Two things are crystal clear when you stand on the hill overlooking holes 10-18 of the disc golf course at Veterans Park. The first, and most striking, is the panoramic view of the Seven Sisters range to the north. The second is the number of people on the course below.
Nationwide,in 2015 the Professional Disc Golf Association saw membership increase by nearly 24 percent, according to the 2015 growth chart the organization released in June.
John Garcia has had a great view of the growth of the sport locally. The owner of Lookout Brewing Co. discovered a passion for disc golf in 2014 and was immediately drawn to it.
“It all started at the brewery," he said. "A couple of the brewers got done early one day and it was nice day out. They said 'Let's go play disc golf,' and I had never played before. So four of us went out there and threw a round. They kicked my butt, but I was hooked."
Garcia is currently vice president of the board of the WNC Disc Golf Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes and develops the sport locally. Members of the 16-year-old group have helped develop and maintain courses at Mars Hill University, Enka High School and Owen High School.
The organization hosts a weekly doubles tournament at Veterans Park with as many as 40 participants, according to Garcia. The Monday tournament is best-attended weekly event at the course, he said.
Lookout Brewing, one of the tournament's sponsors, gives a pint of beer to the person with the lowest round as well as to the person who throws the closest to the pin on a designated hole. An accomplishment such as a perfect round, however, comes with a bigger prize - a $200 voucher from sponsor Pisgah Brewing Co. "And you can buy whatever you want with that, not just beer," Garcia said. "You can buy merchandise like T-shirts or whatever."
The Monday tournaments start with a 5:30 p.m. drawing, then a captain's choice tournament with a shotgun start. There is never a slow time of year for disc golf locally, Garcia said.
"In the winter we play 'glow golf' at night," he said, referring to disc that glow in the dark. "Parks and Recreation allows us to play that at night, and that's an awesome event. We get just as big of a turn-out on a Monday night during a snow storm as we would on a sunny summer afternoon."
"We also hold tournaments there from time to time," Garcia said. "I think the best way for people to get involved is to find the WNC Disc Golf Association Facebook page. It's really active and always has great information on tournaments and whatever else is going on."
The association currently has about 300 members, according to Garcia. The group's public Facebook page has more than 1,600 members. But plenty of disc golfers who are not association members can be found on the Veterans Park course as well.
"The sport itself has grown drastically in the last two years," Garcia said. "I've noticed that the access to discs has really grown. Epic Cycles and Apex Gaming Lounge, both downtown (Black Mountain) carry them. And more people are seeing it on TV too."
Those factors and the overall convenience of the sport lead Garcia to believe that growth will continue to be steady.
"Most courses are free to play," he said. "So you can just go out to a park, like the one here in Black Mountain, with two discs and play and get a little exercise. And if I play the course here by myself, I can play a round in under an hour."