics, but the snap of the wrist and the angle of release will determine where the disc lands. “(You) have to throw it a certain speed and a certain way,” says Ingram. “It does take some getting used to.”
Disc golf is played just like ball golf, having the same rules and etiquette, with one exception: how distance is measured. Ball golf is measured in yards, whereas disc golf is measured in feet. But the scoring system remains the same, with eagles, birdies, pars and bogeys. Randall Park is a par 3 course.
Jarek Benson, 23, started playing eight months ago. “I come out here just to hang out with friends,” he says. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get competitive.
DeAngelo Smith, 30, has been playing for seven years. “I basically see who can kick my butt and see whose butt I can kick,” he says.
Benson and Smith are just two of a large group of guys and gals who play doubles every Tuesday. Play is informal, but the Yakima Valley Disc Golf group does have tournaments, too.
Ingram’s proud of the progress they’ve made at Randall Park, but he’d ultimately like to see an 18-hole course in Yakima. “It’s good for the community, inexpensive and gets people off couches,” he says.