Offbeat Sports Part 1: Disc Golf Sees Rapid Growth in Pine Belt - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Offbeat Sports Part 1: Disc Golf Sees Rapid Growth in Pine Belt

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According to the Professional Disc Golf Association's (PDGA) website, there are 3,369 disc golf courses nationwide.

60 of those can be found right here in Mississippi.

Just like ball and club golf, disc golf courses generally feature 18 holes.

The courses in Mississippi range from 9-23 holes, except for one.

The Ashe Lake Disc Golf Course, located in Brooklyn, Miss., features 27 holes, which makes it bigger than 98 percent of courses in the country.

Of those 66 courses with 27 holes, less than half of them are accessible to everyone.

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For players like Shane Seal, disc golf is a way of life.

"Many of us love just being outside, out in nature, walking in a park, and if you think about it that's really what we're doing," says Ashe Lake Disc Golf Course designer Shane Seal. "We're throwing pieces of plastic and having a walk in a park."

Much like ball and club golf, scores in disc golf are measured by throws over the course of 18 holes.

Even the equipment is comparable.

"So here's a driver that we have," says Seal.

"We also have discs that are very similar to what you would think of as irons in the game - your midrange," says Seal.

"And finally we have putters, which when we get closer to the basket and we're ready to hole out, they have a lot thicker profile, slower but easier to control," says Seal.

Despite the laid back nature of the sport, disc golf has become increasingly competitive in recent years, especially at the local level.

The Ashe Lake Disc Golf Course was the host site for two tournaments in 2013, and under Seal's direction back in 2008, the Ashe Lake Disc Golf Tournament incorporated players with physical disabilities for the first time in the state's history.

"So there were already wheelchair paths within the recreation area, so our job was to make sure that we placed our tee placements and our basket placements so they could be accessible via the wheelchairs," says Seal.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Seal says he was approached about putting in a course at Ashe Lake to compliment the already existing course at Paul B. Johnson State Park.

Eight years later, Ashe Lake features a regulation 18-hole course, accompanied by nine holes that are within the ADA compliance of the recreation facility.

"We designed our course on a tier system, where Tier 1 is pretty much a very medium grade, easy access to and from the wheelchair paths, to our Tier 3 system which is a little bit less accessible and no wheelchair paths, but we still have brail tee signs on all of the tee signs and bells on the basket to help with those who are visually impaired," says Seal.

"And we have some buzzers on the discs that allow some feedback to the players so after they throw the disc, they're able to progress toward the basket, hear their disc, find it and continue to throw until they reach the basket," says Seal.

For a sport that empowers so many, disc golf perhaps brings the most happiness to the PDGA pro.

Seal says he first picked up a disc 20 years ago, a decision that has forever changed his life.

"Disc sports in general have opened the world to me," says Seal. "I've traveled the entire United States and Canada and competed in tournaments. I've been fortunate to win a few of those. It's been great, but the friendships I've kind of formed over those years is what I value the most."

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