Over his eight years playing the sport, 18-year-old professional disc gold player Noah Higgins has logged countless hours at Nicholas Sheran park; the lone course in Lethbridge.
But come August, the 20-year-old course will no longer be the only track in the city, with a new 18-hole loop set to open in Peenaquim Park.
“I know I’m speaking for pretty much all disc golfers in the area (when I say) I’m super excited for a new course that we can go play, and get to learn and practice on,” Higgins said.
“Nicholas Sheran is great, but you know it’s like playing the same golf course over and over and over and over and over.”
Higgins and his mother Rebecca Johnson have played a big part in securing a second course for the city. Johnson is president of Lethbridge disc golf club the Bridge City Gunners, she said league numbers have more than doubled over the last couple of years, with the sport exploding in popularity.
“We’re really at a crisis point with it. When we run our tournaments, when we open registration, we’re finding that the spots are filling up in less than an hour,” she said.
Higgins added that the waitlists for tournaments have gotten out of control.
“We had a tournament for this year lined up that would have been this last weekend, and we had 90 people signed up and 50-plus people on the waitlist,” he said. “It’s really taken off. I would say a few years ago, that list would have been half that size.”
The popularity has meant increasing wait times at Nicholas Sheran, a course that operates for free, on a drop-in basis.
“It’s becoming really, really busy there,” Johnson said. “It’s getting to the point where it’s not uncommon to start on hole one and have to wait for two or three groups ahead of you in order to tee off.”
“COVID-19 has played a really large role in the growth of the sport worldwide, and Lethbridge is no exception. It’s really the perfect social distancing sport.”
The boom in demand has captured the attention of City of Lethbridge officials.
“We’re noticing that there’s lineups at the first tee, for people waiting their turn,” said city parks manager David Ellis.
“It really is time to expand the opportunity for people to play.”
Two years ago the city contacted the Gunners about a potential course in Legacy park, but Johnson says existing infrastructure and space made that location a challenge.
Peenaquim Park — located in the city’s popular river valley — offers plenty of opportunities for growth.
“This is a course that’s going to grow up over time, as we plant trees, as we do the world on the land and do some landscaping, and also make some cool modifications to the holes,” Johnson said.
“It’s going to come to fruition over time and be a real pro-level, championship course, but also a course that everyone in the community can come down and enjoy for free.”
The course will also offer views of a favourite Lethbridge landmark.
“For me personally, when I think of Lethbridge, I think of the train bridge and I think of the coulees,” Higgins said. “I think everyone that comes here from out of town is going to see that, and remember that in their minds as, ‘Wow, that’s that really cool Lethbridge disc golf course.'”
The city has designated the plot of land in Peenaquim Park, and the course will be named after the Lethbridge West Lions Club, who donated $10,000 to fund baskets and signs.
An additional $9,000 was raised by the Bridge City Gunners for tee pads and a new parking lot, with the course layout also designed by the club.
“It’s really cool that I get to kind of the be the mind of the design of it, because that’s something that I can really be proud of for years to come,” Higgins said.
The course will sit between the Softball Valley baseball park, LFGA Shooting Sports facility, and an off-leash dog park, none of which will be impacted by the new addition.
Work on the course is set to begin next month, and the Bridge City Gunners hope it will be ready for play some time in August.