Visit Disc Golf “Disneyland” Right Here in the Mid-West
Posted on Apr 22, 2020
The Disneyland of Disc Golf
Often referred to as disc golf Disneyland by players, Emporia, Kansas, is a disc golfer’s playground with offerings for the beginner to the world-class competitive player. Emporia’s courses are so expansive that they attract players from across the world. Each year the largest disc golf tournament in the world, an international competition known as the Glass Blown Open, is held in Emporia. The GBO is an international competition hosting 1,700 players representing 47 states and 10 countries. In 2021, the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships will be held in Emporia. This will be Emporia’s second time hosting the pro worlds.
So, why is Emporia so popular for disc golf? It’s about the multitude of offerings and the people that make this city a great place to chase the chains whether you’re a local or you live across the country. Among Emporia’s offerings are four disc golf courses that are located in public city parks in Emporia. Jones Park has two courses, Jones East and Jones West. “I would call them more intermediate to advanced courses,” said Doug Bjerkaas, director of HR and events coordinator at Dynamic Discs, which is headquartered in Emporia. Jones East and Jones West can be combined to form Jones Gold, which creates a tougher 18-hole layout. This is used during the Glass Blown Open and will be used during the PDGA worlds, Bjerkaas said.
Another popular 18-hole course is located at Peter Pan Park. Experience for this course isn’t necessary but recommended due to opportunities to lose discs in the water. “Many people call that their favorite course,” Bjerkaas said. “It’s challenging, it’s technical and it has a lot of water. It has lots of trees and lots of tight lines you have to throw your disc on. It’s a funny course because beginning players all the way up to professional players love Peter Pan. The downside there is if you send somebody there to play disc golf who is just beginning it can be fun, but also there are eight to nine holes where they can lose a disc in the water. That gets a little bit frustrating for new disc golfers.”
Hammond Park is among Emporians’ favorite courses as it’s short and good for beginners. The nine-hole course doesn’t have any water. “You can go out and play that course and not lose a disc,” Bjerkaas said. “I see more new disc golfers playing that 9-hole course in Hammond than any of our other courses. I think it’s one of the best things Emporia has done disc golf wise. For so long, we were focused on disc golf courses that would be great to use in the Professional Disc Golf Association.” Bjerkaas said most pro disc golfers didn’t start on championship-level courses and Hammond Park allows disc golfers to gain experience before taking on the larger, more complicated courses. “Most (Pro disc golfers) played on some small course somewhere where they were able to get hooked on the game. And Hammond Park is that park to a tee,” Bjerkaas said.
Emporia’s disc golf offering doesn’t stop at the city park-based courses. Businesses around Emporia have incorporated and embraced disc golf. “Our goal is to really stitch disc golf into the community,” Bjerkaas said.
One of several courses around the city is at Emporia Middle School. The school has an 18-hole course that goes around their entire campus. This course, designed for beginners, has two sets of tee pads at each hole — a long pad and a short pad. “It’s a fun course,” Bjerkaas said. “It’s a fantastic, solid beginner-level course.”
Additionally, Emporia RV Park has a six-hole course. “It’s a fun little course,” Bjerkaas said. “It has water on a couple of holes. A lot of people play that little six-hole course.” Flint Hills Technical College has a nine-hole course that is also good for beginners. There’s also not a lot of opportunity to lose a disc and it’s the least-wooded course in town, Bjerkaas added. New Life Christian Church also has a nine-hole course east of Emporia. “That’s a very popular course,” Bjerkaas said. “It has very wooded holes and is very shady in the summer.”
A world-class premiere championship course is located at the Emporia Country Club. The public can pay a greens fee, rent a cart and use the course, Bjerkaas said. “I highly recommend renting a cart,” Bjerkaas said. “It’s the premiere course as far as really experienced disc golfers. It’s a tough course.”
Additional Options Just Down the Road
Within 10 – 40 minutes of Emporia, several other disc golf courses are available for people to use, including the towns of Cottonwood Falls, Council Grove, Elmdale, Osage City, Reading and two just south of Emporia at Olpe. Olpe, with their famous Chicken House restaurant, is about ten miles south on Highway 99 and has a nine-hole course and an 18-hole course. “(The Olpe courses) are ones we use for the Glass Blown Open as well,” Bjerkaas said.
In addition, Dynamic Discs has portable baskets they put up not only during tournaments, but local fundraisers as well. Dynamic Discs began hosting Ace Races about three years ago, which serves as fundraisers for local schools and local community organizations. “If someone comes to us and says ‘hey, we want to do something disc golf related,’ whether it’s to raise money for school or charity, we jump on the chance to do that,” Bjerkaas said. “Those are fun events.”
The Perfect Storm
Bjerkaas said Emporia truly is the Disneyland of Disc Golf with a large variety of options, geographic location and the way the community rolls out the red carpet for players.
“I always tell people we are in the perfect storm,” he said. “One, we are in the middle of the country and we are on two major interstates. Being on Interstate 35 also allows us to have a few more hotels and our population is perfect. If we were much bigger (the competitions) would be a blip on the radar.”
Emporia is welcoming to competitions and competitors. Bjerkaas, who used to come to Emporia to play tournaments before working for Dynamic Discs, said the whole town welcomed them and treated them like rock stars. “Emporia just has a knack for embracing guests more so than any other place I’ve played,” he said. “That is not true in 99 percent of other disc golf tournaments.”
When the all clear for travel and social interaction begins again, please consider a visit to disc golf Disneyland, also known as Emporia, Kansas!