As more people are picking up the sport of disc golf, the need for more courses is becoming more apparent. Fortunately for us locally, the fine folks that make up the GAS Disc Golf club have been hard at work putting a new course in the ground in Northwest Ohio. The brand new course at Mary Jane Thurston State Park in Grand Rapids, Ohio has been officially opened to the public. There have even been a small handful of league nights, doubles nights, a collegiate event and the GAS club championship at the course already.
We wanted to learn a little bit more about what all went into this new course, so we had an opportunity to chat with some of the leaders of GAS Disc Golf.
Saucy Disc Golf: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about Mary Jane Thurston’s new disc golf course. Let’s just jump right into the questions. First off, a two-part question: what was the reason for choosing MJT, and were there other locations that GAS was also considering putting efforts into?
GASDG’s Kevin Vollmar: When starting the Club, we knew we wanted to quickly make an impact in the area. For at least a year before the Club was founded, a few of us talked about how great of a location Mary Jane Thurston State Park would be for a disc golf course, especially over time if we can utilize the woods between the campground and marina. After founding the club, we decided to try and make this a reality. We reached out to the ODNR and they were extremely receptive about getting a disc golf course. The director at the time oversaw the state park at Van Buren, which has a disc golf course, and she had mentioned how popular it is. Instantly, we knew we were on to something.
GASDG’s Cody Wright: To piggy-back off what Kevin has said; many of the courses in the area are centered more towards the BG/Perrysburg/Toledo geographical area. We knew that we wanted to try and fill the void that existed in the Wood County area between BG and Defiance/Bryan. My dad, Tony Wright, informed us that the park director at MJT was highly receptive to the idea and gave us her information. As Kevin stated, we spoke with her and she said that she was the director over Van Buren as well and that she is highly receptive to the idea of a course being installed at MJT. As far as other locations, everyone is going to spitball ideas on where it would be a cool idea to put a course, but none of those ideas ever got past the “dream” stage.
Saucy Disc Golf: Who all was responsible for the design of the course?
GASDG’s Ryan Fackler: When it comes to the early planning of the course, Kevin and Cody were definitely the leads on the design. They went out into the woods and planned the holes. Some of the holes were forced to change due to the way water sat in the openings that we later found out when we started final designs in the woods.
GASDG’s Kevin Vollmar: There are quite a few people who were involved with course design. Different areas of the course saw different people provide design ideas and feedback. Some of those involved with the course design in no particular order are the following: myself, Cody Wright, Paul Harris, Kendrick Lemle, Ryan Fackler, Ryan Toth, Brandon DeRan, Jason Thomas.
Saucy Disc Golf: How was GAS able to fund the course installation?
GASDG’s Paul Harris: We have incredible support from the local community in and around Grand Rapids. We were able to secure a sponsor for each hole (including the practice basket) that covered the cost of the basket, concrete tee, and tee sign for the sponsor’s respective hole. Additionally, we have held two fundraisers (Thirstin’ at Mary Jane Thurston) in conjunction with the Parks and local breweries to raise additional funding for the continued installation and improvement of the course.
Saucy Disc Golf: What’s your favorite hole on the course, and why?
Cody Wright: At this moment, I would have to say Hole 4 is my favorite. The tight fairway combined with the OB and trees off the tee make it a nervy tee shot. It’s also important to the course in the sense that any vehicle entering the park immediately has a view if people are playing the hole. It is a good hole to immediately draw attention to the fact that there is a disc golf course at MJT.
Kevin Vollmar: This one is still tough for me because I think we have a lot of fun, challenging holes. We also have so many ideas on how to improve our current setup so it could definitely change as we progress. If I had to choose at this moment in time, I would say the Maumee River Monster, Hole 9. It definitely isn’t in its final form and we are eager to make adjustments. When we get some minor changes completed on it, I think it is going to be one heck of a great hole. I love its challenge and its uniqueness as there really aren’t any other holes like that one around here.
Paul Harris: My favorite hole is easily Hole 12. I really enjoy the basket placement on the hill that rewards aggressive tee shots and punishes poor putts / approach shots.
Ryan Fackler: I’m going to say Hole 9 as well. So far I think I have witnessed the only solo three on the hole but I think it plays well to my strengths and it makes you think about where you are going to throw and where you will land to set yourself up for a putt.
Kendrick Lemle: My favorite hole is currently Hole 13. I enjoy throwing a low hard line that must flex right around the trees by the basket. The branch that is currently hanging low off the tee pad has been adding an extra layer of difficulty by forcing the shot to be low.
Saucy Disc Golf: One year from today, what do you think the course record will be?
Cody Wright: For GASDG events I agree with Kevin and Kendrick that a double score of (-16) is entirely obtainable. This was very close to being achieved in our Monday double league run by Kendrick Lemle and Jay Fehser. As for a sanctioned singles round, I think a (-13) or (-14) is realistic from a highly skilled player.
Kevin Vollmar: I feel like the doubles record will be (-16) and the singles record will be (-13). That being said, my qualifiers are this: doubles must be a GASDG doubles round so we have record of it and the singles round must be sanctioned.
Paul Harris: I think we’ll have to see how the woods section continues to wear-in over the next year. Every hole on the Day side is birdie-able, and I think it’s in the woods that strokes can be lost over the course of a round. I would expect to see a -14 to -15 down from a 1000 rated player out there in the next year.
Ryan Fackler: I think (-14) is very realistic for a singles score in doubles my partner was able to birdie the two hardest holes on the course by himself and other than a few holes we both threw bad shots we were cruising to (-14) (9 for obvious reasons and 11 because you kinda have to get lucky)
Kendrick Lemle: Doubles (-16), Singles (-13)
Saucy Disc Golf: How many eagles do you think the course will see on Hole 9 over the next year?
Cody Wright: I don’t foresee any eagles being hit in an official sense on Hole 9 in the next year. The hole will be “touched-up” but will largely remain the same and the difficulty should not decrease from the intended adjustments. To put it into perspective on what you would need to do to Eagle this hole… You would have to have an amazing placement shot to the ideal landing zone at the corner (~250-280 off the tee) and then essentially ace what would be the equivalent of a longer Hole 5 because of how the basket is hidden behind some guardian trees. I don’t have the numbers but would like to see the probability of those 2 things happening but I would think highly improbable is the best descriptor.
Kevin Vollmar: I don’t think there will be any eagles over the next year on the Maumee River Monster. Even after a great job, the way the hole is protected between the trees, it almost doesn’t allow for a throw in. You need a fantastic drive to set up a great approach for an opportunity to putt for birdie on hole 9. I think we will hear of ‘lore’ that an eagle was hit, but unless it can be validated in a league’s doubles or a sanctioned round, I won’t recognize it.
Paul Harris: 0. No chance. Unless we start playing it as a par 5.
Ryan Fackler: I think it is possible due to the fact that i saw a solo three and have gotten par a few times on it myself if you get to the ideal landing space i think the forehand skip will be the best chance you will see for the eagle
Kendrick Lemle: We are planning on doing some work to make the hole slightly more forgiving. However, I do not think the suggested changes are going to make the hole easier, just more forgiving. I do not think during a club event we will see an eagle in the next year.
Saucy Disc Golf: The Club Championship tournament is already in the books. What events are planned at the course for the rest of 2022 and what events could be coming in 2023 and beyond?
GASDG’s Kevin Vollmar: Now that the GAS Disc Golf Club Championship has concluded, we are working on planning for the 2023 GASDG Club season and we are super excited about that because it will most definitely include MJT. Still this season, Kendrick Lemle and Jay Fehser are running a random doubles league that goes through most of October. GASDG’s new Club year starts October 1st, 2022 and we are already looking at MJT to host a sanctioned league in the fall, but nothing is finalized yet. Once we arrive to calendar year 2023, GASDG will most definitely be integrating MJT as a large part of its sanctioned singles rotation. It is very possible that GASDG also hosts more tournaments in 2023 and having them at MJT. Beyond that, nothing is certain yet except for the Club Championship tournament, which we plan to have at MJT each year.
Saucy Disc Golf: Are there any other plans or projects you all are still working on at MJT?
GASDG’s Kendrick Lemle: The course is currently in phase 1. We have no plans to leave the course as it currently is. There are multiple quality of life improvements we are looking to do (mulching fairways, continuing to fight poison ivy, etc.) as well as hole specific changes. Hole 9 and 11 are the two that we are reviewing, but we are taking the time to fully evaluate them as we want them to remain challenging. Down the road we would love to add multiple pin positions, potentially more wooded holes, as well as long tee pads, but nothing has been officially decided.
Saucy Disc Golf: For out-of-towners that might be reading this article before heading to the course, where’s a good place to get a bite to eat close to the course?
Cody Wright: Our Hole 18 sponsor Wild Side is always a fantastic spot to stop and eat/get a drink or two! Other places that I would recommend with the stipulation that you check their hours would be Knucklehead’s Kafé, LaRoe’s restaurant, Snyder’s Pizza, and Fernando’s Mexican restaurant!
Kevin Vollmar: Definitely hit up Wild Side! They are our Hole 18 sponsor and they are just a short walk/drive away in downtown Grand Rapids. Hole 18’s basket finishes by the canal and the towpath next to it takes you to beautiful downtown Grand Rapids where you can find all sorts of food and/or drinks!
Paul Harris: I’m not local to GR, but Wild Side definitely has great food and great brews. They’re even the sponsor for our 18th hole, so in a way you could say that Wild Side is the proverbial “19th hole” at MJT.
Ryan Fackler: Other than what has already been mentioned if it is a hot day and you are in need of ice cream Rita’s Dairy Bar is a great place to go.
Kendrick Lemle: Wild Side Brewery, and Knucklehead’s Kafé!
Saucy Disc Golf: Are there any other big plans currently in the works for GAS? Any new courses, course upgrades, tournaments, leagues or anything else you would like to talk about?
GASDG’s Kevin Vollmar: Oh man, we have so much going on right now. It is craziness, but we absolutely love it! We just got our ARPA proposal approved by Bowling Green City Council to have $20,000 dedicated to improve/update Carter Park’s disc golf course and we will always be working to improve MJT. We are always looking to provide as many league, tournaments, and events as we can; however, our plans are largely based on membership involvement. We have had some awesome growth and have amazing members who are doing great things from running leagues, organizing membership benefits, running tournaments, and assisting with event logistics. Along with this, we constantly are looking to engage with the community. We would love to continue expanding too but it will be a controlled growth as we don’t want to burn anyone out. We love ideas and finding ways to engage with the community through disc golf!
Saucy Disc Golf: I think that wraps up my questions for now. Thank you all so much for your time answering! It was a pleasure meeting you recently at a doubles night, and I absolutely love the course. The hard work you all have put in shows. I look forward to getting back there soon!
Learn more about GAS Disc Golf and become a member: https://gasdiscgolf.org/