Concrete pads sprang up like mushrooms. Next, metal baskets, about the size of a tall bush, were planted at each pad. Finally, like moss on the sides of trees, signs appeared giving directions, warnings to casual passersby and the answer to the question, “What’s going on here?”
This was the experience recently for people who regularly visit the running, hiking and mountain biking trails next to Wilder Newport, south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. New development plans caused an existing disc golf course to be shifted over to a more highly visible and heavily travelled part of the property.
Due to the nature of the sport, though, players say it will fold seamlessly into the existing activities and might even win a few converts to the increasingly popular activity.
“The sport’s seen huge growth,” said long-time player Jason Nehmer. “The last time I checked it was the second-fastest-growing sport in America, second to pickle ball. It’s getting to the point where there’s real money in it; a professional player just signed a million-dollar, four-year contract, and it’s even being shown on ESPN.”
There are, no surprise, aspects of different courses that can make them more desirable to players, and the new one at Wilder has them in spades.
“There are open shots which the older course didn’t have,” Nehmer said. “And there’s more length, which is the direction the sport is going. You have to increase the challenge because people just keep getting better.”
The concrete pads were another upgrade.
“The tee-off areas were natural before,” Nehmer said. “Concrete pads allow you to get a grip if you have a fair amount of distance to throw because they provide traction. They also remove tripping hazards.”
Nehmer, who has become a seasoned designer of courses, also serves as president of the Central Oregon Coast Disc Golf Club.
“We cover all courses in Lincoln County,” he said. “We’ve grown by getting known. We actually got cold-called last year by the City of Waldport when they wanted to build one, which was a three-month-long project and a great collaboration.”
The 18-hole course, located at Crestline Park, is open and ready for throwing.
The club also has in its basket a course in South Beach State Park, just south of Newport.
Now, the club is setting sights on hosting some high-visibility events.
“Our goal is to have an national or even international event at Wilder,” Nehmer said. “These upgrades make it so that we can host a sanctioned tournament.”
Until then, you can attend local events, like the Wilder Invitational on Saturday, April 13, and “glow week,” where glow in the dark discs are used and the baskets are lit up (no date set yet).
Selling discs and hosting tournaments are some of the ways the club raises needed funds.
“We also raise money through sponsorships,” Nehmer said. “Every hole at Wilder has a sponsor, and we also occasionally get private donations.”
Though sponsors include the Rogue Brewery and the Wolf Tree Taproom, the money doesn’t go right back to them at the conclusion of each game.
“We take care of the grounds as much as we can,” Nehmer said. “That means we have to purchase and maintain tools like chainsaws, and pay for all the course building materials. Those baskets are about $350 a piece. We reused as much as we could in the recent move, but still had lots of expenses.”
When not working on improving grounds, the club works on growing membership, including reaching out to kids.
“I’m in the process of creating a flyer for the schools,” Nehmer said. “It’s so important to get kids outside and playing away from electronic devices. Disc golf is such a user-friendly thing to do — you just go outside and throw things at baskets. Plus, it’s pretty much free.”
Interested parties of any age can just show up online or in person.
“We’re on Facebook as COCDGC,” Nehmer said. “Just chime in saying you’re interested in joining. If you’re completely new to the sport, we recommend starting at South Beach, but if you’re an experienced golfer and new here or visiting, come join us at Wilder. Sunday mornings at 11 there is almost always a game.”
The support from the landowners is a big part of why Nehmer and crew love Wilder, but in the end, it’s all about the environment.
“It has so much natural beauty,” he said. “There are carpets of moss and areas that haven’t been logged recently so the understory isn’t as thick. It feels ethereal when you’re in there; it’s just magical.”
The Wilder disc golf course is located at the end of SE 40th Street (40th turns into Harborton Street) Though playing is free, all users of the Wilder trails must have a permit, obtainable at the Bosque Cafe, 4590 SE Harborton Street. Though dogs are very welcome on the disc golf course, smoking is not.