Shaw Outdoor Center hopes disc golf course catches on with students

Finding a niche is a tough task for most college students throughout their four years, especially freshman year. Without an activity like a sports team, the first weeks or even months can be a trying time figuring out where they belong.

Staying physically active is no easy task for college students either with all of the responsibilities of class, homework, and other extracurricular activities that take up time. For Colin O’Neil, the manager of Norwich’s Shaw Outdoor Center, fusing those two problems together into one easy solution is an important aspect of the Shaw Center.

The Shaw Center, located at the bottom of Paine Mountain, built a new disc golf course in the fall of 2015 that it is promoting this spring to students, said O’Neil.

“It took a few days of walking, and plotting the general layout and to then create an actionable plan for 18 holes,” O’Neil said. “I designed and managed the creation of a nearby disc golf course. I also have helped with planning, layout, and safety of five other courses in Vermont and New York.”

Disc golf evolved in the early 1960s when participants threw Frisbees at trees as targets. In today’s modern game, players throw the discs into “holes – 18 baskets that have chains connected to them – hence the golf connection.

“Disc golf has been the fastest growing sport in the USA for at least six years, and given that there are around 4,000 public courses in the US, there will be a demand for the sport from future Norwich students,” O’Neil said. “It’s a great lifetime sport that’s fun exercise, which I want to introduce to the Norwich community.”

Disc golf is a good activity for students who are looking for something different to participate in around campus.

“I first heard about disc golf from one of the other kids who did work study at the Shaw Center” said Jake Martino, a 20 year-old junior communications major from Malden, Mass. “It is definitely a different sort of sport but it’s still a fun time.”

“We have the land on Paine Mountain to incorporate a fun and extremely scenic 18-hole disc golf course into the existing trail network,” O’Neill said. “The course starts and ends right behind the Shaw building, with the bulk of it going up and across Paine Mountain.”

Bringing the course to the Shaw Center and Paine Mountain was no easy task. There were some hefty costs involved in making the course a reality.

“The chain targets cost about $425 installed, but I am able to do each one for about $270,” O”Neil said. “In total there are 18 baskets, so we spent about $4,860 on all of the holes throughout the course.”

Though the course has been installed since the fall, there is still about $2,000 worth of materials and signs needed for the course to be completely finished.

Disc golf is not the talk of the campus as of yet, but the sport is being added to some programs in different schools across the region, which could raise interest.

“There is not currently a high demand for a disc golf course by Norwich students, but it is right around the corner because it has recently been added to physical education programs at many schools, played at summer camps, and most people now live within 45 minutes of a course,” O’Neil said. “Other colleges and universities are putting them in to help appeal to more students, and to give their students more ways to stay active.”

Adding another program to the already long list of extracurricular activities available at Norwich is important not only for current students, but also future students.

“I’ve never even heard of disc golf but I think it is something I’d like to try,” said Brendan Heinrich, a 21-year-old freshman mechanical engineering major from Kimberley, BC. “I think everyone comes to college to try out different things and a new sport is definitely one of mine.”

As the director of the Shaw Outdoor Center, O’Neil’s passion for disc golf puts promoting this new sport to the student body at the top of his list.

“I’ve used the MyNorwich Bulletin to announce the course and skills courses, as well as the Shaw Outdoor Center FaceBook page,” O’Neil said. “Once we have the first nine holes in then we’ll begin to more actively promote the course, and disc golf programs. The current six holes really don’t provide enough/adequate experience, but we will cross that threshold soon.”

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