Flying High

Disc golf continues to soar at Kenneth Rosland Park.
Bobby Hart tries out the disc golf course at Rosland Park.

The disc golf course at Kenneth Rosland Park in Edina was built by the will of the people. In 2002, a group of high school students approached leaders in the parks department about building a disc golf course. Students had been playing other courses in the metro area, but wanted one to call home.

The students, motivated in part by a senior project at Edina High School, worked out a design. They measured other disc golf parks to get a feel for layout and hole distance, and with the help of Timmy Gill, a professional disc golfer from Edina, created a blueprint for a course in the middle of Kenneth Rosland Park.

“We didn’t want to take down any trees if we didn’t have to,” says Donna Tilsner, former recreation supervisor for the city of Edina. (Tilsner is now the recreation supervisor for the Edina Senior Center.) “Trees add another challenge. That’s part of the fun of [the game].”

Although the course doesn’t host any sanctioned tournaments or events, it definitely gets used. Drive by on a summer day and you’ll likely see players, from teenagers to adults to families, using the course.

“It’s a neat thing because it doesn’t cost anything, and you can have a variety of skill levels and go have a great time,” Tilsner says.

Disc golf has seen a steady increase in popularity in recent years. Paul Thompson is an Edina resident and heads the environmental advocacy group Cool Planet. He’s also an overall flying disc player and an avid disc golfer. Actually, he’s really more of a Frisbee encyclopedia in general.

Inside Thompson’s home is a room full of Frisbees that date back to the ’40s and ’50s, plus various Frisbee memorabilia and score sheets from competitions he’s taken part in over the years. A retired second-grade teacher, Thompson, 65, began playing with Frisbees as a small child and fell in love with the devices. He now plays anything Frisbee-related, from disc golf to ultimate Frisbee to freestyle competitions, and also travels to schools to do demonstrations for kids.

“There was a saying in the old days that when a ball dreams, it dreams it’s a Frisbee,” Thompson says. “A Frisbee can do so much. Balls kind of go where you want, but with a Frisbee you can throw it into the air and all of a sudden it’s somewhere else.”

It’s important to note that there is a difference between a classic Frisbee and the discs used for disc golf. All are formed from the same basic design, but golf discs, much like clubs in classic ball golf, feature drivers, mid-range discs and putters. Drivers are designed for distance, whereas mid-range and putting discs are made for control on shorter shots.

Thompson pointed out the accuracy target in his backyard as he showed off his various discs and explained how each is used in the sport. He’s played courses all over the country and likes that Kenneth Rosland Park is especially family friendly, with a less challenging course layout.

More than anything, Thompson showcases how attached players are to the sport. The joy of being outside and connecting with the environment is what gets Thompson out playing disc golf.

“Frisbee players believe that someday they’ll just never come down,” Thompson says. It’s the perfect metaphor for a sport that continues to grow, and the reason you’ll probably see a pack of disc golfers the next time you drive past Kenneth Rosland Park.