Disc golf course brings unique view of archabbeyMay 15, 2017
By ALLEN LAMAN
ST. MEINRAD — In the Catholic Church, St. Joseph of Cupertino is said to have levitated during prayer. He is the patron saint of air travelers, pilots and students, and just recently, the disc golf course that spans about 2 miles of hills and wooded areas at the St. Meinrad Archabbey.
Winding and twisting around ponds, up and down valleys and through tight openings in the forest that surrounds the monastery, the pitch is comprised of par-3 holes that snake players all around the incredible building.
Officially named Cupertino’s Course, the sprawling design was engineered by Colby Elbert and Kelly Edwards, two deacons studying at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology who graduated with Masters of Divinity Saturday. Elbert and Edwards came to Spencer County from Joplin, Missouri, and Edmond, Oklahoma, respectively. Elbert is 33 and Edwards is 31.
The nine-hole course officially opened last September after countless hours of planning and prayer by the duo.
“Wow, this would just be a beautiful place for a disc golf course,” Edwards said as he recalled the memory he had of seeing a particular valley on the school’s campus during his first year there in 2010. “There’s all these beautiful parts of campus that nobody ever really goes through. Disc golf was a nice way to get people out and walking through the woods and through these beautiful valleys.”
The pair picked up the sport during their undergraduate college years and have amassed over two decades of combined disc golf experience. The sport is played like regular golf, but instead of using clubs to knock balls into holes in the ground, players chuck the plate-sized plastic discs hundreds of feet and into chained baskets that resemble bird feeders.
While disc golf really took off in the 1970s, there are many historical accounts of people playing golf with a flying disc, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association. The Frisbee was patented in 1966, and the Disc Golf Pole Hole — the basket throwers aim for while playing — was patented in 1975.
Edwards held on to the idea of a course at St. Meinrad Archabbey after that thought in 2010 and scribbled out possible basket locations on maps of the grounds, while Elbert pitched creative ideas to him.
Through a connection he made with a fellow disc golfer while throwing a round in Louisville, Elbert came in contact with professional player, Disc Golf Hall of Fame member and course designer Dave Greenwell, who actually fished on the Archabbey grounds with family when he was a child. He returned to St. Meinrad from Louisville last year and helped the two tinker with the course design.
But their goal of starting the course was stalled because of lack of funding for the necessary baskets until Father Tobias Colgan — with the Order of St. Benedict and vice rector of the seminary — took the project under his wing. The chains started clanking last fall thanks to funding from the seminarian recreation budget.
Previously, the nearest course for the seminarians was an 18-hole pitch at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville. Elbert and Edwards have also played courses in Louisville; near Corydon, Kentucky; and in Brandenburg, Kentucky, during their time in the Midwest.
They said a handful of seminarians make the effort to play on the St. Meinrad course every day. The course is free and open to the public. Players need to bring their own discs to play.
On April 29, St. Meinrad hosted an inter-seminary tournament that drew in seminarians from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri; Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis; and Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. A total of 23 disc golfers competed, 17 of which were visiting seminarians. Nine temporary baskets were set up in addition to the nine permanent holes to make an 18-hole course for the competition.
Elbert won the individual contest and he and Edwards placed first in the team scramble round.
“People get serious about it and want to focus on their individual shot, but I’m not unhappy if (someone else) does well,” Edwards said. He went on to say he does enjoy winning, but he doesn’t actively cheer against players like fans might do when a player on an opposing team is shooting a free throw at a basketball game.
“I think the social element is good, too,” Elbert added, later saying he likes to strike up conversations with fellow players and sometimes vent about his day to friends while he plays. “I think it’s easier to bond when you have an activity you do together. (The course) really will build up fraternity and community, and that’s kind of the idea of sports in general.”
The two hope the course will one day grow to have 18 permanent holes. It’s their baby, and they’ll miss it when they return to their dioceses this summer. Now that he’s designed a course, Elbert said he might do it again if he doesn’t have anywhere to play after his ordination.
“There’s very little environmental impact and there’s very little environmental upkeep,” Elbert said. “So, it’s really easy to take a natural space and make it a disc golf course. And it’s still kind of inconspicuous.”
Added Edwards: “It’s been really cool to see the community take it on as their own and become proud of it.”
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