There’s an exciting activity going on in the State Forest off Old South Road; an activity involving flying colored discs that is drawing more people of all ages to this little known area of Nantucket.
It is the completed and now available 8-hole portion of an 18-hole disc golf course being constructed in the South Pasture forest bounded by Old South Road, Lovers Lane, and Rugged Road. The completed section north of Ticcoma Way has been open since last fall and is being used daily by an enthusiastic and growing group of residents and visitors. The remaining 10 holes are under construction with clearing underway for 5 that should be completed by the end of June and may be available for use by the end of July. The goal is then to finish construction of the entire course by the end of October in time for a planned “grand opening” tournament to introduce the course to Nantucket according to Todd Rainwater, President of (NDG).
NDG was founded in the summer of 2008 by Rainwater with the goal of building a disc golf course on Nantucket. His aim is to improve the physical and mental well-being of the island’s youth by providing a viable, inexpensive, family-friendly, year-round recreational alternative. The course is open year round, available for use by islanders and visitors and there is no membership required or a charge to play.
When asked why he has dedicated so much of his time to build a disc golf course in Nantucket, Rainwater explained it this way. “I have been spending, and very much enjoying, summers in Nantucket for over 30 years, am an avid disc golfer, and have most recently become involved in my father’s foundation, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the physical and mental well-being of youth around the country. With that being the case, it was a no brainer to bring the sport I love to an island I love, all the while fulfilling my father’s and my wish to make the
world a better place for children.”
The Nantucket disc golf course was designed by John Houck, one of the best known disc course designers in the world. He has designed perhaps more disc golf courses than anyone alive today. His design approach for the Nantucket course took into account that the state forest landscape is fairly flat and as a state forest property it has rotting stands of pines that were planted during the depression. Houck made the most of existing obstacles to create one of the longest and trickiest courses in New England. With a par of 67 and at least three holes more than 800 feet one has to know how to throw with accuracy. Understanding that many of the course’s early users would be new players, Houck made sure that the short tees were beginner-friendly. Currently Houck is working closely with Rainwater by reviewing and making recommendations at the completion of each major phase of the development. He will make his next visit to Nantucket to review the development of the next 5 holes when the clearing is completed sometime toward the end of June.
Disc golf is a fast growing, easy-to-learn outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by everyone able to participate in an outdoor sport from children to seniors. There are more than 4,300 disc golf courses in 41 countries throughout the world with 3,059 in the United States and 18 in Massachusetts. Much like golf, the object of disc golf is to throw the disc (similar to a Frisbee) from the tee into a specially designed basket at the end of each hole using as few throws as possible. If you are new to the sport, you only need one disc to play the course. Discs can be purchased for $10 to $15 on Nantucket at the Sunken Ship and are available for rent at Captain Tobey’s. However, an experienced disc golfer may play with a collection of discs each suited for the distance and accuracy; lighter discs for calm days and younger players, heavier discs for windy days and stronger players, discs that go left, discs that go right… A standard 18-hole course can be played in 1.5 to 2 hours.
Almost all community disc golf courses are built by volunteers. Nantucket’s is no exception. At the start of the project Todd Rainwater and his wife did most of the work clearing the fairways of dead trees and removing rotten wood and other natural forest rubble. Over time, a volunteer force of helpers joined them to move the clearing and construction along to get the 8 holes ready for use last September.
Summarizing the current efforts Rainwater said “We’ve made some good progress during our Sunday Volunteer Work Days (10 am each Sunday) and we are now hopeful that we can meet our goal to finish clearing the next 5 holes by the end of June, then we’ll bring Houck back to the island to advise us on the final placement of teepads and baskets on these holes. Finally we’ll install the teepads and baskets and open the holes for play by the end of July. Our plan is to complete the remaining 5 holes so they are ready to play by the end of October. In order to meet this goal, we will need more volunteers and are asking all who have worked with us in the past to actively solicit friends and acquaintances to join our construction team.” Brett Watts, appointed last fall as the on-island coordinator of volunteer activities and perhaps the leading island competitor, is committed to helping Rainwater meet his goals by attracting new volunteers this summer. He to feels that “disc golf brings something very unique to the Nantucket community. It is an inexpensive, family friendly game with low impact on the environment that can be enjoyed by everyone. Those of us who play the game often encourage all to come throw a disc with us or just come out and take a walk in the woods.”
Rainwater is particularly interested in promoting the sport with Nantucket children. “Regarding youth outreach, early on Nantucket Disc Golf was a part of the 2010 Nantucket Splash Day at the high School and we were the most signed-up for activity at the event. We also took part in the 2010 Field Day at the Boys & Girls Club where we set up a course, taught the kids to play, distributed discs to every kid, played a few rounds and had a lot of fun. Finally, we spoke about disc golf at the New School last fall, showed them a disc golf video, answered questions and distributed a disc to every child and teacher.” He has played with Chris Getoor and his Chris Getoor and his kids many times and observed that “it has been amazing watching how good these kids have become!” He has plans to visit the Lighthouse School and the Elementary School this fall to introduce them to disc golf and distribute discs.
Another objective high on his list is to have Nantucket locals take ownership of the course. In the end he feels “that is the only way the course will be successful in the long run.”
This season Rainwater is organizing various competitive events. The effort began on Saturday, May 5 when the first Nantucket Disc Golf Tournament was played. The event attracted 38 players in six divisions based on age and gender. Prizes were awarded to the winners of each division. Recently, NDG announced the formation of a Tuesday night Doubles League with the goal of helping the disc golf players get to know one another by playing with a new person each time and to enjoy having some late afternoon fun. A random draw of participating players will determine doubles partners each week. Play will be “best shot” where both players play from the best lie picking up the other disc each time. Registration is from 6to 6:15 pm, with play beginning at 6:15 sharp. Weekly cash prizes will be awarded and the player with the most Tuesday night wins during the 2012 season will be awarded a $100 prize. Everyone is invited to participate. The “grand opening” tournament mentioned earlier to celebrate the completion of the course will likely attract officials from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the State organization responsible for managing the State’s forests, to travel from Boston to attend the event.
To learn more about the sport on Nantucket including special events and opportunities to help with the construction of the course visit NDG’s web site at www.nantucketdiscgolf.org or e-mail Todd Rainwater at firstname.lastname@example.org.