LITTLEFORK — Overgrown and underutilized. The former home of Littlefork boys baseball at Lofgren Park had been ignored and neglected since a field was built near the school about 10 years ago.
“We just thought, what are we going to do with this space?” said City Administrator Sonja Pelland.
Disc golf proved to be the answer.
“It just so happened that when we were talking about doing this, the city of Big Fork was in the process of putting up a ball field and they needed the bleachers and the fencing, so we were able to sell the fencing to Big Fork at a fraction of what it would have cost to them to purchase it new,” explained Pelland.
It was a true win-win situation.
“It worked out well for both cities because basically, us selling them the fencing paid for the disc golf course,” said Pelland.
The idea to install a disc golf course at Lofgren Park came from Pelland, whose son-in-law is an avid disc golfer. He introduced her to the sport, and she thought its addition would be a great thing for the city.
“We wanted to give the option of something else to do in Littlefork and utilize that space better,” said Kristi Splett, Littlefork deputy clerk-treasurer. With the city’s campground nearby, she thought this would be a good activity for campers.
The course was designed by Cale Leiviska, a course designer from St. Paul. He has been a professional disc golfer since 2004 and created Airborn Disc Golf company in 2012.
Leiviska has played professionally all over the world and through his experience has witnessed what does and doesn’t work with disc golf courses. “I love the game so much and course design has become a way for me to help grow and promote the sport even further than I can by playing,” he said.
Disc golf is played similarly to traditional golf, however, instead of using golf balls and clubs, players throw a disc into a basket. The score is kept the same with the lowest score winning.
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, “The object of the game of disc golf is to complete a course in the fewest throws of the disc. A course typically consists of nine or 18 holes, each of which is a separate unit for scoring.”
“Play on each hole begins at the tee and ends at the target. After the player has thrown from the tee, each successive throw is made from where the previous throw came to rest. On completing a hole, the player proceeds to the teeing area of the next hole, until all holes have been played.”
Leiviska recommends starting out with only two or three discs, and says “a putter and a driver is a good start.”
“Being that there are not many courses in the area yet, I wanted to make sure that it was fun for all skill levels and help get more people involved in the game. This is a perfect course to take your kids or your grandparents,” Leiviska said.
The course has relatively short hole lengths and is ideal for beginner level players. There are no water hazards.
“Just even walking the course is good exercise, it’s something fun to do that’s not just sitting in front of a TV screen,” said Pelland.
Pelland said disc golf may be played in gym class at Littlefork-Big Falls School in the fall. A survey distributed at the school indicated that 54.2 percent of students and staff would be interested in participating in disc golf.
Littlefork is not home to the only disc golf course in the area. In 2013, the Rainy River disc golf course was built in International Falls and has a strong following.
The Lofgren Park course will likely draw players from the Falls area to try a new course.
“I will be playing it for the first time later this month,” said Chris Beyer, director of the International Falls disc golf club. “Other club members have already played there and enjoy having another course in the area. I even heard there has been at least one hole-in-one there already.”
Beyer encourages people who have never tried the sport to do so saying, “Disc golf is a very welcoming sport, and the disc golf community in International Falls is outstanding.
“It is an excellent outdoor sport and inexpensive to play, that can be enjoyed casually or competitively. We have a wide range of ages and abilities who play, and being new to the sport is an excellent reason to join the club.”
Relative to other city projects, the construction of a disc golf course at Lofgren Park in Littlefork had a fast turnaround.
In March, the council agreed to look into the project. Pelland had been in contact with Leviska, who said he would be interested in visiting in June to help the council with the project.
“Maybe (visitors) come down here to do this and they stop at the restaurant, they’ll stop at the liquor store, they’ll stop and get gas...,” councilor Loren Lehman said in March. “I think it’s a good idea. So keep moving forward on it.”
In April, the council agreed to spend $7,150 for the installation of a disc golf course at Lofgren Park. In reality, the project cost less than $5,000 because councilors opted not to lay cement platforms at the tees.
In May, Leiviska visited Lofgren Park to begin planning the course.
In June, holes for baskets were drilled at Lofrgen Park.
By mid-July, the nine-hole course was open and ready to be used.
In the near future, visitors can expect signs for the course and removal of the rest of the baseball equipment. If the course becomes popular, Pelland explained that it could be expanded into an 18-hole course using the wooded area relatively easily.