PERRY -- When the city of Perry public works crew took on the task last year of building a disc golf course at Rozar Park, none of them had even heard of the sport.
We thought it was crazy, said Chris West, as he tossed a disc on the course Friday while playing a round with five other public works employees, as they do just about every day at lunch.
Turns out, once they finished the course three months ago, someone showed up with some discs and asked them if they wanted to give it a try, and they have been playing ever since.
Its good exercise, and its something different, said Jimmy Christian.
Instead of going to lunch, they just play the course, maybe having a pack of crackers to tide them over. They move along pretty fast and can finish the 18 holes in about 45 minutes.
They are far from the only ones who have been playing it. City officials say traffic has been much greater than they were expecting. Although they dont have numbers because the course is free, they say if the weather is good, people can just about always be found on the course throughout the week, and its quite busy on weekends. It also tends to be busy after school lets out, as many students play.
Councilman Joe Posey came up with the idea after going to a conference last year and hearing someone from another city talk about installing a disc golf course. It seemed to him like a recreational opportunity the city could provide at little or no cost, but he wasnt really sure how much interest there would be.
Building the 18-hole course primarily involved putting in concrete tee pads and chain catch baskets. The total cost was about $7,500, Posey said, and most of that was paid for through donations.
He came to realize how popular it had become when he went to play on a recent Sunday and ended up leaving because there was a line of people waiting to play.
The expectations were much lower than what has happened, Posey said. It has been truly amazing.
The economy may have something to do with the popularity of the sport. Most courses are free, and the only cost is buying a set of discs. A basic starter set of three discs, which includes a driver, mid-range and putter, costs about $30 or less, although a player can use only one disc, or even a standard Frisbee.
The game basically works just like ball golf. The idea is to hit the chain-basket target in as few throws as possible. Tally up the scores from all the holes, and lowest score wins.
Sport growing rapidly
John Harrison of the Macon Aces Disc Golf Club said he was playing disc golf before he even knew it was a sport. When he was in college in the early 90s, he and his friends would toss Frisbees at trees, power poles and various other objects and see who could hit the targets in the fewest throws.
Then one day he was in Atlanta and found a shop that was selling discs and targets for disc golf, which was the first time he had heard the term.
We thought we had invented the game, he said. I called my buddies and said, ... Theres more of us.
The first complete disc golf course in Middle Georgia, he said, opened at Lake Tobesofkees Claystone Park in 2007. A second course came last summer when the city of Macon opened one at Bowden Golf Club, which costs $3 to play.
The Claystone Park course technically is free, but players have to pay $3 to get into the park.
Harvest Church in Warner Robins also has a course, but it doesnt have concrete tee pads, which players say are important because of the running throwing techniques they use. Milledgeville has two courses -- an 11-hole course at Oak Hill Middle School and an 18-hole course at Georgia College & State University. Both courses are free to play. Monticello and Veterans Park in Cordele also have courses.
Harrison said there are 62 public disc golf courses in the state.
Warner Robins City Councilman Mike Brashear said the city is including a disc golf course as a part of engineering plans being done for a park at the old city landfill off Corder Road. He expects the city will vote on those plans later this year.
Disc golf enthusiasts say they like the game because it provides good exercise that isnt overly strenuous while doing something that is fun. The Perry course offers about a mile walk, and most 18-hole courses are longer.
I call it exercise in discguise, get it?, said Michelle Jones, of Macon, as she warmed up at the Perry course Friday. You dont even really know you are exercising because its so fun.
She started playing 12 years ago. Last year she won the amateur division of the womens U.S. National Advanced Masters Championship in Huntsville, Ala. With five rounds played on three different courses, she won by 10 strokes.
She and her husband play regularly, but she only started playing competitively a couple of years ago.
For years we never even kept score, she said. Then I told my husband, Were getting pretty good at this. Maybe we should start keeping score.
When she first started playing, it wasnt easy to find a real course, and she is thrilled there are now several in Middle Georgia.
Its amazing, she said. It all just really seems like it has exploded in the last two years. Once people start doing it, you get addicted.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.