Three disc golf courses close in Bend area

By Dylan J. Darling The Bulletin
Published Apr 7, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Apr 7, 2014 at 05:37AM

Three popular disc golf courses in the Bend area have closed in the past six months, leaving only two nine-hole courses as official options.

Members of the Central Oregon Disc Golf Club pulled up the posts serving as the combined 37 holes at the Lost and Found disc golf courses off Cascade Lakes Highway in late November. The removal came after U.S. Forest Service officials said they planned to close down the courses because of their proximity to planned trails. In mid-March, Central Oregon Community College removed the baskets for its campus course to make way for construction of a dormitory.

Deschutes National Forest and COCC officials say there could someday be new courses, but disc golfers say they could be years off. Derived from golf, disc golf is played by throwing discs toward a target rather than hitting a ball with a club toward a hole. The disc targets are still called holes and may be marked by a number of things, from tin cans to metal baskets specifically designed for disc golf.

For now, the disc golf options in Bend are courses at Seventh Mountain Resort and Pine Nursery Park, said Jeff Myers, of the Central Oregon Disc Golf Club leadership team. The club, which costs $10 a year to join, has about 50 active members in Bend, Redmond, Sisters and other towns in the region.

Both courses have their limitations, though. Myers said Seventh Mountain has hazards in its first holes, including paths and a swimming pool, and Pine Nursery is busy, making for slow play.

“If you go out to Pine Nursery on a Saturday, you will be looking to get through nine holes in two hours,” he said.

Normally a round on a nine-hole course should take 30 to 45 minutes, Myers said. The Pine Nursery course probably will get even busier with the closure of the Lost and Found and COCC courses.

There are other courses around Central Oregon, including the new Coyote’s Den Course at Crooked River Ranch, but all are a 30-minute or longer drive from Bend.

The Lost course was put in by disc golfers without planning or a permit about eight or nine years ago, said Kevin Foss, lead field ranger for the Deschutes National Forest. The course, in the woods north of Widgi Creek Golf Club, originally had 18 holes and was increased to 19. About two years ago, disc golfers put in the 18-hole Found course, again without a permit, adjacent to the Lost course.

Foss said the Forest Service had allowed the courses to remain until they came into conflict with another use for the section of forest — in this case, trails planned to connect to a nearby welcome station to be built along Cascade Lakes Highway probably starting this summer.

There have been other efforts to put in un-permitted disc golf courses in the Deschutes forest, Foss said, with up to 20 found and removed over the past five years. To make the courses, people clear out tee pads, and prune trees and brush to make fairways. The courses ranged in location from Lava Lands to Skyliners Road. The problem with them is they could affect sensitive plants and species, or create dangers for other forest users.

The courses also could include people hanging their own signs and installing baskets for holes, said Kevin Larkin, district ranger for the Deschutes National Forest’s Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District.

“Obviously all those things require environmental analysis and a special-use permit to be installed legally,” he said.

People caught building an unapproved disc golf course in the forest could be ticketed, with the fine starting at $250.

Now, Foss and Myers said, the Forest Service is trying to work with disc golfers to find a place to put a permitted course.

“This is a sport that is growing by leaps and bounds,” Foss said. “…There is no question that there is demand out there for it.”

Potential sites include Wanoga Butte, China Hat Road and near Summit High School.

“We need three things to have a course,” said Ryan Lane, an organizer with the Central Oregon Disc Golf Club.

Those are changes in elevation, a variety of vegetation and a place to park. Lane said the club is becoming a nonprofit and wants to cooperate with the Forest Service to create a legitimate course.

“We are trying to work with them and try to find something that would be a bit better,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

Andy Tullis / The Bulletin Cameron Sanford tees off Friday on the disc golf course at Pine Nursery while Jake Dudley looks on. Pine Nursery is one of two official courses left open to Bend.