Dozens of disc golf enthusiasts and a few who were trying the sport for the first time came to Hespeler on Saturday to “bang the chains” at the city's newest course at Four Fathers Brewing Co.
The nine-hole public course marked its grand opening with an open house designed to encourage beginners to give the game a try with instruction from pros.
Mike Hruden and Marty Castellan, two of the four co-owners of the Hespeler brewery and restaurant, said the idea to bring disc golf to town evolved out of discussions with Steven Foster, an avid disc golfer and marketing coordinator at Castellan’s business, Skyline Group of Companies.
After asking Four Fathers to sponsor a couple of 2021 disc golf tournaments, Foster introduced Castellan and Hruden to Chris Ozolins, executive director of Ontario Disc Sports Association (ODSA).
They eventually got around to talking about the eight acres of unused property wedged between the Guelph Avenue brewery and the Mill Pond trail.
Castellan says they’d always had rough ideas about creating a beer garden on the unused land, but nothing led to motivation until the idea of disc golf entered the picture. Even though neither he nor Hruden played the sport, the idea seemed too good to pass up.
Foster said the marriage between the brewery and disc golf is a great way to enhance the property and provide something for the community while getting more people interested in a “low-impact, easy to get into sport” that has no economic barriers.
So, with Ozolins’ design vision, what was essentially “unkempt forest” was turned into a nine-hole disc golf course over the last few months.
Ozolins says the arrival of disc golf in Hespeler comes after the sport experienced 60 per cent year-over-year growth since the start of the pandemic, partly because it’s played in the safety of the outdoors and is naturally socially distanced.
Although the course is the second in Cambridge, after Soper Park, Ozolins says he thinks Waterloo region needs more.
The Grand River Disc Golf Association has one of the biggest memberships in the province, yet only three other courses exist; two at Foxwood Golf Course in Baden, and one at Chicopee, which was closed for much of the pandemic.
He says the Four Fathers course is a great grassroots level addition to the community that will expose more people to the sport in “a really awesome way.”
“Nowhere in Ontario you can have a beer, lunch and go play.”
Disc golf and craft beer, he says, is the perfect match for the sport’s main demographic, males between the ages of 25 and 35.
Now that they’ve cleaned up the property and seen what they can do, Hruden says he hopes to build on the destination aspect, possibly adding canoe and kayak rentals to cater to the outdoor-loving community disc golf attracts.
“Kudos to the City of Cambridge for making that trail as accessible as it is,” Castellan said.
The public course is free for anyone to use, even when the brewery is closed.
Parking is available on the right side of the gravel parking lot and signs to the course can be found on the right side of the brewery patio.
Discs can be purchased online or at major retailers, but Four Fathers has branded discs available at the brewery.
Reviews on the first day were positive.
Brian King, of Waterloo, says he’s been enjoying the game in retirement and sees the new Hespeler course as a destination he and his wife, also a disc golfer, can hit occasionally, have lunch and maybe do some biking around town.
After finishing up his round, Cambridge disc golfer Harrison Bowler called the course a great utilization of the property and said it offered a “pretty good” challenge for someone relatively new to the game, like him.
“It’s a nice, challenging, short little course,” offered Bryce Hill, of Brantford, looking forward to what was perhaps the course’s most “awesome feature”; the opportunity to enjoy a cold beer on the nearby patio.