It is safe to say that to an extent, COVID-19 paused all of our lives. It stopped us from traveling, from attending events, and it changed the way we lived. We have to social distance for safety reasons, and masks have become a new addition to our everyday attire. When mainstream sports like basketball, football, baseball, and hockey were on hiatus – many of us didn’t know what to do. Then it became very apparent that outdoor activities were the way to go. Activities with social distancing already built in like hiking, biking and golf are great; but one sport that really exploded in popularity thanks to the pandemic…disc golf.
With the ability to socially distance, 2020 became the year of disc golf. The demand for the game boomed. While events were cancelled and other places closed, disc golf courses remained open. This allowed for more people to find their love for the sport while being safe. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), the quantity of memberships spiked in 2020 – seeing an increase of almost 50% from the previous year. The phrase “disc golf” was trending for most of 2020, and disc golf equipment was sold out almost everywhere.
Jonathan Hill and Justin Done are just two of many disc golf enthusiasts in southern Illinois. Hill is the owner and founder of Over the Hill Disc Golf in Flora, IL and Done is the Store Manager for Van Man Discs and Tournament Director at Clinton Hills in Swansea. Hill and Done are amazed at how the pandemic helped the sport in such a positive way. “It is crazy to think that something such as COVID could help a hidden sport get the publicity it deserves,” Hill explains. “I think a big reason for this is that disc golf is finally getting covered occasionally on SportsCenter. More and more courses are popping up all around the world.”
With the explosion in popularity for disc golf, Done is looking to capitalize locally by putting together disc golf tournaments throughout our region of ILLINOISouth - including Centralia, Waterloo, Swansea, and Highland. “We have several great courses in Illinois/Metro East,” Done says. “They have never or rarely ever hosted a Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Disc Golf event. St. Louis, Peoria, and other areas across the country are thriving off of these events, even during times like this. With the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) entering its fourth season and the explosion of the sport, I felt now was the time to show what great courses we have in our area.” Done has opened up registration for two of his eight events on the Southern Illinois Tour for 2021. “Both events are SOLD OUT with players on the waitlist,” Done explains excitedly. “The second event sold out in one hour of opening registration! Players are itching for tournament play and are excited to play events on the courses we are using.”
If you have not tried disc golf yet, Hill highly recommends it for several reasons. “Disc Golf is not costly,” he says. “You can go get a starter pack for $20 to $30, and most all courses are free to play. Not to mention you can download the app UDisc and you can search courses all over the United States and find the courses closest to you, or even the events that will be going on at a course near you.” Done adds that he believes in the five to ten years that a majority of folks will own a disc golf set like they own a tennis racket, a bowling ball, or traditional golf clubs. He aspires to help the future of disc golf in our area by helping it thrive among area youth. “High School and College Disc Golf Teams,” Done says. “Salem High School just started a team, so I would love to help clubs and teams get started at the high schools and colleges in the area - it's a great way to get kids outdoors, have fun, be competitive and learn lessons just like in traditional golf.”
From a tourism aspect, many disc golf players hit the road and drive hours away to play in tournaments. Many different courses can host up to 70 players – folks that are paying for gas, food, and likely lodging. So in a nutshell, disc golf can be a very solid draw for any community. Now it’s time to get out there and play, right? For more information on the Southern Illinois Tour, call 620-794-7882.
Notable disc golf courses in ILLINOISouth: