By Cole Parkinson
With discussions around bringing an 18 hole disc golf course to the Taber area, a local pro has given his support for the project moving forward.
Craig Burrows-Johnson, a certified Professional Disc Golf Association tour official, course designer and pro player for over 25 years who has played all over Canada and the U.S., is happy to see the initiative taken by Willy Friesen and Johnny Thiessen in trying to bring the game to Taber.
“It sounds like these guys have a lot of energy, it sounds like the proposal was well received by the town and I think it would be a great addition to the town of Taber. It is something I have thought about because my par- ents still live here so I’m back quite often. I have looked around at sites,” said Burrows-Johnson.
As a designer, he has worked on courses in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Cardston, just to name a few.
With a few areas discussed by the group looking to bring a course to Taber, specifically the Trout Pond and paintball area west of the Municipal District of Taber Park, Burrows-Johnson himself has a few ideas as to where they could look to install the needed infrastructure.
“I’ve looked at both of those and I don’t want to get too involved or step on anybody else’s toes here. But I don’t see a good course going over by the Trout Pond. It’s too flat and kind of boring, it’s windy and I don’t see that. There is a possibility down in the valley and that is the first place I looked because I know there’s the (M.D.) park down there. But there are a lot of RV sites down there and they’ve got group sites so the area east of the bridge I couldn’t see it. West of the bridge is where the paintball area is, maybe but the area may be being used and I don’t know if it’s still going on. If you were to put a course down there, there would have to be some landscaping.”
The biggest help when looking to build a course is having infrastructure around the area that would be beneficial to any players looking to play.
“When I build these courses I look for existing infrastructure — parking and bathrooms, if those are in place and the landscape looks suitable. It’s also nice to have water, and of course, people can bring their own but it’s nice to have,” explained Burrows-Johnson.
With one area looked at as the favourite in his mind, Burrows- Johnson also highlighted one other area the group could consider.
“There might be one other site here in Taber. I’ve seen courses in these sorts of areas before but it does require more active management because it is a very large manicured site and I can see at least enough for nine baskets out there — it’s Ken McDonald Sports Park. It’s big, it has parking, bathrooms and there’s quite a lot of time where the sports fields aren’t being used. There is quite a bit of room between the fields and there is landscape around there with some trees. I really haven’t laid anything out there but I’ve looked at a lot of these park land- scapes before and it might work. It would also be something where when the fields are being used, disc golf probably couldn’t run at the same time.”
While no one has approached him about designing the course, Burrows-Johnson is more than happy to provide any insight to any questions the group may have.
The good news as Burrows-Johnson puts it, is there are options of where to place the course in the region and with the positive reception the project has gotten so far, there should be no issue in constructing the needed infrastructure.
“There is no such thing as a typical place to play disc golf. I’ve designed courses in the mountains, in manicured landscapes like Nicholas Sheran Park (in Lethbridge) and I did three courses in Medicine Hat. They are all manicured, urban parks.”
While disc golf may not traditionally be a popular sport, it has blown up in terms of popularity in the last several years.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, the sport once again got an influx of new players due to the low cost to play and because you were able to social distance while playing.
As many courses are free to play, Burrows-Johnson expects the popularity to continue to grow in the Taber area and if a course was built here, it would be a huge benefit in growing the game.
“It’s a sport that is accessible because the cost is low,” he explained, while also touching on the fact it is accessible for all people.
“I played for years up in Calgary with a guy who was in a wheelchair, kind of a Rick Hansen kind of guy with good upper body strength. He was a good player, we could play head to head. He’d beat me, and I’d have an advantage because I can see over bushes and things but, he was good enough to beat me. I can’t think of another sport where an able-bodied person could actually play against a disabled person and it would be kind of even.”
Friesen and Thiessen attended Taber town council’s Sept. 28 meeting requesting land at either the Taber Trout Pond or west of the paintball area, and council accepted their presentation as information.