Written by Rita Hanch

Whether young or old, competitive or simply looking for a way to get active, the sport of disc golf has gained popularity across the United States because it welcomes players of all varieties. Disc golf gives players the opportunity to take a hike in the beauty of the outdoors while enjoying a light, yet competitive game. There are many reasons the community is blossoming in Kirksville and beyond, specifically at the course in Rotary Park. 

For Truman State seniors Taylor Heisson and Dane Bossert, disc golf has transcended from an average sport to one that is strengthening their friendships and studies. 

The two friends are involved in many things together, including a religious small group, the Ultimate Frisbee team, and the Health Science program at Truman. Disc golf has become an important part of their college experience. Heisson explains that he loves the challenge the sport presents.

“You can always improve and there’s plenty of courses around,” Heisson said. “The sport is very variable, each time you go out to play it could be a completely different scenario.” 

The practice basket at the Rotary Park Disc Golf Course in Kirksville, Missouri.

Along with the disc golf-themed church small group they lead, Breaking Chains, they also hosted a beginner-friendly tournament for their Health Science 440 Capstone project. Titled “Living the Course”, the tournament was scheduled for Sunday, October 6, at Rotary Park and welcomed people of all ages and skill sets. 

“We’re focusing on leisure, physical activity, and spending free time doing something active,” Bossert said. “Disc golf mostly involves walking, but also it’s sociable. This gives people a marked goal, something to focus more on, during their leisure time.”

They hope that through this tournament more people in the Truman community will be exposed to the sport and pick it up in their free time. To fund the tournament, they connected with Donny Powell, a local businessman, course designer, and the self-proclaimed “voice of disc golf” in northeast Missouri. 

Powell is in charge of the local disc golf leagues and owns a disc golf shop. He also serves as the event coordinator for the NEMO disc golf club. Like Bossert and Heisson, he also found his love for the game back in college. 

“It was finals week and my brain was fried,” Powell said. “A friend of mine suggested that we go disc golf and at first, I thought that sounded stupid, but we went out and he mopped the floor with me and I had a real problem with that. I decided that I was going to figure out how to beat him…and so I did.” 

Hole One at Rotary Park in Kirksville, Missouri.

Now married and with kids, Powell says the longevity of disc golf allows people of any age to stay active.

“Your body is not going to function at the level it functions when you were 19 to when you’re 40 unless you do a lot of work, so this allows you to be competitive,” Powell said. “Low risk, low impact, low cost.” 

Powell began transforming the local disc golf community four years ago when he moved to Brashear, MO, about 20 minutes east of Kirksville. Along with organizing tournaments to raise money for worthy causes, such as, “Playing for Polio,” Powell keeps in close contact with the Kirksville Parks and Rec Department to work on adding new courses around town. Although his plans to build courses at Thousand Hills State Park and Kirksville High School fell through, Powell has designed courses in Memphis and Shelbina, Missouri, and has hopes for designing more. 

“We’ve met with Rodney Sadler, with the Kirksville Parks and Rec department,” Powell said. “He’s told us of a couple of different properties we could put 9 hole courses, so we’re in the phase of how we can get the money together. As long as I’m here, I want to keep popping up courses so that this place has five to six, even ten courses within a half-hour drive.”

Donny Powell putting for the score at the Sever Lake Course in Herdland, Missouri.

As Powell works towards setting up more beginner-friendly courses in the area, his disc shop 3one7 Discs located on the site of Anderson Computer Consultants LLC in Kirksville allows people to begin or add on to their disc collection. The store’s mission coincides with Powell’s goals: “We are a small company looking to make a big impact for the sport of Disc Golf in North East Missouri.” Accessibility to equipment is fairly inexpensive and he wants to make this clear to everybody. 

“I would start people with one disc and that would be a mid-range, based on plastic level, that would determine durability mainly, so the least durable $9 to $10, at the most $18 to $20,” Powell said. “You can just start with one and it’s no big deal. You can start for $10 and you can legitimately do it as long as you can walk up a hill.”

Not only do people have access to the 19-hole course at Rotary Park any time of day, but disc golf courses can be found across the state of Missouri and all over the United States. The sport can be enjoyed anywhere from the flatlands of Kansas to the higher altitudes of Colorado. 

If you want to learn more about the sport or view more information about Bossert and Heisson’s capstone, visit https://www.livingthecourse.org/why-disc-golf.