The Grace College Disc Golf Course Makes Improvements and Attracts New Players
Between walking, biking, and longboarding, there are many ways to enjoy the Grace College campus. But there is one way that has taken parks and campuses across the country by storm: disc golfing.
Recently, the Grace College disc golf course added features like new concrete tee pads and clear signage thanks to the donations of eleven community businesses. These upgrades come at the same time as an increase in disc golf popularity across the country.
Disc golf players nationwide can track their scores on the popular disc golf app UDisc. In October 2019, 34 people tracked their scores at the Grace College disc golf course. This traffic, as tracked by the application, increased to 103 in 2020 and to 131 in 2022.
According to UDisc’s 2021 disc golf growth report, 50 million rounds of disc golf were played in 2020 around the world; that’s almost 100 games started every minute. In addition, the 2022 disc golf growth report shows a 50% increase in courses built in 2021 compared to 2020.
Each year, more people try their hand at disc golf, including at Indiana disc golf courses. Hannah Lengel, who graduated from Grace College in 2012 and now lives in Winona Lake, has been playing for a few years and is at the highest female amateur level. She is the highest rated amateur woman in Indiana and the second highest rated woman overall in Indiana.
Lengel started playing disc golf in 2019 when she started going with a friend. She liked it, but it wasn’t something she took seriously – until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While sports have always been one of Lengel’s passions, the pandemic caused the cancellation of many of her favorite sports, so she turned to disc golf.
“I really like the outdoors, and it was an active thing to do by myself,” Lengel says.
The more she played, the more she enjoyed it. Lengel played her first tournament in 2019, and she went to even more tournaments after the pandemic. In 2021, she competed in an A-Tier tournament, a high level tier, with about 40-60 people, and she won. With proof that she could compete at a higher level, in 2022, she competed in the PDGA Amateur Disc Golf World Championships with 74 competitors, where she placed sixth.
Last year, she played in 12 sanctioned PDGA tournaments.
Lengel has tried many Indiana disc golf courses, but there are three nine-hole disc golf courses in Warsaw that Lengel visits most often: Grace College, Lucerne Park, and Harrison Elementary. The Grace College disc golf course is open with some tree obstacles, the Lucerne course has more obstacles, and Harrison is open. She’s also visited a new course in North Webster, Indiana.
As the popularity for disc golf grows, so does the need for places where community members can come together to share their interest. Andy Phipps and Alaister McFarren, both graduates of Grace College, recently opened Circle Disc Golf in Warsaw, a local store devoted to supplying discs for competitive and recreational players alike.
In 2020, Phipps started Circle Disc Golf as an online store, and last summer, he approached McFarren about opening a brick-and-mortar store. Phipps needed someone who could be in the store every day and who shared his passion for disc golf – McFarren was a perfect fit! Within a month, they found a building, renovated it, and opened their store.
Although McFarren had been on the ultimate frisbee team in college, he didn’t actively play disc golf until his senior year when Phipps, his friend since freshman year, shared his interest. Now, between running the store, helping to coach the Grace ultimate frisbee team, and still playing regularly with Phipps, McFarren has made disc golf a big part of his life. With six months of tournaments under his belt, McFarren plays in the amateur division, but he hopes to move to higher divisions in the future.
“For me the biggest thing is that it gives me something fun that I can constantly be improving,” McFarren says. “I can always tweak my form, work on my disc selection, or go for a personal best at a course.”
Lengel and McFarren aren’t the only ones trying out Indiana disc golf courses more over the past few years. Before the pandemic, Lengel might not have seen anyone else while she was practicing, but since then, she sees multiple people out every time she goes.
“I felt like I was alone with maybe ten other people in town that liked disc golf three years ago, but now there’s a bunch of people,” Lengel says. “It’s a good social sport. It’s very easy to invite your friends who don’t know what it is.”
McFarren agrees with the increase in popularity since the pandemic, and he has also noticed an increase in kids, older people, and women taking up the sport.
“As someone who loves the sport and wants to see it grow, it’s been really encouraging,” McFarren says. “It’s a great individual sport, it’s a great couple sport, and it’s a great group sport.”
Since the increase in popularity, Lengel has also seen a difference in the courses themselves. She noticed that reviews for the Grace College disc golf course on UDisc increased when the concrete tee pads and signs were added. She has also seen an increase in Grace students using the course.
As the number of people playing disc golf continues to increase, the disc golf community grows and expands. Apps like UDisc and stores like Circle Disc Golf give a place for anyone – from disc golf enthusiasts to beginners – to interact with each other.
“Disc golf gives me an opportunity to be around people that are different from me that I wouldn’t be around otherwise,” Lengel says. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know people and see them grow in their lives and love them through that.”
To find more Indiana disc golf courses, use the UDisc site.