Business

Titan Disc Golf in Cedar Rapids stocks some 5,000 discs

Joe French, co-owner, pulls a few discs to take to a tournament at Titan Disc Golf in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Joe French, co-owner, pulls a few discs to take to a tournament at Titan Disc Golf in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A first-time visitor to Titan Disc Golf often pauses at the front door — so many, well, discs in a relatively small space.

“When we bought the shop, they stocked around 890-something Frisbees,” owner Joe French said. “Currently, we carry around 5,000. We did our best to build up a shop that carries about everything. We have (discs from) around 12 different manufacturers.”

French was managing a network of food carts and a taxi company in Iowa City when he heard Titan’s founding owners were seeking to sell the business they’d launched in 2011.

“The taxi portion of that just basically died because of Uber, so that was good timing,” he said.

Since buying Titan in February 2016, French has been “transitioning” from his Iowa City jobs. He estimates he spends about 17 hours a week working outside the shop.

“We have a couple of people who work the shop here and there, but no real employees,” he said.

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, the basic disc-golf “hole” — actually a chain-link basket mounted on a pole — was patented by “Steady” Ed Headrick in 1977. That was 11 years after Headrick, then an employee of toy company Wham-O Inc., patented the Frisbee.

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The game grew quickly as municipal park departments recognized its low initial investment and maintenance costs. A course can be set up in an existing park for the cost of nine or 18 baskets.

The Professional Disc Golf Association now claims more than 100,000 members in 47 countries.

“It’s huge” in the area, French said. “The game is exactly like golf — just discs instead of balls and sticks.

“So you get that gentleman’s competition with your friends where you have a lot of fun. You still like to get ’em by a couple strokes. It’s a lot of fun.”

French grew up in Council Bluffs. He was about 16 when he and his friends progressed from tossing Frisbees around their backyards to playing a disc-golf course in Omaha, Neb.

But it took him about three years to find the proper throwing form, when he encountered a woman of about 50 on the course.

“She just stood at the end of the tee, just flat,” he recalled. “She just cocked one straight through, like an Olympic discus, and she threw one 350 feet on a straight line. I was like, ‘OK, I’m doing something wrong.’ I might have been 19, 20, at the time and I did what I saw her do the whole summer.”

French entered his first tournament in 2010. Now, he organizes his own — the Titan Open presented by Discraft, with $5,000 in bonus cash prizes, was held earlier this month at Shaver Park in Cedar Rapids, Marion’s Thomas Park and Wildcat Bluff near Urbana.

French organizes another tournament, the Annual Showdown Triples, in September. He’s also expanding his business. Titan Golf’s Des Moines location opened this spring.

The Titan shop, next door to the Shaver Park course in northeast Cedar Rapids, is open year-round.

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“The busiest time is right when the sunshine hits in April,” French said. “It stays busy through the fall, but in the winter there are still leagues. A lot of people play in the winter.”

l Know a business in operation for more than a year we should consider for “My Biz”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

AT A GLANCE

l Owner: Joe French

l Business: Titan Disc Golf

l Address: 710 J Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

l Phone: (319) 440-9547

l Website: facebook.com/titandiscgolf

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