Par for the Course – Disc Golf at Gould
Greg Young P’19 is standing behind the backstop on Lombard Diamond overlooking Gould’s lower athletic fields. With his self-proclaimed quarantine haircut, gnarled beard, and wraparound Oakleys, he looks like he’d be more at home at a Phish concert than in the boardroom with his fellow trustees at Gould. He selects his custom “Steal Your Face” putter to tee off on the first hole of Gould’s newest attraction, an 18-hole disc golf course.
Hole 1 features an elevated tee and a short drop shot to the pin one hundred feet below. No long-distance driver required. The wind coming off the Mahoosuc range is substantial, but Greg floats a delicate shot just beyond the basket, narrowly missing an ace to start the round.
“If that went in, I’d have to go home right now,” he laughs, happy to be playing the sport he loves.
After descending the steep railroad tie staircase to the basket below, he sinks his birdie putt while perched on one leg, kicking off his inaugural round on the course his gift made possible.
The rest of the group also played a significant role in the course’s creation. Making up the foursome is course designer and Gould senior Alexander Baribeau ’21, Director of Experiential Learning Chris Hayward, and Jerry Bernier, who, as the director of buildings and grounds, literally cleared the way and installed baskets and tees.
While the rest of the group are disc golf amateurs, Young is a seasoned veteran. He doles out friendly advice and pointers as they walk the course. His love for the game is palpable, his enthusiasm is infectious.
“I learned disc golf in my high school years and it has been an enormous positive influencer for my entire life,” says Young. “My hope is that this gift will provide a similar experience for generations to follow.”
Chris Hayward was approached during the early planning stages and immediately recognized it as an opportunity to engage students.
“It presented itself as a great opportunity for a Senior Four Point project, and Alexander jumped at the chance.”
With Hayward, Bernier, and Athletic Director Bob Harkins on board as his mentors for the project, Alexander set forth to design Gould’s own course.
“I faced plenty of challenges throughout the design process,” says Baribeau. “Avoiding the Nordic trails and the soccer fields, clearing trees and rocks, and managing my time were the biggest struggles. But I am grateful for the mentors that helped me push through.”
“It’s a great facility for the community. We have some experienced students and are looking to them to help develop the culture and establish league play,” adds Harkins, who is in his third tenure with Gould. “It’s fun and it’s challenging—in a time where so much has been taken away it’s a great addition to campus!”
The course is challenging. Even for experienced players. But these limitations won’t hold back the team. They know it’s still a work in progress. They’ll fine-tune tee and basket placement until structures can be more permanent. Hayward’s vision is even grander.
“Down the road, we hope to have a clubhouse on the upper field with campus leader boards. More permanent tee boxes should be added once we dial in the course a bit more.”
The crew continues on their round, losing and finding discs in the woods, discussing strategies for challenging lies, and considering the overall vision for the course in the longterm.
Disc golf is an addictive sport. Once you hear the satisfying “ching” of the chains from hitting a long-distance shot you’ll be hooked for life. Teeing off on a long hole with all of your might is fun, and gives you focus. But the mechanics of disc golf give way to conversation, and the real benefit of the game bubbles up. It’s time—time spent with friends and colleagues exploring a few of the gorgeous wooded acres of Gould’s place in the world.
The group talks about how the school year is going. Greg asks Alexander about his plans beyond Gould (Biology? Sports Medicine?). They talk about home renovation projects and the passing of loved ones. It digs deeper than the cordial greetings exchanged in passing on the way to class. And for that new opportunity, we’re grateful.
Wrapping up the Round
Greg sends a soaring shot over Mill Brook that comes to rest within birdie range of the pin on 17 across the water. Everyone else tees off in turn and the drives are already much improved from the ones they threw an hour earlier at the start of the course.
The round is over and they take a seat at the 19th hole, in this case, the Adirondack chairs on the upper field, to debrief before parting ways. They laugh about the bad shots and relish the great ones. They take a moment to soak it in and feel the contentment that comes from a day well spent.
Alexander’s reflection sums it up.
“It’s so rewarding because it will be a part of Gould for a long time. I am so glad that Mr. Young gave me the opportunity to give back to the school that I am so passionate about, and has done so much for me.”