The Course was Their Course
A few days from now, their finished creation will be a place where folks can spend an hour or two chucking a Frisbee in the beautiful warmth and sunshine of summer. Disc golf is generally a shorts-and-T-shirt warm-weather sport, after all.
But the first test-run of the course they were building had them tramping around their school campus in knee-high snow on a February morning with temperatures plunging to a spleen-freezing 20 below.
We were losing the discs in the snow,” Jaden Dilda
Dilda is one of a dozen or so students in a Venture class at Hamilton District Christian High School who’ve spent the past two years creating only the second disc golf course in the greater Hamilton area. It wasn’t supposed to take this long but, hey, if you’re going to take a course that’s supposed to prepare you for your career you may as well learn patience and dealing with unforeseen obstacles, too.
The story starts two Septembers ago. The class was presented with an assignment from teacher Richard Van Egmond. They had to do an on-campus project that would benefit the wider community. He gave them a list of eight or 10 ideas. Organizing a career day, for example.
“We did that,” says student Chelsea Borg.
They could help host an OFSAA championship.
“We did that, too,” she laughs.
Related: Live from OFSAA
Yet they quickly decided something bigger was in order. One of the items on the list was building a disc golf course that anyone could use, student or not. Unfortunately, they knew little about the sport. Van Egmond knew only slightly more having played a rudimentary version of the game in college — “Hole No. 1, hit the tree,” he says — but not enough to qualify as an expert.
So they called in local pro Chris Ozolins.
Before we go on, yes, there is pro disc golf. The 31-year-old executive director of the Ontario Disc Sports Association recently played a tournament in Illinois for a $150,000 purse. Ultimate — known to many as Ultimate Frisbee — is huge in the United States and growing in Canada. Ozolins guesses there are 5,000 committed players and rising. He says it’ll soon be an OFSAA sport.
Disc Golf is slightly behind but with less athleticism required to play, it’s gaining traction, too. The only problem? Not enough courses. The closest one is at Christie Lake Conservation Area in Dundas. Plumping up the number of players is tough when there’s no place to play.
So when a school called and said it wanted input from him on how to build a top-of-the-line course here, Ozolins was thrilled. And when he heard it was going to be entirely self-funded?
“Hallelujah,” he remembers thinking.
Related: Tiffany Links Disc Golf Project
His first visit to the proposed course was the day of the blizzard. The students had already been investigating what they’d need, done the budgeting, drawn a layout around the soccer field just off Garner Road — rather, about 25 layouts that constantly changed — and gone to the school’s board for approval. Ozolins gave some advice then let them get at it.
They found a local metal fabricator that would make the chain-link baskets (in golf you putt into a hole, in disc golf you land in a basket) for a fraction of the cost of importing them, found a company that would help dig and set the bases, found landscapers that would help them beautify it, and on and on.
“Our original end date was supposed to be June,” Dilda says. “Last year.”
The fact that Tiffany Creek runs through the middle of the course provides a lovely visual. Trouble is — for this project, anyway — it’s protected by not one but two conservation authorities. The resulting paperwork required to get permission to build a needed 30-foot bridge across the creek took, well, forever. Many months, to be more specific.
Related: New Sport Builds Bridges with Hamilton Community
It’s all good now, though. The nine-hole Tiffany Links Disc Golf Course is done save for a few touch-ups and the signs that’ll be at each hole showing the layout and the par. By the end of May there will be a grand opening and a pro-am tournament.
After that, it’s open to anyone. Playing will be free.
“That was the driving force behind it,” Van Egmond says. “How can the school bless the wider community?”
As for Ozolins, he’s thrilled so many people will potentially be exposed to the sport. With the course close to the Meadowlands and visible from the street, he’s sure it’ll be well used.
Best of all, it’s a course he describes as easy enough for beginners but really high quality.
“It’s above and beyond.”
Article by Scott Radley @radleyatthespec.
Reprinted from The Hamilton Spectator.
We believe that the most dynamic learning experiences happen through Project Based Learning. Discover more about the types of projects students at Hamilton District Christian High are working on.