A makeover for Cape disc golf course

Local players, Friends group and staff join forces to provide improvements
May 12, 2022

Story Location:
Cape Henlopen Drive
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

Who knew? The disc golf course at Cape Henlopen State Park may be one of the very first courses in the world, and it was designed by one of the pioneers of the sport in the United States.

For decades, not much was done to upgrade the course. That all changed when Miguel Garces retired from south New Jersey to Milton and started a mission to improve the course.

In collaboration with the Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park, state park staff and local area disc golfers, the course has received a major upgrade this year.

The course, located between the McBride Beach Bathhouse and the Seaside Nature Center, was designed in 1978 by Ed Headrick, one of the founders of the sport. “The course is one of the most unique in the country since it is located on sand dunes,” Garces said.

In the last few years, park staff has constructed and helped to install all new white tee pads, the most commonly played of three tees for most holes. New signage has also been installed.

This past year, the Cape Henlopen Disc Golf Club and Delaware Disc Golf began to raise funds to purchase new disc golf baskets for the course. “The existing baskets have been slowly rusting over the years and badly needed to be replaced,” Garces said.

The Friends became aware of the project and offered to match the funds raised by the clubs. Garces said due to the generosity of the Friends, the fundraising allowed the park to purchase new baskets by the end of 2021.

Garces led the effort to install the baskets with help from local area disc golf volunteers and park staff. Additionally, new mats for the tee pads were also installed, making for a major refurbishment of the course.

Disc golf is a fun sport for the family and easy to play, yet challenging. The sport provides a unique recreational opportunity for park visitors of all ages and skill levels – young or old, beginner or expert,” Garces said.

About the game

Garces said the objective of the game, which closely mirrors the rules of regular golf, is to throw a flying disc into a chain basket located on a pole. The number of throws to land the disc in the basket is the score for the hole.

The discs used in the game are small and thick, and a player may use several types of discs when playing a round. A driver disc is often thrown first from the tee. It has the sharpest profile, the mass is on the outside, it’s hard to control and it sails the farthest distance. On the next throw, a player might use a mid-range disc that glides nicely and is easier to control. Near the basket, the player uses a putter disc, which is thicker, has a dull edge and is much more accurate.

There are seven disc golf courses in state parks throughout Delaware, as well as a number of county and local courses.

Garces said there are 19 holes on the Cape course in the event that park beach overflow parking impacts one of the field holes. Most holes are par 3 from the posted white tees, with two longer par 4 holes. He said about 50 people play disc golf at the park daily. Additionally, he said, due to the recent pandemic, the number of disc golfers has increased dramatically.

Those interested in playing the course can get a course map and scorecard, as well as either borrow or purchase discs, at the Seaside Nature Center.

Garces coordinates the annual Hot Foot Open at the course each year after Labor Day.

The Cape course: 3,725 yards (par 57), red tees; 5,670 yards (par 59), white tees; and 6,095 yards (par 61), blue tees.

Sport takes off in the '60s

Disc golf is among the fastest-growing sports in the United States. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, every state reported double-digit rounds played in 2020-21. It's estimated that 3 million people play the sport on a regular basis. More than 75 percent of courses worldwide – 6,652 – are in the United States.

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