Until recently, playing disc golf on the Bucknell University campus was a makeshift ordeal.
"We made a course using targets around campus: the door to the Observatory, the bison statue in front of the KLARC — we had a bunch of different targets," said Caleb Paasche '20, a member of the Mudsharks, the Bucknell men's Ultimate Frisbee Club. "Now that the course is up, people are pretty excited to have a formal place to play."
The course Paasche alluded to is just that — a permanent, 12-hole disc-golf course snaking its way along Moore Avenue and through the Bucknell's historic Grove of old-growth trees, complete with steel-and-chain target baskets decked in orange powdercoat paint — which took shape on campus this fall thanks to a collaborative effort bringing together several student organizations and University offices. Proposed by the Ultimate Frisbee and Outing clubs, the addition was sponsored by Bucknell Student Government with funds from the student activity fee and designed and installed by Bucknell Facilities.
"We have more than 120 student organizations and we want them to work together and collaborate where they can, to reach the most students and get the greatest benefit," said Mike Duignan, director of campus activities & student organizations. "Projects like this are the true essence of what that co-sponsorship funding is all about."
Both Paasche and Brian Picarillo '18, vice president of the Outing Club, said the course provides an easy, low-key way to share an activity they love with a broader audience of students.
"Outing Club leads trips on the weekends where we do things like caving and paddling, but those trips require leaving campus, having gear and making a substantial time commitment," Picarillo said. "This course is for those who might not want to do all that, but still want to get outside and do something fun. They can go down to the gym, rent some materials and spend a half-hour or an hour on whatever part of the course they want. And they don't need guides, they don't need gear other than what we lend them — they don't even need to leave campus."
The project also brings to campus an opportunity for outdoor recreation that was previously hard to access. The nearest disc-golf course is at the Selinsgrove Area School District Campus, about 15 miles from the University. The next closest are in Hughesville and State College, each about a one-hour drive away.
Par 3s Between the Trees
The new course is open year-round to anyone with a Bucknell ID and discs are available for free rental at the front desk of the Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center (KLARC). Discs come in beginner and intermediate sets, each containing a driver, mid-range disc and putter.
The course's architects and masterminds are Carl Troup P'04, supervisor for Bucknell Facilities and an avid disc golfer of two years and Floyd Houdeshell, the husband of a Bucknell staff member who is "as close to a pro disc golfer as you can get," according to Troup.
"We looked at many different angles," Troup said. "We actually brought discs in and tried different shots to see what was working and what wasn't."
The course they devised makes the most of the varied terrain of Bucknell's campus. After a pair of open warm-up holes on the Sojka Pavilion lawn, a chain of tricky par 3s squeezes between old-growth trees as it ascends, descends and crisscrosses the steep incline of the Grove. The course's final hole is its longest and only par 4, traversing more than 500 feet of open hillside between the Elaine Langone Center and Rooke Chapel.
Troup noted that the course planners kept safety in mind — "we didn't want to be throwing discs where there are a lot of people around," he said. But Ken Ogawa, associate vice president for Facilities, added that routing the course through the Grove was also an intentional effort to bring students into closer contact with one of the campus' most historic and beautiful areas.
"The trees in the Grove have been around since Bucknell has existed and we wanted to bring more students into this special section of campus," Ogawa said. "That was a driving force of the project. But it also meant we had to make sure we weren't degrading the integrity of the space — that we were improving it."
Duignan added that all targets can be removed as needed for events such as Fall Fest and Bison Sound, which take place on the Sojka lawn.
The course receives high praise from those who've played it so far.
"When I found out it was open, I got a couple of my friends and played," Picarillo said. "We really enjoyed it — we were out for probably two hours."
The course is currently 12 holes long, although the planners hope to expand to a full 18 holes as time and funding allow. The next leg will likely wrap around Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium before finishing up in a wooded area across Route 15. Organizers also want to add more formal, permanent markers to indicate tee boxes. Duignan said he hopes the course becomes a feature that unites generations of Bucknellians.
"I'm hoping in 10 years these students can come back and remember, 'I was a part of that'," Duignan said. "There's a pride returning alumni take in saying, 'this is what I was able to contribute during my time and the fact that it still exists is pretty amazing.' "