A multi-year project to bring a disc golf course to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7119 in Lawrence is coming to a close, with a “soft” opening planned for Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Quartermaster Rudolph Buchholz said the post has about 26 acres at its site at 6525 Lee Rd., and through the years members noticed activity they didn’t really want — paintball games, deer hunting, etc. They started talking about how to better manage the land.
Buchholz said he is an avid disc golfer, and — not really thinking the others would be interested — suggested a disc golf course. The idea was well-received, though, and in summer of 2020, post officials started looking into how to make it happen.
“It was just going to be a side project that we kind of kicked around for a while,” he said. “(But) I was talking with people at the City of Lawrence and I kind of mentioned our interest in doing this and they got very excited.”
Buchholz said those city officials had been considering building a disc golf course at Lee Road Park nearby and threw support to the VFW’s plans. They provided information about grant opportunities, which helped move the project forward. And, he said, area disc golf clubs were eager to help.
“Turns out there’s a lot of pent-up demand for a new disc golf course,” he said, adding that some of those clubs already had done some fundraising for new courses. “We found an instant partner in the two big disc golf clubs in the area, the Hamilton County Disc Golf Club and the Indianapolis Disc Golf Club.”
Buchholz said the project snowballed from there with a successful fundraising campaign, energetic volunteers and an experienced disc golf course designer.
“The best disc golf course — by several different review sites — in Indiana is down in Brown County,” he said. “And the gentleman that designed that actually lives around the corner from the post.”
Buchholz said that designer, Jerry Suiter, signed on to design the VFW’s new course and has been out working on it several times a week to make sure it’s done right.
Buchholz said offering this new activity for post members and their guests is a way to attract new members to the VFW — veterans who are younger and haven’t yet joined.
“Many posts have older members from Vietnam or Desert Storm,” he said. “We’re looking to engage with post-9-11 veterans more. But at that stage of life, they’re the busiest — they have families, they have children, they have careers that are kind of peaking — they just have a lot going on.”
That means they probably don’t have time to engage much with VFW Post activities, he said, but they might be willing to play a game of disc golf.
“They can come out, enjoy the property, and if we have benefits and programs that can help them, they could be made aware of it just from some simple signage by the course,” he said. “And then later on in life, if they do have more bandwidth, they’ll know our post and they’ll already have a relationship with the VFW.”
Buchholz added that there’s a longstanding connection between the military and traditional golf. Disc golf is very similar, he said, but much more accessible.
“Most courses are free,” he said. “The time commitment is much smaller, and the cost is much smaller. You could buy a real fancy Frisbee for $25. You get cheap ones for $8, and you could play a whole round with one Frisbee if you wanted to.”
A disc golf game for a group of four takes about an hour if you include time spent socializing with fellow golfers, he said. If they’re more focused on the game, it can be completed in less than 45 minutes.
Buchholz said the course will be available to VFW Post 7119 members and their guests. They’re working on a process for guests to be registered.
“That’s another part of this that we’re excited about is the public in general having a chance to interact and meet veterans,” he said. “We’re going to have a guest policy where they can come in and they’ll have access to the course.”
The soft opening on Veterans Day is open to VFW members and will introduce a 10-hole loop, he said. In addition to the disc golf amenities, the course will include a memorial trail, art installations and informational signs.
They expect the full 18-hole course to be completed by July.
Disc Golf — How does it work?
Disc golf is, in many ways, just like regular golf, said Rudolph Buchholz.
“It plays exactly like golf does, only instead of a ball, you have a Frisbee, and instead of the club, you throw it,” he said. “Your target — instead of a hole in the ground – there’s a basket that has chains in it that catches the disk.”
The rules are the same as golf, he said, and so is the terminology. To play, you throw the Frisbee and try to get it into the target in as few throws as possible.
Disc golf courses are not as large as a traditional golf course, though, and disc golfers prefer obstacles, such as trees, so the land doesn’t need to be cleared. Disc golf courses also don’t need to be dedicated to that one activity.
“Most disc golf courses here at all the parks we have in the Indianapolis and Carmel area are multi-use,” Buchholz said. “You will see them winding through walking trails and you’ll see them around other park activities.”
The game also is a low-impact activity that Buchholz said people can continue into their later years.
“Throwing a disc does not require a great deal of torque or range of motion,” he said. “I’ve played in tournaments with 80-year-olds. Here in Indianapolis, they have a very active 50-60 (year-old) division.”