The concept behind The Mobile Disc Golf Experience is simple: to make disc golf as accessible to the general public as possible. While we at Explore Disc Golf are a disc golf design-build firm, we knew that The Mobile Disc Golf Experience would be the best way to show Universities, ski resorts, campgrounds, park systems and the general public all the tremendous benefits that disc golf brings to their property as well as the community as a whole. Being intertwined within the music scene, we naturally picked music festivals and fairs as a platform to host The Mobile Disc Golf Experience every weekend this summer — where we would design, install and remove 3-6 holes and provide free disc rentals to all that wanted to play the course.
We officially launched the concept of The Mobile Disc Golf Experience in May 2012, and immediately got to work calling festival promoters, booking agents, managers, friends and artists to see which festivals we could book for the summer and fall season. While May got off to a great start with a 7,000 person music festival in Massachusetts, we knew we had to focus on the tail end of our summer as the middle was full of prior commitments at several other events, including the PDGA World Disc Golf Championships in Charlotte in July. All told, since the middle of May, we were at 12 music festivals and multiple ski resorts, all culminating with a wonderful 3-weekend run of Mobiles in Massachusetts, Maine and Virginia.
This blog is a recap of The Mobile Disc Golf Experience we setup at the largest music festival we attended this summer — Life is Good Festival in Canton, MA on the weekend of September 22-23, 2012. While we have been to our fair share of festivals, this was one was like none we had been to before. Pairing up with Superfly Presents (Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, New Orleans Jazz Fest), Life is Good Festival put together a well-rounded lineup that included the likes of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sara Bareilles, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Soulive, The Infamous Stringdusters, Ryan Montbleau Band and many more. The thing that set this national-scale music festival apart from the others was 1.) the demographic of attendees (children of all ages accompanied by their parents) and 2.) the numerous activities on hand that ranged from disc golf and football fling to sack races and sand castle making.
We reached out to the staff at Life is Good in June to offer our services through The Mobile Disc Golf Experience. Having “disc toss” in previous years, they were excited at the possibilities disc golf could bring to their festival. After our site visit to Prowse Farm in early August, the organizers were incredibly excited for the activity after seeing the design adaptability that the sport of disc golf offers. Prowse Farm is an incredible facility, but the festival was limited to within the confines of the horse track. Within this large open space was an on-site pond that was circumvented by a 4’ high fence to discourage any patrons from getting too close to the water. The Main Stage was located on one end of the field, while the second stage was located right up next to the pond, with the backstage area being right next to the water itself. A large kid’s tent was located on the other side of the pond, leaving a sliver of land between the pond and horse track that was completely unused in previous years. This sliver of land was a wonderful opportunity to showcase how disc golf can be used to not only take advantage of underutilized space, but to connect opposite sides of the festival grounds together through a fun, family-oriented recreational activity.
I arrived on-site a day before the festival begun to flag out the course and start digging. As I stated previously, a small 4’ high fence circumvented the pond while a 7’ high fence blocked the edge of the horse track. With views of the adjacent mountains, a pond fountain constantly running and the Bonnaroo-style build of this massive festival going up in front of my own eyes, I couldn’t help but drool with excitement. An estimated 15,000 people per day were expected to descend upon the grounds, and we were extremely excited to be promoting disc golf and the Explore Disc Golf brand to all the potential users. The Mobile Disc Golf Experience was enjoying a very successful inaugural summer, with events such as Umphrey’s McGee sUMmer school at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York and The Festy Experience at Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Virginia, in addition to several other festivals and equipment rental setups at ski resorts and camps in the Northeast.
Traveling from event to event this summer, we at Explore Disc Golf provided a staff of 2-3 employees to accompany The Mobile Disc Golf Experience where we would hand out free disc rentals to patrons and man the vending booth which was chalk full of design-build information, disc and apparel sales, and more. After advancing this Mobile, we learned that we would have anywhere from 6-10 volunteers to work The Mobile Disc Golf Experience in addition to the 3 that we provided from our company. This was admittedly a bit overwhelming at first, but we got it dialed in where we would have our employees staffing the booth and handing out free disc rentals, while Life is Good volunteers would be located at the portable practice basket by the booth, at each tee location encouraging users to do their best and keep the flow of traffic moving, and lastly, located at the end of the course on the other side of the pond where they would collect disc rentals and bring them back to our vending booth. Armed with over 150 free rental discs to hand out to patrons, we were still taking dozens of trips back and forth to keep up with the demand of users as the line to play the course seldom dropped below 25-30 people.
Knowing the demographic of users we were reaching out to, we designed a very beginner-friendly 3-hole course that took advantage of views of the surrounding landscape while directing shots away from the on-site pond whenever possible. Life is Good’s only directions to us were to minimize the amount of discs that ended up in the water. With a relatively flat site to work with and knowing that we had to shoot away from the water, length of holes would only be in the 120′ range, but we were okay with that knowing that the age of users would be mostly concentrated in the 8-18 year old range, and between discs, baskets, signage a varied shot design, the users were still familiarizing themselves with a professional representation of the sport. That being said, we had an extremely large amount of adults play the course, in addition to purchasing DX starter packs (choice of driver, mid range and putter) as they could feel the obsession building as there are very few things about disc golf that one can’t like.
There were multiple occasions where we found ourselves stepping back from the booth to enjoy the sights of the constant flow of people using the underutilized space behind the pond. Landscape Architecture (our profession) is all about movement of people, and that’s a large scale focus in our design of disc golf courses — using the course as a conduit to interact with nature. What was a piece of land that was seldom used in previous years now saw over 2,500 people play the 3-hole Mobile Disc Golf Experience over the course of two days. Armed with a vending booth, free rental discs, three Innova baskets and a slew of hole and wayfinding signage, we were able to provide a platform for not only promoting the sport of disc golf to the general public, but to showcase the amicability of the sport and how it can adapt to any site, rendering any space it touches a success in terms of providing a safe, highly-frequented recreational activity for users of all ages and skill levels to enjoy.
The Mobile Disc Golf Experience at Life is Good Festival was undoubtedly the most successful event of the summer for us at Explore Disc Golf. We look forward to providing this service again in the future, as the incredible music lineup and plethora of activities provided on-site was a welcomed addition to the normal music festival that so many of us have become accustomed to. Once again, our goal through The Mobile Disc Golf Experience is simple: to make disc golf as accessible to the general public as possible, but it’s also in line with Life is Good’s mission of promoting the benefits of play. Getting outdoors and playing whatever activity that suits your fancy is good by us — be it bocce ball, football fling, tug of war, sack races, sand castle building, seed spitting, parachute play, home run derby or disc golf — spending time together as a family and harnessing the power of music and play will put a smile on anyone’s face, regardless of age.
Thank you Life is Good; we’ll see you next year.