Fore! Discs on course

MANCHESTER - The popularity of disc golf is on the rise and now Riley Rink can boast one of the few courses in the southern half of Vermont.

The course opened on July 13 and although at the moment only a 9 hole course, Riley Rink board member Chip Edson - who was instrumental in creating the course - said there are plans to expand it to 18 holes in the future.

From 2000 to 2008, the number of disc golf courses nationwide doubled. In Vermont, the sport is more popular in the northern end of the state with 16 to 18 public courses being located in or above Rutland. Prior to creation of the course at Riley Rink the nearest courses in the southern end of the state were in Killington, Bennington and Pittsford.

Disc golf is played with a disc that is a little bit smaller than a Frisbee. The holes at Riley Rink are about 250-300 feet away from the tee. The rules of the game allow a player to take some running steps on their tee shot. However, after that a player must put one of their feet on the spot where the disc landed and remain stationary when shooting subsequent shots. They then try to hit a target in the specified number of shots - almost all of which are a Par 3 at Riley Rink - and get the disc to drop into a basket. If the disc lands on one of the paved roadways around the rink, a one stroke penalty will be assessed.

Since the course has fewer holes than most, Edson said they are encouraging people to play the course twice.

The course was created in memory of Donna Corkum, a friend of Edson's who passed away last year.

"I had Hannah (Corkum, Donna's daughter) in hockey," said Edson who used to coach the Burr and Burton Academy girls hockey team. "So, we were looking to do something to continue in memory of Donna and this is what we came up with. Donna was the one that introduced me to it and at the time the board was looking for ways of enhancing, and we still are, the summer season out at Hunter Park and this seemed to be a perfect fit for a day to day thing that can happen there."

The 9 hole course takes between 35 minutes to an hour to complete, Edson said. It was designed by Tom Van Sant, an avid disc golfer.

"I've been trying to get folks interested in the game for a while. It seems like it's a perfect for Manchester," said Van Sant. "The sport is growing nationwide and in Vermont. Southern Vermont doesn't have many courses. I've talked to Susan Marmer several times. She was the previous director of Riley Rink. I've kind of been chewing on her ear for a couple years about disc golf and the possibilities for that property."

Not only is the cost of creating and maintaining a course relatively cheap, according to Van Sant, but it is also inexpensive to play. A game at Riley Rink is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. The disc golf season begins in April and will end in October and Edson said season passes are available for $40.

While the course is more or less complete, there is still some fine tuning to be done. However, Edson said that will not be done until more people have played the course.

"What they recommend is that you let people play the course for a while before you do too much pruning because it's hard to add something back if you take it away," Edson said. "They say to let the course be played for about a month and get the feedback before you do any major cutting or tree removal."

In addition to Edson and Van Sant, Edson said Mark Read helped set the baskets for the course. Ben Weiss helped with a lot of the landscaping work and Pat Zilka took photographs of course.

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