Driver, putter, birdie, tee, eagle, fore, mulligan…
You’re on the manicured lawn of a golf course if you’re hearing those terms tossed about, right?
Maybe, but you could also be at one of three disc golf courses in Northwest Nebraska. Similar to golf in many ways, disc golf is played with special discs designed to be thrown faster and further, and with more accuracy than Frisbees, toward elevated disc golf poles.
“Disc golf offers all the benefits of golf without the expense,” said Tanner Sherlock, who runs the Chadron Disc Golf Club. “Nationally disc golf basically doubled overnight because of COVID,” he added. The sport, which has been around in an organized manner since at least the 1970s, is something people of all ages, skill and income levels can enjoy.
Sherlock was introduced to the sport about five years ago and decided to start the local club and organize league play. The Chadron league typically plays at Chadron State Park each Monday at 6 p.m. through the summer. Spring and fall leagues are offered as well. Other than the cost of a state park permit, disc golf is free to play at the park for area residents and tourists alike. Non-members are also welcome at league play, Sherlock said. There’s no cost involved
unless they choose to compete for bag tags for $20 per year. The bag tags indicate the top players in the league, and they can be challenged for their tag.
“The tags move around a lot throughout the year,” Sherlock said. “But even if you don’t want to
compete, just come play because it’s fun to be together.”
The local league members have played with everyone from the age of 12-70, and members include a professional welder, college students, a pastor, construction workers and office workers.
“It appeals to anybody and everybody,” said Sherlock.
Caleb Cash joined the league about 18 months ago, and said it was easy to get addicted to the sport. “You get a few discs and go for a hike with friends,” Cash said.
Chadron State Park is rated as one of the top courses in the state on U Disc with a 4.4 rating, and this summer will be the site of a regional qualifier for the National Tournament. Sherlock has hosted local tournaments each year, but is excited to bring a sanctioned event to the region. The Professional Disc Golf Association has a rating system, and sanctioned events are more likely to attract serious disc golfers. The regional qualifier will take place July 31.
The state park’s disc golf course was designed by Jake Rodiek, a former temporary assistant superintendent. The first nine holes were installed before he left the park, and the final nine added after he left in 2013. Current Park Superintendent Gregg Galbraith said the first nine holes were designed to allow any skill level to play.
“The back nine, they were designed to be tough,” Galbraith said.
Sherlock agreed that completing the course made it more challenging, earning the park its reputation as one of the best courses. The back nine brings in height and difficulty challenges as it moves into the hills and trees, Sherlock said.
The Chadron Disc Golf Club has worked with the park to continue improvements on the course, providing manpower to make it more walker-friendly and searching for ways to improve the baskets.
“The park has been awesome at figuring out a way to do it,” Sherlock said. “That’s what sets a disc golf course at the next level.”
Having league play at the state park has given its members the opportunity to play with tourists as they stay at the park, and avid disc golfers have stopped often to check out the course because of its U Disc rating.
“It is very popular,” Galbraith said. The state park rents disc bags to those who don’t have their own. For those new to the sport, Sherlock advised reaching out to the club.
“We’ll show you the ropes, let you borrow discs,” said. “Just find someone who knows how to play and go out and throw with them. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get new people into the sport.”
The City of Chadron also has a disc golf course. The nine-hole course is located at Memorial Park, and Sherlock said the league will play there if they are anticipating stormy weather. The city course is a good beginner course, he added. The Memorial Park course was created at least 10 years ago, said City Park Superintendent Scott Schremmer, and new baskets are being installed this year. It has a rating of 3.1 on U Disc.
To round off your Northwest Nebraska disc golf adventure, head to the Crawford City Park. The nine-hole course is situated along the White River and has a rating of 3 on U Disc. All three courses in the region are available for year-round play.
To join the Chadron Disc Golf Club, reach out to them on Facebook.
- Kerri Rempp / Northwest Nebraska Tourism