FORT SMITH -- A new coach and teacher at Trinity Junior High School in Fort Smith saw potential in a little-used part of the school campus located on the St. Scholastica Monastery grounds.
On May 14-15, Josh Tripp, with the help of parent Tim Mulhern and other parents, turned the north campus into a challenging nine-hole disc golf course, started teaching the sport in his physical education classes and introduced a disc golf intramural club for students.
Disc golf courses are inexpensive to set up, requiring as little as five acres of land for a nine-hole course. The slightly hilly terrain -- some cleared, some wooded -- provides enough challenge to keep students interested. Setting up the course involved installing nine pole holes (elevated metal baskets) and tees. The portable tee markers can be moved for different skill levels and modes of play.
The discs used in this sport are no ordinary Frisbees. There are three types: drivers, mid-range and putters. Putters are designed to move slowly in a straight path while the sharp-edged drivers will move quickly in an arc.
"There are disc golf courses all over the area," Tripp said, "in Ben Geren Park (in Fort Smith), Alma Middle School, Greenwood and Springdale, and lots of local tournaments that students can enter."
As a physical education activity, disc golf is ideal. It can be enjoyed by students at every skill level, including special-needs students requiring adaptive physical education. It improves concentration and problem-solving skills. Students can introduce the game to their parents and play as a family on weekends. It's a lifetime sport, boasting all the low-impact aerobic benefits of golf without the high costs. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, an organization with more than 40,000 members, most of the 3,000 disc golf courses in the United States are free.
Adding one more club to a school that already has a variety of extracurricular activities hasn't been easy, Tripp said.
"We're aiming at getting the club started in earnest during the second semester (in 2012) and are meeting soon to set up a schedule. The club will be co-ed, and it will be part of our physical education program year-round."
On Oct. 29, Trinity Junior High School's Disc Golf Club held a tournament to raise money for the program, to buy equipment and to sponsor club members at local tournaments, such as the Battle of Bell Park, held in Greenwood Nov. 20. The Oct. 29 tournament drew 35 participants, including 10 students, parents, principal Dr. Jim Hattabaugh, and coach Jeff Meares. At $25 a person, the club raised $875 for the program.
Hattabaugh agrees the whole community benefits from the new course.
"We feel that disc golf allows an opportunity for exercise, strategy, geometry and competition for all of our students and staff regardless of inherent athletic talent or age," he said. "The course is also open to the public during certain hours and is used often by our students and other citizens. It is a fun and challenging sport and lends itself to an enjoyable walk with family and friends while you test your skills."
Ninth-grader Trevor Mulhern has been playing disc golf at Trinity with his parents, Amy and Tim Mulhern, since the course was installed.
"The best thing about disc golf is that my kids want to hang out with me," Amy Mulhern said.
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