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Upper Valley disc golfers look to ‘normal life’

  • Andy Patari practices his throw before playing a game of frisbee golf as signs around Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro, Vt., reminds people to stay six feet apart because of COVID-19, Thursday, April 16, 2020. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

  • Andy Patari practices his throw before playing a game of frisbee golf as signs around Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro, Vt., reminds people to stay six feet apart because of COVID-19, Thursday, April 16, 2020. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2020 9:37:42 PM
Modified: 4/22/2020 1:05:59 PM

When Michael Melkers needs to scratch his disc golf itch, all he has to do is walk out of his house and make use of the 10-hole course he’s built on his Hanover Center property. For now, it’s as far as he’s willing to take the game.

He and fellow members of the year-old Upper Valley Disc Golf Association have taken a step back from their usual activities in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In an ordinary year, the UVDGA would be setting up leagues at area courses, preparing for its two significant tournaments of the season or endeavoring to grow the sport.

But, as Melkers noted this week, this isn’t an ordinary year.

“Let’s back up to normal life,” said Melkers, a co-owner of Lyme Road Dental in Hanover and UVDGA board member. “We run weekly leagues where we get together on Thursdays or Sundays; those are completely suspended. We have no organizational activities. … We’ve not had anybody contact us if courses are open for playing. I love the sport, but I’m not promoting that during this time.”

In addition to the use of Frisbee-like discs for play, the difference between disc golf and what Melkers calls “ball golf” relates to access. Public courses are usually free to play, including 18-hole tracks next to Newport Middle High School, behind Oxbow High in Bradford, Vt., and along the White River in Randolph. Hartland has a nine-hole course at Foster’s Meadow. Even the pay-to-play locations such as Hanover’s Storrs Pond Recreation Area charge only a small nonmember fee once open.

UVDGA president Dan Walsh estimates the Upper Valley disc golf scene at around 50 to 100 strong. The UVDGA hasn’t seen a spike in interest from people looking for recreational options during the pandemic, he said recently. He hopes those wishing to play will keep social distancing recommendations in mind or will at least hold off for the time being.

“There are people going out to play; it’s not the worst thing in the world, and it’s outdoors,” said Walsh, a Dartmouth College graduate biochemistry student. “But given the current guidelines, we’re not organizing anything until restrictions are lifted.”

The UVDGA had to cancel May’s fundraising tournament at Oxbow to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The group’s Storrs Pond Classic in September remains on the schedule; registration opened on Sunday night and sold out its 120 slots by Monday afternoon, Melker said.

When not playing, UVDGA members are active in course maintenance. For instance, while Storrs Pond staff takes care of mowing, Melkers said the association forms volunteer groups that occasionally clear downed trees from the course.

“We’re lucky they let us install the course there,” he said. “We’ll pitch in to keep it well-maintained.”

That may be the extent of what disc golfers can do for the time being.

“We’re planning ahead for the time after these restrictions,” Walsh said. “We’re hoping to start our leagues and events early this summer when it becomes feasible.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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