Disc golf in Sugar Creek: 'The idea is to be a championship level course'
As an avid disc golfer, Jack Sparks has an idea for spaces that can accommodate a disc golf course, and he’s familiar with the relatively low cost for that activity – both for construction and maintenance and for players.
For the city of Sugar Creek’s parks and recreation director, LaBenite Park along the south bank of the Missouri River off Missouri 291 fit the bill for space. Sparks and city employees and volunteers recently installed disc golf baskets at the park – an 18-hole course plus three practice baskets – and by the end of the summer he hopes to have concrete tee pads installed to complete and officially open the course.
“It’s coming along pretty well, actually,” said Sparks, who was fairly new on the job when the pandemic hit last year. “It was one of the initial ideas I had coming into this job, bringing in more people to this park.”
“It’s a regional park, a very large park, and we have that land that can be utilized in new ways, and it’s an efficient use of space.”
In disc golf, participants throw various plastic discs (which individually can cost less than $10) toward and into a basket in as few throws as possible. A Frisbee can be used, though it doesn’t travel nearly as far or with as much control most times.
The baskets, fixed into the ground, have chains above them to catch the discs and stand just a few feet high. The Kansas City area has dozens of courses for varying skill levels, and Sparks said this is one of the “premier local disc golf scenes” in the country.
In Eastern Jackson County, the nearest 18-hole courses are in Lee’s Summit’s Legacy Park and Blue Springs’ Young Park.
At LaBenite, all baskets are on the opposite side of the levee from the playground, shelter and parking areas. A little more than half of the baskets, plus the three practice ones, are in the open area with infrequent trees, while other baskets and the paths to them are weave through or along the woods. Metro area disc golf aficionado Dick Parker helped design the course layout.
“We’ve kept it separated” from pedestrians, Sparks said, “We don’t need discs flying around there. With these things, safety is the biggest concern – that we’re not setting up people to get hit.”
The cost for all the baskets is about $8,000, he said, the city is bidding out the tee pads. All told, it will be a lower five-figure cost. After that, maintenance costs “should be almost nothing,” Sparks said, other than routine mowing. Temporary stakes help mark the layout, and the course begins and ends along the road parallel to M-291.
“They’re in the ground for a long time,” he said of the baskets. “They’re in it for the long haul.”
Right now, the recent wet weeks have made mowing more difficult. Sparks said people are invited to play at their own risk, knowing there’s still plenty of work to be done. However, early feedback on the website udisc.com indicates good reviews on the layout and strong anticipation for a fully open course.
“The idea is to be a championship level course,” Sparks said, “something that we can put out as a place for tournaments.”