When Newberg native Derek Penfield returned home from the University of Oregon last fall, he realized there was still very little organization among disc golfers in the area.
It didnt take long for Penfield to find some likeminded players, like David Aman and Burke Walls, who also saw that the lack of cohesion in the local disc golf community was preventing the game from growing.
In particular, it meant that area courses, like the Oak Grove Disc Golf Course at Champoeg State Park, were in disrepair and showed no signs of getting better anytime soon.
Eventually, the trio helped form the Friends of Champoeg Disc Golf in order to turn things around.
Nearly a year later, the group is on the verge of not only performing needed course maintenance, but also redesigning and expanding the course into one they believe will be among the best in Oregon.
Its a cool project and good to be a part of something, Penfield said. Come six weeks from now, this course is going to (see) a big change for the better.
The group completed its first major step in the renovation last week, pouring concrete pads and expanding the holes from 15 to the standard 18.
The former tee pads were basically rubber mats and had not been changed since they were originally installed with the course in the early 1980s.
I think the upgrades to the tee pads is the No. 1 thing because for a disc golfer, having good footing can make or break your game, regular player Buck Rich said. And were in Oregon, so we get a lot of rain. These pads are not good to throw on when wet.
The group has already purchased three new baskets and plans to replace all of the other 15 when it has raised enough money. The new top of the line Disc Golf Association Mach X models are a drastic improvement over the current baskets, many of which are outdated and worn.
The three new baskets, one of which has already been installed on No. 9, along with the concrete tee pads, will allow players to play the new layout, which will lengthen many holes, including four par 4s, to make the par 58. The new layout will actually include four new holes, as the current No. 2 will be removed.
Its going to become a destination course, Penfield said. Thats the goal because how many people drive past the (I-5) exit when its 10 minutes off. People are willing to drive half an hour or more to play good courses.
Some players have expressed concern about changing the layout of the course because the relatively open and short setup of the course has made it beginner friendly, but the group is doing two things to accommodate newer players.
The first is that the old tee pads will not be removed and will instead function as short or amateur tee pads. The group does plan to add new pin placements to lengthen some holes, but will not remove the current ones so that they will still be used, alternating back and forth with the new.
Second, the group has also received approval from the park to install a short and beginner-friendly family course of about six holes that will be located on the island inside the road loop at the center of the Oak Grove day use area.
I like the idea of a more challenging course out here, said Rich, who learned how to play on the course five years ago and now comes to the weekly doubles league that is held every Thursday evening. It will make it even more worth the drive.
Members of the Friends of Champoeg Disc Golf have been fundraising to reach the $12,000 it will take to install new baskets on all 18 holes and are nearly halfway to that goal, but are also starting a crowd-sourcing campaign using Kickstarter. They hope to raise a total of $15,000, with the extra money going to further improvements, like tee signs, a new kiosk and benches along the course.
This will just become a big complex, Penfield said. With the family course in the middle, 18 holes, the best baskets and really nice tee pads, its going to be a much improved course and one of the best in Oregon, for sure, once it gets in.
To make a tax free donation or to learn more about upcoming work parties on the course, visit the Friends of Champoeg Disc Golf page on Facebook.