The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus will soon be the home to a nine hole disc golf course beginning in March. While Explore Disc Golf’s full blown design of the course includes 18 baskets, the University has agreed to a nine hole “pilot installation” where the committee can gauge the interest of the student body and the demands the course will put on Facilities Management. As the school year winds down in May, the committee will then meet to determine the success of the course. If the course is deemed to be a good fit, the University will grant permission for permanent tee pads and signage, in addition to looking at the next steps for installation of the back nine.
The “Big Idea” for the design of UMass Amherst Disc Golf Course was to connect Orchard Hill Residential Area to Sylvan Residential Area, and beyond. The course will take advantage of the underutilized open space of Orchard Hill, while providing a connection between residential areas and surrounding land uses such as Sylvan Forest, The Meadow and multiple school systems in the area.
The design of the course flows in a figure 8 pattern — with nine holes located in Orchard Hill and the other nine holes located in Sylvan Forest and the University Meadow. The nine hole “pilot installation” will be the holes located within Orchard Hill — a mix of open field shots and technical wooded holes, all the while providing sweeping views of the surrounding mountain range.
One of the main focuses of the course on UMass’ campus is education. While the course provides multiple technical shots, the primary objective was to offer a “beginner-friendly” course that acted as outdoor classroom for the surrounding schools in the area. The course will boast the opportunity to host field days for physical education classes coming from adjacent elementary schools, in addition to providing a canvas for University departments to participate in making the course a community project. Project opportunities can range from Stockbridge students identifying and expanding the University arboretum, to Green Building Technologies incorporating structures on site that will aid in the experience of the course — possibilities really are endless.
The two primary forms of education that run throughout the disc golf course are environmental and disc golf related. Disc golf educational signage will be located at each tee box — helping beginners with tips on disc flight characteristics, weight and plastic types, the difference in molds, proper etiquette and much more. While this signage will help beginners ease into the sport, the environmental education will be found on the fairways and walkways between holes. This signage will bring to light a multitude of topics — from the history of the property and plant identification to topics like wastewater management, the negative impacts of non-native invasive species and much more.
The Orchard Hill portion of the course was actually home to Massachusetts Agricultural College, which eventually became University of Massachusetts in 1863. Orchard Hill was once a haven for crop plantings, experimental test plots and equestrian jumps. Once the College began to expand, it eventually moved to the other side of Prexy’s Ridge to where the majority of UMass’ activity currently exists. While Orchard Hill is now grossly overgrown, Explore Disc Golf proposed the disc golf course in May 2010 to take advantage of this historical piece of property, all the while heightened safety through increased user presence.
What we hope to be viewed as both a recreational resource and outdoor educational classroom, we believe that the design of UMass Amherst Disc Golf Course will help bring some much needed attention to the sport of disc golf in Western Massachusetts. Explore Disc Golf’s aim is to strengthen community connections and on-site features through cohesive design and site planning, all the while taking users on a “focused hike” through select portions of campus that few at the University of Massachusetts even know exist. Our company received an Innovation Grant through the Professional Disc Golf Association for our design, of which will be used to buy discs and give to the surrounding school systems. The disc golf course at UMass Amherst should attract many beginners and be utilized as a “jumping off point” for players to learn about the sport of disc golf.