116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
With interest in disc golfing soaring as people look for more outdoor recreation during the pandemic, a two local courses — one in Hiawatha and one in Cedar Rapids — are getting new layouts and being cleaned up after the 2020 derecho.
The Cedar Rapids Metro Disc Golf Club has been working between getting a new layout ready at course at the Fay Clark Park in Hiawatha while also giving new life to the course at Shaver Park in Cedar Rapids, one of the parks damaged in Aug. 10, 2020, storm.
The club works with various cities and typically does disc course maintenance and minor updates on the four main area courses: Clark Park in Hiawatha, Jones Park in southwest Cedar Rapids, Shaver Park in northeast Cedar Rapids and Legion Park in Marion.
Club President Michael Deeter said there were about 20 trees lost to the derecho at Hiawatha’s Clark. But with the city of Hiawatha’s tree grants after the derecho and some replanting being done at Clark, it was the perfect opportunity to rework the course itself.
“It would’ve been easier before or after Shaver, but we feel it’s important,” Deeter said. “Shaver probably won’t open until next year. Legion in Marion is not planned until next year and Jones is now a wide-open hill and is kind of boring. That one will take a lot of work.”
Legion, between Thomas and Hanna Parks in Marion, was also heavily damaged in the derecho. Today, only the back nine holes are open at the 18-hole course.
The club has been working on Shaver since May, hosting weekly course work nights where volunteers come out and clean up debris and the weeds throughout the park to get its course ready. Shaver also will have a new design when it’s done, by renowned disc golf course designer John Houck.
“Houck’s name alone will attract a lot of people here,” Deeter said. “It’s going to be a beautiful course. It's going to be one of the top courses in Iowa.”
The new Clark course will feature multiple tee pads for experienced and novice players as well as new tee signs and baskets. It will be the course’s first new layout since it was first established in 2008 and could be ready by the end of July.
The club began fundraising for the course improvements in March. Since then, it received sponsorships for all 18 holes, which will feature new baskets. Volunteers also planted over 60 new trees with the goal of one day having a course with mature trees that will add new challenges for players.
“Most of the club members have given feedback on the improvements,” Deeter said. “My biggest thing was trying to get a united voice.” The club has about 80 members.
“Once you go through a full redesign, city parks want to be involved,” Deeter said. “We’ve presented designs to Hiawatha and they approved. In Cedar Rapids, they said do whatever because the course had been destroyed, so we’ve gotten the ball rolling.”
Growing in popularity
Over the last couple of years, disc golf participation has grown due to the pandemic and the increased interest in outdoor recreation.
In 2017, the professional disc golf association celebrated having 100,000 total numbers. Then it hit 200,000 members in 2021. Iowa is known as an active disc golf state, with many tournaments and other events.
“In 2016-17, I would recognize everyone that walked in,” said club Vice President Aaron Swander, who also works at Titan Disc Golf in Cedar Rapids. “Now, I would say it’s about 50 percent of customers that stop in that I’ve never seen before and that’s great. People are coming to the state to visit the courses and specifically stop at the store.”
The club has also seen continued growth at the weekly Monday night league play that started in 2015.
“At first it was maybe 20 players that first year, then it was 30 to 40 the next couple of years,” Deeter said. “This year it’s been around 100 players and it’s not the same 100 players either. Last year, we had 400 different players play league. It’s definitely spiked and it’s not slowing down.”
Titan Disc Golf co-owner Joe French said in 2021, his in-store sales in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines soared. Titan also added an online store, which has also produced more sales.
“The pandemic changed everything. It really has to do with all the new players,” said French, who has been playing disc golf since the 1990s. “I always try to remember all the new faces, but now it’s honestly impossible.”
Deeter and French said the Cedar Rapids area needs the course improvements, but the community still needs more courses.
“Right now, Cedar Rapids is crying for good disc golf courses,” Deeter said. “I think the change in Hiawatha, Shaver and Legion will make the C.R. area a mecca for disc golf.”
“The future here looks amazing,” French added. “But if we had three more 18-hole courses, they would be full every day. Getting Shaver and Legion back will be helpful, but we need more and we need more bad.”
Comments: (319) 398-8255; firstname.lastname@example.org