After this publication released a story on the rise of winter sports, we abruptly received an email from a man who said we had left out an important one, and that he had another story for us.
Introducing, Dan Doyle.
Dan Doyle knows disc golf. As the owner of The Oasis, a disc golf center in Warwick, N.Y., he has more than 45 years of experience with the sport and is in the inaugural class Disc Golf Hall of Fame for both New York and New Jersey. And it’s not just him - it runs in the family.
His 18-year-old son Zackary placed third in the country within his age group in fall 2019, and they are both members of the Professional Disc Golf Association, or PDGA. Doyle said he registered his son in the PDGA within a week of his birth.
“It’s funny,” laughed Doyle. “He’s so young that when he tells other players his membership number, they’re shocked by how low it is.”
Doyle is familiar with the type of visitors he attracts at his disc golf course, and it’s usually the competitive sort. “Those are the best disc players in the country right now,” said Doyle, pointing out a group of older men in front of him and this reporter at the Oasis.
But this story isn’t about them.
The poster children of disc golf
Toni Chaplin and her two daughters, Dawn and Kristee, know fun. For almost a year now, they have played disc golf on courses like Doyle’s almost every weekend - laughing, joking and trash-talking as they go.
Doyle noticed the three rambunctious women at the Oasis around six months ago, when they were going nearly every day, and could immediately tell that what he was seeing was something special.
“To me they’re like the poster children for what the game is. Just come out and play and have some fun,” said Doyle. “Whoever’s having the most fun is the real winner.”
The trio of women, all Sparta, N.J., residents, got into the sport right in the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s now become their go-to activity to do together.
Kristee and Dawn are both IT Project Managers at their respective companies, while Toni teaches adult art classes at Sparta Parks and Recreation. When COVID first hit and Kristee and Dawn both started to work remotely, the three went out to disc golf courses every day, as an escape for some peace.
“Because of COVID, we’re out here a lot,” said Dawn. “It’s almost like our little bubble.”
The three don’t take the game too seriously. They don’t play by the rules, and mostly use it as a time to bond. The trash-talking and bad-mouthing is an added plus. “Maybe it’s just us that curses,” Kristee joked with her mom Toni.
“If you were to read about the sport beforehand, you might get intimidated because of all of the technical terms and the rules,” said Dawn. “We don’t really play it that way though.”
According to the PDGA, the rules to disc golf are as follows:
A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target, which is the “hole.” The hole can be one of a number of disc golf targets; the most common is an elevated metal basket. As a player progresses down the fairway, they must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw landed.
The trees, shrubs and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. Finally, the “putt” lands in the basket and the hole is completed. There are (usually) 18 holes in total, spanning out acres and acres of land.
Places like Warwick, N.Y., are hugely popular spots for the sport due to its large rural properties and spread out terrain that are needed for well-done and challenging disc golf courses.
“It’s kind of like throwing something at a target while you’re hiking,” said Dawn.
The sport is also easily accessible. No matter your age, gender or athletic ability, disc golf is a great way to get out there and play a game just for the fun of it.
And if you’re passionate enough, you can also hit the disc golf course in the winter-time, snow and all. The three have not tried to play in the snow yet, but said they have played in the low 30s. “It’s refreshing and you warm up pretty quickly,” said Dawn.
The trio are huge advocates for the game, and think it’s important for more people to go out and try it, as it’s also naturally socially distant.
“It feels great to get outside with all the COVID restrictions, especially as it got colder,” Kristee said. “We don’t keep score against each other, as we just go out and have fun. This is something that has been my escape and therapy during COVID.”
Along with disc golf, Doyle is also dipping his toes in the beer business. He plans to create a brewery with his friend, Charlie Holmgren, right next to the Oasis sometime next summer. “Charlie will be my brewmaster and we will be 50/50 partners in the Snufftown Farm Brewery, located right in the Oasis.”
The Oasis itself was named after Doyle’s wish to create a place to relax and seek refuge. The brewery is his final step in that creation. He also invented a term to describe what he’s doing, which he calls “fungriculture.”
“I describe it as ‘a philosophy incorporating aspects of Agriculture, Permaculture, Farmsteading, Socializing and Recreating where a landscape is created via sharing, collaborating, teaching, growing, creating, experimenting, and experiencing in a supportive, caring, fun, frolicky, passionately playful environment in order to nourish the land, the community, and one’s heart, mind, body, and soul.”
It’s a mouthful for sure, but it captures the essence of what Doyle wants to create.
“I’ve carried the concept from vision to action and now all that’s left is the last phase: fruition. These three women and their playful spirit are the ‘poster children’ for the vibe I have imagined.”
Go out and try it
Doyle hopes to have more people of all walks of the earth join the Oasis, and eventually wants to start a league right in Warwick. To do that, he needs more women players - which is more difficult to find then you would think.
“I don’t know why more women don’t go out and try out the sport more,” said Kristee. “We see a lot of men here. It’s such an easily accessible sport, and I tell all of my friends and family to try it out.”
Toni shares similar sentiments. “I’m an art teacher. I tell everyone of my students and colleagues to try it out,” she said. “Finally, after months of talking about it, one woman told me she went out and actually bought the discs.”
“Out of 142 students a week, I get one person to actually try it,” she laughed.
It’s a shame, as the three women know how special this thing that they’ve created on the course is.
“When I go into work on Monday and someone asks me ‘how was your weekend, Toni?’ I just start laughing. Everyone probably thinks I’m crazy but it’s just because this has been so fun each weekend,” said Toni. “I want more people to have that.”
The Oasis is open every day, sunrise to sunset, and is free to the public. Discs can be borrowed for the day, but feel free to BYOD, or bring your own disc.