There's a new league in town.
Disc golf enthusiasts are meeting every Monday this summer for a little friendly competition at Chester's new course at Cole Memorial Park.
The league is free to anyone who wants to play, both adults and juniors. So far, eight players have turned out the first two weeks, with the youngest player in seventh grade. Tee off is at 5:30 p.m. through Aug. 29.
If you prefer to have a little skin in the game, the league offers optional cash games. It costs $2 to enter the Closest to Pin contest, with the kitty going to the player who gets closest to the pin on a designated hole. Each night's cash game costs $5, with the pot going to the top finishers, depending on how many players enter. And $1 into the ACE pot goes toward a rolling prize for a player who gets a hole-in-one -- something that hasn't happened yet. The pot carries over each week; so far it's up to $22.
You don't have to register or even show up every week since the standings don't carry over.
"If you miss one week, it doesn't hurt you at all," said Mark Hostert, who is running the league.
Disc golf is relatively new in Chester. The nine-hole course at Cole opened in April 2021. Hostert credits college student Jarrett James with getting the discs flying in Chester. Hostert says James took the idea for the course -- which he designed -- to the Parks and Recreation Department over the pandemic. They liked the idea and worked with James to make it happen.
Now, more Chester residents are getting in on the fun. "I myself had never heard of disc golf until we got a course here in town," said Hostert, who grew up in Steeleville and lives in Chester. Now he's working to help others discover and explore the sport.
So, what is disc golf?
It's like golf, but with Frisbees. But these discs are not regular Frisbees. Players use three types of discs -- putters, midrange and drivers -- depending on where they are on the hole. Players are trying to get their discs into the basket in the fewest number of throws, just like in golf. But Hostert says while it's similar to golf in scoring and rules, it's different in athleticism. "Throwing it right is the hard part," he said.
The course at Cole Park is nine holes, par 33. On Mondays, the league plays the nine holes twice. Hostert describes the course as shaded and hilly with some woods. He says it has some technical aspects, but is "not overly easy and not super difficult."
On Mondays, the league typically plays singles. This week, June 27, they will be trying something different -- random draw doubles. Players will be paired with a random partner in a format similar to a golf scramble. But instead of always playing the best disc, it will alternate. Odd holes will be best disc, even holes will be worst disc, giving both players a chance to actively participate. "Next week is a perfect week to come out and try," Hostert said.
Eventually, Hostert would like to see the course expanded to 18 holes. He and several other players have a plan for 18 holes with a front nine and a back nine, where you could play just the first half and exit easily if you just want a quick game. He says the Cole course is already attracting out-of-towners, and he thinks the extra holes would be an even bigger draw.
As someone relatively new to the sport, Hostert is eager to spread the word about disc golf. He sees it as a way for people of all ages to get outside, be physically active and have inexpensive fun. A starter set of discs costs only $20 to $35. "This is a sport you can play without spending a lot of money. It's good exercise, low cost and a good time."
That's one of the reasons Hostert, a special ed teacher at Carbondale Community High School, has teamed up with the Chester Recreation Department to offer clinics next week for kids.
Clinics will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, June 27, for ages 9-12 and Tuesday, June 28, for ages 13-17. Sign in at Shelter No. 1.
Hostert said he will focus on teaching the basics of the sport so kids can enjoy leisurely games at Cole Park with their friends.
The cost is $20 before Thursday, June 23, and includes a three-piece disc golf starter set. Registration costs $25 after June 23.
Hostert said he worked with Spider House Disc Golf in Benton to get discs at cost, so the starter sets kids will be receiving are worth the cost of the clinic alone.
To sign up, call (618) 826-1430 or email email@example.com.