It’s hard to nail down how disc golf got its start. Was it the patent for the frisbee in 1966, or the patent for the modern disc golf basket in 1975? Regardless, disc golf has exploded in popularity over the last 25 years. In 1999, the Professional Disc Golf Association had 5,653 members, and last year the association celebrated the 250,000th member.

Goshen was an early adopter in the disc golf world, adding an 18-hole course to Ox Bow County Park back in 1989. The course hosted the Disc Golf World Championship in 1996 and the “Michiana Open,” which was a stop on the Disc Golf Super Tour in 2006.

Jason Samuel was the organizer of the Michiana Open, which he proudly states had the largest purse of any stop on the 2006 Super Tour. Samuel is general manager of 91.1 The Globe and associate professor of communication at Goshen College.

Samuel started playing disc golf in 1999 in Knoxville, Tennessee, while on a trip to visit family. He was immediately hooked on the sport.

“I was obsessed and I can remember driving home thinking ‘I’ve got to find disc golf in Elkhart County,’” he said. “I could not believe there was a course at Ox Bow.”

Samuel said Ox Bow is “exceptionally challenging [and] very much a technical course.”

When Samuel started playing, the course was 18 holes, like a traditional golf course. In the early 2000s, he got permission from the park to add another six holes, increasing the total to 24. “Back then, a tournament at Ox Bow might have only 20 or 40 people,” he said.

Samuel took a hiatus from disc golf in 2007, but when the COVID-19 pandemic started, he got back on the course as a way to see friends outside while social distancing.

Ronda DeCaire, director of Elkhart County Parks, noticed this trend over the past few years.

“In the beginning of the disc golf course, there was all this excitement but then it just kind of staggered off to the regular players,” she said, “but ever since the pandemic we have noticed an increase … in the players.”

While the number of players rose at Ox Bow starting in 2020, the state of the course had fallen off. After playing on the messy course for a year, Samuel decided it needed to be rejuvenated.

“I worked with the Parks,” he said. “I was out there for, god knows how many hours, getting the course serviceable.”

The course has been cleaner with more traffic the last couple of years, hosting spring and fall leagues and the annual Ice Bowl fundraiser for food insecurity, among other tournaments. With the increase in players and events, Samuel believed the course needed an even bigger remodel.

With the newest slate of renovations, Samuel mapped out weather and flooding patterns over the last few years to put in alternate pin placements, allowing for all holes to be played year round. 

In addition, new concrete tee pads will be put in to make holes longer or shorter, which promotes new and experienced players to get the most out of the course.

The project was estimated to cost around $30,000—$18,000 of which has already been raised from the community. Then DeCaire applied for a $10,000 grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation to aid with the project.

“We wrote a request letting them know how much we already raised,” she said, “and that we would love their support on this project as well.”

The grant was awarded, bringing Samuel closer to his goal. 

“We will be celebrating the new course with Elkhart County’s biggest disc golf weekend in August,” he said. The event will be Aug 16-18 and will feature live music, disc golf tournaments, food vendors and disc vendors.

Samuel remains focused on what he believes to be the best thing about the sport. 

“The thing that warms my heart the most is, you can come out to my league and play with your friends, or your significant other, or your child,” Samuel said. “It’s very emotional for me… to give other people that opportunity.”