Fore-season golfing in the Ad’ks

Ross Conover, a professor at Paul Smith’s College, launches a frisbee at the beginning of one of the holes of the school’s disc golf course. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

PAUL SMITHS — As anyone who lives in the Adirondacks knows, having a multitude of pastimes lined up for the winter months is essential. And Paul Smith’s College is offering an outdoor activity that most may not think of.

The college’s recently designated north campus, near the Visitor Interpretive Center, is home to an 18-hole disc golf course, and the professor behind the amenity says winter is a great time to play, especially since it’s free and open to the public, and can easily be done on snowshoes or cross country skis.

“For one, I’ve been passionate about disc golf myself for probably 20 years,” Conover said on his motivation for building the course. “For another, our students are really outdoor oriented, like most everybody in the Adirondacks, so I thought it would be something that would really catch on here.

“There aren’t many students who have played disc golf at Paul Smith’s, so I thought it would be something that would really catch on and it has. There’s at least 30 students that I know that come out here regularly.”

There is a sign-in sheet at the tee for the first hole, and Conover leafed through finding people from all over the state, as well as Pennsylvania, Ottawa, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Ross Conover watches his putter fly toward the basket on the fifth hole of PSC’s disc golf course. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Conover said the PSC course is the only 18-hole course within the Blue Line, but said there are some holes at Saranac Lake High School, at Whiteface Mountain, in Cadyville and at AuSable Chasm. He added that the course was also built with the local community in mind.

“Paul Smith’s is always interested in creating any kind of additional activity up here that can be used both by the students and the community to keep connections between the community and the college,” he said. “So this is low impact to the environment; offers year round outdoor recreation; (and) you can cross-country ski it or snowshoe it in the winter time (or) walk it in the summer.

“It’s free, it’s open to the public, it’s on a beautiful plot of 50 acres, it’s lakeside to Osgood Pond.”

The Jackrabbit Ski Trail, which begins at the VIC, passes through part of the course, offering a little more skiing if one were so inclined.

The course was built on old silviculture plots that past students have managed, and Conover said many of the fairways were already in place in the form of old roads. He said the course, which has several holes along the pond, is also heavily wooded in between holes, which he said is safer for players and better for the environment.

The Paul Smith’s College disc golf course can be snowshoed and played during the winter months as well as in the summer. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

“There was an alum who said he worked out here in the ’50s or ’60s, so it’s got a history of management,” Conover said. “But it hasn’t been quite as active lately in that regard. So to that extent it had been sitting idle.

“This particular site — there’s no hunting here, it’s close to the VIC — can tie into Osgood Farm as we try to increase the activities here. So everything just perfectly fell into place.”

Conover and a couple of locals — specifically Eric Moreira — designed and built the course over the last three years, and the college paid for the holes to be purchased.

“The entire college was very supportive of the effort, but Jim Tucker, Matt Dougherty, Andy Johnstone, Shannon Oborne and Nicholas Hunt-Bull were also important in offering assistance in a variety of ways,” Conover said. “Andy Testo has also been very supportive from the VIC perspective and our facilities department, particularly John Carver and Chris Moore, have also been supportive via winter plowing.”

He added that GIS professor Mel Johnson built the course map.

Unlike “ball golf,” as Conover calls it, disc golf holes are actually baskets that stand about three to four feet above the ground. A hole consists of a fairway, or long, wide-open area, and golfers then must get a disc into the hole to finish. The PSC course’s holes are each rated for par, and par for the course is a 65.

Also similar to traditional golf, the course is laid out in such a way as to make it easy to play the front nine, and then be close to the parking area. Although the layout is similar to a golf course, disc golf holes are considerably shorter. Traditional golf holes are measured in hundreds of yards, whereas the PSC course holes are measured in hundreds of feet.

And while there is a whole industry that has developed around disc golf — Conover has a special disc bag with “drivers” and “putters” — all that’s really needed is a flying disc and the desire to play.

The PSC course is carry-in, carry-out and Conover said students and the public have been really good about cleaning up after themselves. If the parking lot is not plowed, parking is available at the VIC and the course can be accessed via a short walk.

For more information, including rules of play, go to www.paulsmiths.edu/barkeater-dgc.

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