By Steve Hill — RattlingChains.com Staff
Like many disc golfers, Brian Giggey’s beginnings in the sport evolved quickly from recreation to obsession. Giggey, however, took his love of the game one step further:
Giggey is the founder of Explore Disc Golf, a Massachusetts-based company specializing in course design, equipment rentals, and “Mobile Disc Golf Experiences,” which bring the courses to the people. Through the business, Giggey’s aim is to use the sport of disc golf as a way to have more people interact with nature, while also teaching customers about their surroundings and the game.
“Our slogan is ‘turning the course into a classroom,’” Giggey said. “We believe that disc golf seamlessly lends itself to a variety of environmental education opportunities, in addition to education about the sport of disc golf.”
Education is what first brought Giggey to the sport, he said. While spending long hours in the design studio during his graduate studies in landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Giggey would use disc golf as his reward for getting his work finished.
“I started buying up more discs and learning their flight patterns,” he said. “That’s when it became a full-on obsession.”
Giggey’s other diversion from school was music, which led him to often playing rounds with singer/songwriter Zach Deputy, an Innova Celebrity Ambassador. After graduating, Giggey hit the road with Deputy as a tour manager, and the down time during the day provided plenty of opportunities to play disc golf all over the country.
This touring ended up being valuable reconnaissance work for Giggey’s future business, as it turned out.
“I had the opportunity to play a lot of courses and see some of the voids within the sport and in design – all of which we based Explore Disc Golf off of,” he said.
This experience has come in handy when designing courses, as Giggey is able to implement his experience as a player and his work as a landscape architect to create courses that are both visually impressive and technically sound.
“One of our biggest challenges is trying to push forward in our course design, yet still appeal to what disc golfers are used to,” Giggey said.
Something that disc golfers may not be used to, but what Giggey (who is also a former ball golfer) employs in his design, are walks between holes that can make or break a player’s round from a mental standpoint.
“For me, coming from a traditional golf world, long walks are strategically designed and placed within a course to make you think,” Giggey said. “If you can keep the ‘one shot at a time’ mentality, you’re all set. But if you just made a double bogey on a semi-challenging hole, and then you have a two to three minute walk to the next tee – all the while looking at the water you need to traverse – you may quickly compound that double bogey with another double bogey. And all that came from a strategically-placed walk between holes that gave you nothing but time to think.”
While this kind of design element may sound devious to players who have not honed in their mental strength, Giggey’s main focus is not to destroy a golfer’s round. Instead, it is to make a player connect more with the environment he or she is playing in and to appreciate where the course is located. This is where Explore Disc Golf’s concept comes to fruition.
“Each hole is given an environmental topic that runs throughout,” Giggey said. “Usually the topics are site-specific, as one hole may talk about the history of the site, while other topics include more general themes like negative impacts of impervious surfaces, native plant material versus invasive plant material, rare habitat species, and so on.”
In addition to the outdoor education involved on each hole, Explore Disc Golf also uses tee signage to inform players about some of the evolution and history of the sport.
“The disc golf education is located on the tee sign itself and will feature a variety of topics, from growth statistics of the sport to proper throwing techniques and form,” Giggey said.
But for those people who cannot make it to one of Explore Disc Golf’s courses, Giggey has another, reverse “Field of Dreams” solution.
The company’s Mobile Disc Golf Experiences are brought to parks, fairs, and music festivals. Explore Disc Golf sets up portable baskets, rents out discs, and provides brochures to educate attendees about disc golf and their surroundings.
In short, if they are coming, Explore Disc Golf will build it.
“We design, install and remove the course,” Giggey said. “We put up environmental education signage at significant on-course features, and provide the vending hub for patrons to come over, ask questions, and pick up free rental discs so they can go try the sport for themselves.”
Explore Disc Golf recently held a Mobile Disc Golf Experience at an event with 1,000 people, but Giggey said he was hoping for more customers. This weekend, the company will be at the StrangeCreek Campout in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and Giggey said he is excited to bring the game to the more than 7,000 patrons who are expected to attend.
“We’re expecting to make a big splash,” Giggey said. “Even with last week’s low attendance, people were extremely excited about the service.”
And if Explore Disc Golf keeps bringing the game to more people, Giggey will be there to challenge the conventional notions of course design and educate as many people as he can along the way.
“The educational and interactive nature of the sport has barely been scratched, and we’re excited to fill in some of those voids in the upcoming years,” Giggey said. “Courses will demand more from players, while players will demand more information from the course, and we are confident that we’ll be able to provide that.”
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.com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.