Local disc golf course offers year-round recreation

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Photo courtesy of Powder Mill Disc Golf Course STAYING BUSY—Despite many local closures, the Powder Mill Disc Golf Course’s popularity continues to soar.

Travis Nelson

It can be rare to hear about a business thriving during this tough time, we’ve all seen reports of them not only shutting down temporarily but for good. However, deep in the woods alongside County Road 550, business is booming.

Powder Mill Disc Golf Course was established in 2013 and runs in a total of 5,840 feet according to the Professional Disc Golf Association website. Nate Simpson is the president of Disc da U.P. and secretary of the Upper Peninsula Disc Golf Association. Simpson and some friends originally started their club, titled Disc da U.P. as the NMU Disc Golf Club. It was eventually turned into a public organization to get courses going around the area, he said. 

Simpson is also involved in the two organizations that designed, fundraised, built and maintained the Powder Mill Disc Golf Course and the Silver Creek Disc Golf Course in Harvey. What makes this year of disc golf so unique for Powder Mill is that even though many places are shut down, playing disc golf has been maintained due to the natural social distancing of the setting and sport.

“The one impact, during these times, is that it’s allowed our sport and recreational activity to continue when others were not allowed and/or not possible due to restrictions,” Simpson said.

Throughout the past few months, Simpson never thought that the course, and disc golf in general, would be so important and impactful for people’s mental and physical health during the quarantine. While also seeing the course become a positive development for others, Simpson also said he saw many newcomers.

“At the peak of the lockdown, we had so many new faces on the course, lots of families and people who were new to the sport. It was amazing to see how disc golf thrived throughout the chaos,” Simpson said. “I never imagined that when everything else was closed that people would turn to disc golf. I was so taken back as I watched people throw, learn and laugh.”

Not only does the continuity of disc golf benefit the course, but with August now here, so does the return of NMU students. This is the busiest time of the year for the course, Simpson said, and that along with the pandemic should keep the numbers high.

“You definitely know when NMU is back in session, the course is flooded with students,” Simpson said. “A great deal of disc golf players are introduced to the activity in college, and I’d expect many to find a love of either disc golf, Ultimate Frisbee or guts during their time at NMU.”

There’s more good news for the Powder Mill course, and that’s the fact that even when their prime season ends, the course remains open year-round. 

“Our courses do not close, we have people playing all year. There is no disc golf season, the sport can be played in the sun or snow,” Simpson said. “I’ve played in the negative 30s and  waist-deep snow and we still have a decent amount that plays all winter.”

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has put many things on halt for the time being, but it can’t stop a gliding frisbee floating among the trees.