The Transylvania Times -

Disc Golf League Embraces New Course At Brevard College


Last updated 9/2/2020 at 5:34pm

Nick Seale takes a few practice shots prior to the Brevard College Disc Golf Club's league play on Tuesday night. The league has become increasingly popular in recent months, typically attracting upwards of 20 players per week. (Times photos by Jeremiah Reed)

It's 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the campus of Brevard College, just adjacent to the tennis courts. The afternoon rain has left the grass heavy with mud. It's humid, but a gentle breeze is enough to quell what would otherwise be a stifling heat.

Slowly, but surely, they start to pull up. First a few at a time, then appearing quickly, like an apparition born out of thin air.

Most of them clearly know one another and exchange pleasantries. They're here for one thing and one thing only – disc golf.

Disc golf is exactly what it sounds like – golf played with Frisbees. But that's not giving it near the justice or the stature it deserves. This is serious business.

Garrett Smith, a nine-year-veteran, is the first on the scene. I approach as he's getting in a couple of practice tosses. He tells me he plays at several other courses in the area, including Jackson Park in Hendersonville, Richmond Hill in Asheville and Sand Hill at the Buncombe County Sports Complex.

But ever since a recent redesign, he says there's been an influx of players at Brevard College – the course he learned the game on many years ago.

"Most of the time I would come out and hardly see anybody," he said. "But recently, there's people out here all the time. It's got us all floored, really."

Indeed, disc golf is a major attraction at Brevard College, and on most any given afternoon, one can pass through campus and see groups of two or three hurling discs through the air – not with reckless abandon – but with the approach that Tiger Woods might take at Augusta National.

One of the next to arrive is tournament director James Necessary, although he's universally referred to as "Stats Man."

He pulls a folding table out of his black SUV, opens up his laptop and sets to work on establishing who will be in attendance. On this evening, 16 players are signed up – a low-mark for the season, he says, which is in its fifth week.

Typically, the average turnout is 20 players, with a capped capacity of 25, as per COVID restrictions.

Despite the turnout, Necessary says, in the past, play was a bit ad hoc, but in recent months, particularly with the pandemic, it's become much more established.

"We've had really casual leagues in the past, that would draw usually seven or eight guys, but I think, with COVID, it's starting to attract more people. We're getting people showing up that I've never met, and it's pretty cool," he said.

Part of what makes the league appealing is, like traditional golf, there is a handicap system that puts every player on a level field.

"You're competing to be better than you've been before, as opposed to beating the guy paired with you," Necessary said. "We've got one guy that starts at +9 and we've got another guy that starts at -23. That's 30-some odd strokes between the leader and the last place guy, and at the end of the night, we're all between eight or nine strokes of each other."

Also, as with traditional golf, equipment is very important and highly coveted. There are different "clubs" or discs for different shots, such as drivers, approach shots and putters, all which perform differently in the air.

Even the disc bags themselves become the object of envy, with some equipped with wheels and others which double as seats to rest weary legs between holes.

Technology is also a component. Necessary said the league utilizes the app, UDisc, which tracks handicaps, past scores and everything in between, to make for a more immersive experience.

"It's a new software that's free and it was released during the pandemic to make it easier for league play. It's touch-free. All payments and scorekeeping are electronic. It's got a live leaderboard, so people can pull out their phone and check out the leaderboard as the night progresses," he said.

Yes, there are payments. But according to Necessary, "Everything that goes in, comes out."

Fees are typically $5 per person, with payouts going to the top 3-4 players, as well as a few scratch performers.

As more players gather, and he studies his laptop to make sure everybody is signed in and has already paid – via Venmo, PayPal or Google Pay – I asked how he came to be in charge of the league.

"That's a great question," he responds, with a laugh, his eyes still fixed upon the screen. "I think it's one of those things that if you want to see it happen you just do it. And the guys tell me I'm doing a good job, so I'll keep doing it."

With the transition from summer to fall and winter, challenges arise to continue league play, most notably the time change and the drop in temperature. Although, Necessary said he plans to expand the league to include different series beginning next year.

While the banter is heavy and the spirits are high, there is a conspicuous absence of female players – none, to be precise. Necessary said that's certainly not a product of design, and that while a few women have shown interest, he would love to get more out playing.

"There's only a few women in town that really play," he said. "One woman comes out occasionally and follows the players around. She's been working on her game and she wants to join, and we've got a couple of ladies who are accomplished disc golfers that want to play, but their work schedules don't allow it."

Nick Seale, a regular on the league scene, said he plays casually in other leagues across Western North Carolina, but enjoys the laid-back nature of the Brevard College tour, as other leagues are too rigid.

"The other leagues aren't near as close and friendly," he said. "It's kind of cliqued up, but here, we're just all out to have fun. It's awesome."

Others say the course, itself, is a major draw.

"This course is pretty open, which is unique for this area," Smith said. "Other courses in the area are heavily wooded. This is more like going for a hike with your friends and throwing stuff. And when you have a really good shot, just watching the disc fly. It's a lot of fun and there's something kind of peaceful about it."

The man behind the course redesign is Jay McCarthy. He helped design previous iterations of the Brevard College course and designed, among others, the Jackson Park course, as well a course at the Brevard Racquet Club and at Christ School (Asheville), Camp Grier (Black Mountain), the Black Mountain Home for Children and Families, and many temporary courses for professional tournaments.

His first course design was one most could only dream of.

"A friend of a friend told me there was a Jack Nicklaus golf course that they wanted disc golf on up in Tuckasegee. It's a $9 million, executive, 9-hole course and that was my first one. From there, the word just spread," he said.

The redesign at Brevard College took about 8-12 months, spurred largely by the new construction and expansion on campus. Like designing a traditional golf course, McCarthy said there are multiple factors to consider.

"(Disc golf courses) typically go on multi-use parks, with lots of other activities like walkers, cyclists, runners and other activities. So, safety is number one. A lot of courses are haphazardly thrown together. You have to have an idea about the flight of the disc to design a good course. And flow is important. You want it to flow like a traditional golf course, while including diversity with different elements like elevation, water and trees," he said.

That being said, there's been a smashing reception to the new design at BC, and McCarthy is proud of his work, adding that the college was very cooperative during the process, and that he recently added new short tee pads for beginners looking to experience the game for the first time.

"It's great. It used to be super long and mostly boring," he said. "A lot of kids and families would skip holes, and, as a designer you don't want people skipping holes.

Garrett Smith has been playing disc golf at Brevard College for nine years and said he likes the new course redesign because it's more open and accessible.

"We've seen more people playing. Tons of kids and families. Tons of tourists. Disc golf tourism is really big. And it's cool to see a whole family play together with their dogs. It's a sport that's awesome for all ages. It's great for the COVID era, with social distancing. And it's free," McCarthy added, mentioning he would love to get more BC students and staff involved.

As for Stats Man, Necessary said while he spends plenty of hours crunching numbers and logging data after a tournament, the joy of seeing his friends come together for a great afternoon of fun makes it second to none.

"I just want people to have fun. After we play, I'm at home buried in the computer trying to get payouts and stats figured out, but when you look up and see all your buddies having a good time, it's worth it," he said.

For more information on the league, go to the Facebook page – Brevard College Disc Golf Club.


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