Like most disc golf courses, the one Trent Solomon designed and installed evolved from an idea into an arduous task. Filled with setbacks, delays, and even injury, Solomon’s course finally came to fruition in March, joining the numerous other disc golf courses being installed each year.
There is, however, one exception that makes this project stand out from the rest — Solomon’s course is located in Haiti.
Open Door Haiti Disc Golf Course is the first of its kind in the Caribbean island nation. Comprised of four portable baskets, it sits on land that also hosts a church, a mission house, and a medical clinic in the city of Bois de Lance, about a half hour outside Cap Haitien.
Solomon, 24, built the course while on a mission trip to work at an orphanage in Haiti. The orphanage houses children who were displaced by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which devastated the country in January 2010. The mission trip was facilitated by Open Door Haiti.
Originally, the plan was for Solomon and his father to do electrical work for the facility, but it became much more.
“The thing that really got me was the orphanage was actually built specifically for orphans from the earthquake,” he said.
Being an avid disc golfer for nearly four years, as well as an assistant manager at retailer Marshall Street Disc Golf, exporting the sport to Haiti came naturally to the Winchendon, Massachusetts native.
“I came up with the idea to bring some Frisbees, or discs down there,” Solomon said. “You know, whatever I could bring just to give them something new to do.”
Solomon planned to gather discs from whomever would donate them, reaching out to fellow players, disc retailers, and even some of the top manufacturers in the sport. Despite striking out with most of them, he found success with Vibram, who donated five discs; Marshall Street, who donated a box of 30 lost and found discs; and Maple Hill Disc Golf Course, who also donated lost and found items.
But where he had the most success was by posting in the discussion forums at DGCourseReview.com.
“I was blown away,” Solomon said of the response from the online community. “I was expecting maybe to get 100 discs. I was expecting to get more laughs than anything. (I was expecting to hear) ‘Why would you want to bring discs to Haiti? Why would I donate my stuff when I can sell it?’”
Instead, he heard the sound of people who wanted to pitch in. Some players sent one disc. Others sent 20 or more.
When all was said and done, Solomon had collected more than 300 discs to take on his journey.
“I was absolutely blown away by the generosity,” he said.
Adam Wright of Walhalla, South Carolina was one of the forum users who donated to Solomon’s cause, contributing 30 discs to the trip. For Wright, giving away his discs was a way to further the game.
“I believe in doing whatever it takes to expand the reach and enjoyment of disc golf,” he said.
Plus, he said he knew the children in Haiti would reap the rewards of trying something new.
“I truly believe that the kids that will be touched by disc golf because of Solomon will be better off for it,” Wright said. “What kid doesn’t like to watch the flight of a disc?”
Even though he was stocked with donations, Solomon had to actually get to Haiti, which proved to be more difficult than he first imagined.
After originally planning to make a mission trip with his father’s church, Above All Ministry, shortly after the earthquake, Solomon’s plans were derailed. First, the walls were not yet erected at the orphanage. After that, the foundation was poured incorrectly and had to be entirely replaced.
By the time the orphanage was ready to go, more than a year had passed, and Solomon and his father were going to finally make the trek in October 2011.
“Then I broke my leg in September playing disc golf,” Solomon said.
He said he doesn’t remember all of the details, but while playing on a wet Hole 13 at Hunt’s Mean 18 in Rindge, New Hampshire, Solomon slipped after reaching down to grab his mini.
“I heard a pop, and the next thing I know I was on my back,” he said.
The resulting injury left him in a cast for two and a half months, further delaying an already postponed mission.
At this point, the whole idea was simply to bring discs to Haiti, not a course.
All of that changed after Solomon hosted an Ice Bowl this past January at which the winner received a portable target. After hearing about Solomon’s trip, the winner donated his prize to the cause.
“Once the guy donated the basket for the Ice Bowl, I was like, ‘Now we have a basket, we can maybe put the basket somewhere and have four pads go to the basket,” Solomon said.
His father, though, took the idea one step further, contacting Innova to receive wholesale pricing on three additional portables.
“So we brought down all the discs and four baskets with us, with the intent on building the course at the orphanage,” Solomon said.
However, the orphanage posed logistical and safety challenges, being that most of the children there are younger than eight years old. So, the course was moved its existing location, which actually centered the activity around more people.
But even with the move to a safer location, hazards were abound.
“It got a little crazy at times,” Solomon said. “They’d never seen discs or Frisbees. The first time we pulled them out we kind of just had them all throwing them in the field, and somehow that turned into Frisbee dodge ball. A couple people got nailed and it was pretty funny.”
Solomon and his fellow missionaries – a group that included high school students who sacrificed their Spring Break to make the trip – held demonstrations at the adjacent school to help educate the children about disc golf. In all, they introduced more than 150 people to a new sport.
“I don’t know how well-ingrained it got, to how to play all the way,” Solomon said. “But they know to throw the disc in the basket.”
Dave Hoey, the manager at Marshall Street Disc Golf, said he was more than impressed with the enthusiasm of one of his employees to grow the sport.
“Never mind the fact that he went down there to help set up a school, which would probably be enough to keep him busy like any other normal human being,” Hoey said. “But the fact that he had another goal, to introduce all those kids, everybody, to disc golf, is just great.”
Hoey also mentioned the benefit of disc golf providing a needed diversion from every day life, and how that can apply to anyone, anywhere.
“I remember throwing Frisbees as a kid growing up, and it’s not that hard to throw a Frisbee. It’s not that expensive, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “So I would think that these kids loved it.
“They need a little pick me up,” Hoey continued, “because they’ve certainly gone through a rough time the past couple years. And disc golf is a great way to provide exercise and entertainment that’s inexpensive with your friends and family and community.”
Solomon also acknowledged the joys of bringing the sport with him.
“It’s just something I felt that I needed to do and that I felt led to do,” he said. “I didn’t do it with any other benefit other than wanting to see the looks on their faces.”
And how would he describe those looks?
“Priceless,” he said. “They just had so much fun and they all lit up in smiles. You know, we’re talking some of them are two years old and they’re never going to know their parents.
“So just being able to give them, even if it was only for 20 or 30 minutes, a smile, this made the whole trip.”
Steve Hill covers all angles of the game for Rattling Chains, even if he can’t hit those angles himself. Contact him at steve [at] rattlingchains dot com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.