Disc golf has come a long way since the 70s when kids were throwing Frisbees at trees on college campuses. Now, there’s backpacks, fancy gear and discs in varying weights and sizes for putting, driving and chipping, and people can even go pro.

For others, like Gillette transplant Michael Rensch, it’s a great way to get outside with his buddies and roam the rolling, lush green terrain at Energy Rotary Club Disc Golf Course at Cam-Plex. He and about a dozen others have started a league that plays on Tuesday nights and Saturdays. Usually, there are half a dozen guys who turn out each week, depending on the day of the week and work schedules, but on this particular Tuesday, the crowd is a bit thinner given the unseasonably cold spring weather and the menacing purple clouds clotting overhead like a large bruise.

Competing in the league means playing against yourself to beat your own personal best. That said, the guy with the lowest score gets to hang onto the no. 1 disc and ultimate bragging rights, and they throw in $5 for anyone who gets an ace, or hole in one. Rensch has yet to net a fiver, though he has received a buck for getting a black ace, which means accidentally hitting the wrong hole in one.

Tonight, the guys take turns launching their discs from a cement pad as they work their way through each of the 20 holes on the course. With their backpacks full of discs, stacked neatly like plates in a dish rack, the guys admit it’s pretty easy to spend some cash when it comes to buying equipment, which come in a variety of sizes and weights much like golf clubs. Some of the discs can get pretty pricey too, averaging between $16-$20 a piece, and sometimes, up to $25. Each disc has a flight number, speed and glide factor stamped on the plastic, and it’s become popular among players to also dye them to make them more distinctively unique.

Like anything else, all of the players have a unique throwing style, which varies according to the obstacle of that hole and the particular disc being used. There’s the spin putt, push putt and overhead lob, to name a few.

According to the Disc Golf Scene, the course at Cam-Plex was designed in 2004 by Gillette locals. The front nine is wooded while the back 11 holes are longer and wider, more open, with a challenging tunnel obstacle and a 700-foot downhill pitch on the 16th hole. According to a survey on the Disc Golf Scene website, the course received a B+ rating, with many commenting on the many improvements over the years, including pads, baskets and hole placement.

Rensch, who is originally from Rapid City and started the Campbell County Disc Golf Association two years ago, has been playing disc golf since he was 13. Now 28, he began playing as a way to stay in shape during the off-season of wrestling, and it just kinda stuck.

He likes the camaraderie and the fun form of exercise, much like the others who have all come out to compete. The playing levels range from novice to serious competitors, from Chris Blakeman, who just started last fall, to Gabe Fischer, who recently returned from a competition in Kansas, where about 1,600 people played.

The athletes have also started their own local tournament in honor of friend and climber Matthew Sorenson, who died in a climbing accident near Devil’s Tower. This September, they’ll be holding the third-annual Matthew Sorenson Memorial Disc Golf Tournament, with all proceeds going to Joe Heather Zabel Family.

It’s a fun sport, Rensch added, and they are always recruiting new members, regardless of gender, age or skill level. Anyone can join, so check out their Campbell County Disc Golf Association Facebook page for course info, practice and game times.

By: Jen C. Kocher
Photos: Adam D. Ritterbush

Disc golf History

The sport of disc golf was established in 1976 by “Steady” Ed Headrick, the father of the modern disc sports and driving force behind the era of Frisbee sports. Headrick trademarked the term “Disc Golf” after inventing and patenting the original Disc Pole Hole. He had originally wanted to call it a Frisbee Pole Hole but ran into trademark issues with Wham-O, owner of the Frisbee brand, where Headrick was also vice president. After creating the Disc Golf Association and the Professional Disc Golf Association, Headrick released the term ‘disc golf’ from trademark restrictions in order to help grow the sport. 

Matthew Sorenson Memorial Disc Golf Tournament

If you are interested in participating in the Matthew Sorenson Memorial Disc Golf Tournament or becoming a sponsor, details can be found on the Campbell County Disc Golf Association Facebook page or by contacting Kevin Couch at kevin.couch@anbbank.com or (307) 680-5688.


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