Disc golf: Sinnissippi Park boasts a destination course in the Midwest
|Justin Cutter, of Sterling, putts at the basket on the 17th hole of the frisbee golf course at Sinnissippi Park in Sterling on Sunday afternoon. Over the next 2 months, six more permanent holes will be added to the 18-hole course. (Philip Marruffofirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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Eighteen days ago, David Wiggins Jr. broke a 10-year-old record by throwing a plastic disc 836 feet in Primm, Nev.
Snapping off such a monster throw of his 134-gram Innova Blizzard Champion Boss required some oomph. Tim McNinch hopes, with time, he and the local disc golf community can achieve a different sort of feat of strength.
The annual Illinois Open Series tournament will take place at Sinnissippi Park on Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24. It’s a Class B event that will draw upwards of 200 frolf fanatics.
The dream is for the area to someday feature three professional-caliber courses, which would accommodate a three- or four-day, Class A event that could draw top-end talent.
The present bodes well for the future as, over the next 2 months, six new permanent holes will be added to the already spectacular course in Sterling.
“Anything that anyone wants to try to do – if it involves more than themselves – it has to be similarly felt by more than just that person, or it doesn’t get done,” McNinch said. “If and when it gets done, it’s because there’s enough oomph behind it. These additional six holes? There was plenty of oomph behind them.”
“Credit the local disc golfers,” said Doug Jacobs, the Sterling Parks District’s director of parks and planning. “They raised all the money for the baskets, and the concrete was paid for by donations.”
McNinch envisions a second course on the back of Sinnissippi Park and another at Sauk Valley College, where educational grants could match half the installation cost.
There are already two other local courses in Rock Falls – one at Nims Park and another recently installed course at Joshua Park, just off Route 30. While variety is the spice of life, the courses are on the small side – the equivalent of par-3 courses in golf.
Nims Park Course measures 2,462 feet in length. Joshua Park’s course spans about 4 of the park’s 7 acres.
Then there’s Sinnissippi, a challenging, well-manicured course that was born in 1982 and can play as long as 5,294 feet, depending on hole placements, of which there are plenty. Each of its 18 holes feature at least three pin placements. One has eight possible targets.
“Sinnissippi is one of the finer courses in the Midwest,” said McNinch, who every year tries to take a trip to play some of Wisconsin’s marquee courses.
While the game is downright accessible – free to play and requiring nothing more than discs and a penchant for fresh air – Sinnissippi whets the appetite of the game’s most staunch connoisseurs, with mature trees lining many of the fairways.
“In disc golf, you can do that – match what they do in golf,” McNinch said, “but you can also complicate it with trees, timber, thick forest or a creek or a river.
“Sometimes the more hazards, the more difficult – and the more fun – it is.”
The signature hole is the fifth, whose tee box is near the pavilion. The fairway rolls down the hill and through the oak trees. The bucket is nestled on a jetty of land on the other side of the Sinnissippi itself.
The foot bridge is relatively new. When brutal rainfall – and a fallen tree – devastated the old bridge, disc golfers volunteered to build a new one. It took four weeks, but the product speaks for itself.
“It’s solid,” McNinch said.
Such rallying by those passionate about plastic is par for the course. When violent winds ripped down more than 30 trees last year, they showed up the same day, asking how they could help.
“The course is basically totally dependent on volunteers and the people who use it,” Jacobs said.
The parks department is equally steadfast, stretching its shoestring budget as far as possible.
“It’s amazing that Sterling can do what they do on the budget they have for the parks – to keep everything mowed and keep it looking as nice as it is,” McNinch said. “They’ve been very open and gracious.”
Completing another course at Sinnissippi would need to jibe with the district’s utmost goal – maintaining balance at the gorgeous and versatile park.
“Anything’s possible,” Jacobs said. “There’s always that danger of too much of a good thing. Sinnissippi is a lot of things to a lot of people – people who play baseball, hikers, bikers. You have to have balance. I’d never rule anything out. But it would ultimately depend on the layout.”
Get your gear
Discs, bags, baskets and other accessories are sold at Air Play Sports & Espresso
Where: 115 E. 3rd St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
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