Bettering Folf’s Future in the Flathead

By Beacon Staff

Lawrence Park in Kalispell has been home to a disc golf course for more than a decade, and the facility’s evolution in recent years has coincided with the sport’s rising popularity among local players.

The city’s parks and recreation department originally developed the meandering course of 18 official holes at Kalispell’s largest city park after the sport grew from a niche activity to a full-fledged pastime for many residents.

The sport has taken flight across the U.S. in the last 15 years. Today there are an estimated 3,600 courses and almost 20,000 registered members in the Professional Disc Golf Association.

When the sport first started soaring, games of disc golf, or folf, were popping up everywhere around the Flathead Valley. Players were making up their own circuits and aiming for trees or any other object that could become a target. Hoping to deter that type of behavior, a course emerged at Lawrence, and it’s flourished since.

In just the past two years, a handful of commercial baskets have replaced old wooden posts. Last summer, a first-ever city league was founded.

Now, folf enthusiasts and the parks and recreation department are bent on bettering folf’s future by finishing what they started. The parks department is rallying sponsors to help complete the facility with quality upgrades, including commercial baskets for the remaining holes, tee pads and proper signage.

“There are a lot of people playing. On any given day, you can find 10 people playing,” said Val Hemsley, the city’s recreation programmer and pseudo groundskeeper of the Lawrence Park disc golf course.

“We’re looking to put good commercial baskets there that people could use, so we could have tournaments and make a good league and have a good disc golf program.”

Hemsley organized a city folf league last spring and had a dozen players of all ages regularly showing up on Tuesday evenings. The league is running again this year and starts May 7, beginning around 5:45 p.m. on the north end of Lawrence Park. The cost is $10 and all proceeds go toward development of the course.

Hemsley and a group of local players who compete on the professional circuit envision Kalispell becoming a regular source for folf in Northwest Montana. Down the road in Missoula, two quality courses are shining examples of how disc golf can mesh into the landscape and offer a cheap, fun outdoor activity for residents.

“We’d like something closer than that to help the Northwest grow, and offer another venue and opportunity for some good tournaments,” Hemsley said, adding, “Like golf, it’s good exercise. It’s pretty relaxing. It’s a good way to socialize with people and meet new friends. And it’s a relatively cheap form of recreation that can be taken advantage of. You don’t have to pay for green fees. You just have to go pay about $10 for a disc and you’re ready to go.”

For more information about sponsoring a hole at the Lawrence Park Disc Golf Course, or about registering for the summer league, contact Hemsley at 758-7848, or visit http://www.kalispell.com/parks_and_recreation/documents/mapandscoresheet_000.pdf

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