Disc golf takes off

MARQUETTE – The Upper Peninsula is home to a lot of popular outdoor sports, from well known ones like snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding to more exotic activities like broomball. But there’s one outdoor sport that’s only now really starting to take off – disc golf.

Disc golf is exactly what it sounds like: a sport similar to golf but played with flying discs instead of a ball. The object of the game is to get these discs into a basket in as few throws as possible, starting by throwing from a tee pad. The baskets are circular and made of metal with metal chains all around.

The sound of a disc hitting those chains can be addicting, said Tim Kopacz, president of the Upper Peninsula Disc Golf Association.

“I gave up golf for disc golf. I actually used to golf a lot and I have no interest in it anymore,” Kopacz said. “Disc golf uses the terrain and uses the physical features of the land rather than just clear cutting and bulldozing out a fairway. I love watching the flight of discs through trees because they make various ‘S’ shapes. I love that you can change your wrist a little bit or change the disc type and get a completely different flight out of it.”

Kopacz and his wife Erin moved to Harvey last year and they immediately decided to try to boost the popularity of disc golf in the U.P. In April, Tim Kopacz started designing the new Powder Mill Course, which will be off of Powder Mill Road near the Kaufman Complex BMX track.

He said the disc golf association wanted to put a new 18-hole course on the Powder Mill property – owned by the Marquette Board of Light and Power – but the group didn’t know how to take the next step to get it approved.

“I actually heard about the disc golf course when I was here interviewing for the MBLP,” Kopacz said. “The people there told me that a local group wants to build a course on their property, and they kind of dismissed it because they didn’t know what they are going to do or how they’re going to do it.

“We came in with our experience and past knowledge and added that to the group of already passionate individuals, and everything just started rolling.”

The Kopaczs came from Wisconsin, where they were involved in many projects that required designing and pitching disc golf courses to people.

“I’m passionate about disc golf. I’m a nut about it. I’ve been doing design and maintenance and approving courses for eight years,” Kopacz said. “I have the experience pitching courses to townships, cities and counties and providing the presentations and logistics of running a club too.”

With the help of the Kopaczs, the association got its disc golf course idea on the MBLP agenda and had the idea approved at a meeting on Sept. 11. The course is set to open in June with possible demonstrations and clinics to be held, Kopacz said. The group is also hoping that Northern Michigan University students will take advantage of the new course when they get back in the fall, he said.

“We hear more times than we can count of students that have said, ‘I didn’t even know there was a disc golf course here. I stopped playing when I moved to the U.P. because I didn’t know there was anything good up here,'” Kopacz said. “(Powder Mill) is within walking distance from the dorms and it’s hopefully going to be full of college students.”

The Powder Mill Course is going to be professionally designed and have professional tee pads that are longer, Kopacz said. It will also have a second set of shorter amateur tee pads, which will help out all of the beginners, he said.

“It’s a relatively new sport to the area. It’s not well known, it’s not extremely popular,” Kopacz said. “But we want parents out there playing with their young kids, we want families out there and we want all the college students to be out there.”

The course will be free and anyone can just go out on it and have some fun, according to Erin Kopacz. It’s not very expensive to get started in disc golf, she said.

“We started playing in college because it was something to do that didn’t cost a lot money,” Erin Kopacz said. “We would go out with friends, and then it slowly became more of an obsession. I like being outside and I like the competitiveness.”

According to Tim Kopacz, someone who wants to get started with disc golf only needs to buy one disc.

“So a family of four can spend minimal amount of money to each buy a disc for everybody and go out and play and have fun,” Tim Kopacz said. “They basically take a walk through the woods on a free course.”

Disc golf discs are available at local sporting good stores, the Kopaczs said.

For more information on disc golf courses in the U.P. visit dgcoursereview.com.

Tim Kopacz said he’s willing to help people who are trying the sport for the first time. He can be reached through Facebook at www.facebook.com/DISCdaUP.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.