Dinko Šimenc: Disc golf fans like to travel to places where there are courts for this sport, and this is our opportunity.

Disc golf is an urban ecological version of golf that has great potential.

Author  Blanka Kufner

5. July 2024.

The company Lagoda from Varaždin has been working on the development of disc golf and related forms of tourism for over 10 years. But you're probably wondering what disc golf even is, given that the term is rarely used.

What is disc golf and what does it have to do with (Croatian) tourism?

"Disc golf is an urban ecological version of golf that has great potential, especially in our country where classic golf has not really caught on in the tourist segment. Despite numerous initiatives for the arrangement of golf courses throughout the Adriatic, there were, namely, a lot of questions regarding the ecological aspect of the golf course, and most of the projects were ultimately not realized.", he explains Dinko Šimenc, co-owner of the Varaždin company Lagoda.

Disc golf is played with a frisbee, and special baskets serve as targets, but the sport itself is not much different from classic golf. It is very popular in the USA and Canada and countries in the north of Europe such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Iceland, where hundreds of fields have been arranged.

"At the time of covid, it was one of the sports compatible with the pandemic conditions. Then disc golf experienced a great growth, the number of players almost quintupled in a few years. This is also the reason for the great potential, and the number continues to grow. In addition, lovers of this sport like to come to the southern regions for their favorite recreation, especially in winter", reveals Šimenc.

In the southern parts of Europe, very few fields are arranged because disc golf has not yet gained popularity in these areas. From Spain to Greece, there are only about 20 of them, while, for example, there are over 300 in Estonia, and even over 1000 in Finland.

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

"When you take into account that in Finland there is snow more or less half the year, it is obvious that there is a potential for their players to come to the southern regions. But not only in winter, but all year round. Scandinavians have been asking us questions about the fields in Dalmatia for years, to which they always get a negative answer, unfortunately", describes the passionate fan of disc golf.

When it comes to the coast, this year a small recreational field was finally arranged in Labin, and some other destinations along the Adriatic began to show interest. Looking at the Mediterranean area, Spain should be singled out, where about 10 fields have been arranged in a few years, while we can only boast of this one in Istria.

Disc golfers commonly use course databases (web and mobile apps) that players check before private trips because they want to know if there is a golf course near their vacation spot. Or, if they decide to travel to Croatia, for example, they will first look at the disc golf courses and choose their destination accordingly.

Lack of terrain in southern Europe

The arrangement of recreational terrain can be realized with an investment of 6 to 15 thousand euros, and neglected forest areas can also be put to use. They are even more attractive than, say, meadows, because it is desirable to have certain obstacles on the fields.

"I would invite all municipalities and cities that have neglected green areas - such as a forest, park or meadow - the size of several hectares, and would be willing to invest about 10 thousand euros for new content, to think about putting it into use to create a new offer", calls Šimenc, emphasizing that there is no guarantee that it will attract someone, but the potential exists.

Since players from northern countries tend to travel in order to participate in tournaments and discover new courses, there is also a real possibility that, depending on the arrangement, some of them will find their way to new disc golf courses in Croatia.

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Their arrangement can also encourage the arrival of tourists from larger centers to smaller towns. During the summer season, a disc golf enthusiast will gladly, on a day when the weather is not suitable for being at the beach, get in the car and drive 50-100 km to the nearby disc golf course.

Through the Udisc application, we often witness tourists staying in Zagreb going to Stubički Toplice to play a few rounds.

In addition, by organizing disc golf tournaments and events, the destination is promoted as a destination for active rest and recreation. No less important is the fact that this game is also interesting as an activity for team building programs, which can also attract additional guests.

At the same time, each disc golf course, in addition to the tourist function, can also serve as recreation for the local population, so the effect is potentially even greater.

"For smaller fields, the area of ​​three to four soccer fields is sufficient, sometimes even two are enough, but it is preferable that it is not a meadow, but some kind of wood, that there are some obstacles - because it is interesting when the frisbee has to go around a tree or pass between two, when there are ups and downs", describes Šimenc, adding that disc golf is an urban, modern version of golf that is easier to learn and can be played very quickly even by complete beginners.

In Croatia until June of this year, 8 public fields were arranged, and they are located in Sveti Martin Spa, in Platka, in Varaždin, Varaždinske Toplice, Cernik, Stubički Toplice, in Labin and in Zagreb.

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Disc golf is an urban and modern version of classic golf, and the course is completely ecological. Competitions can be organized throughout the year, which can extend the tourist season. This sport attracts players of all ages, including complete beginners.

The world champion in disc golf stayed in Varaždin

In June 2023, the six-time world champion in disc golf, an American, stayed in Varaždin Paul McBeth. He also participated in the Pro Forester European Tour tournament. His stay and the tournament itself were followed by a camera from the production company JomezPro, and the footage was recently published as the first episode of the documentary series The McBeth Effect.

The arrival of McBeth in Varaždin for the tournament of the first round of the European Tour in 2023 was one of the most significant events ever for the disc golf community in the entire region of Southeast Europe, which was also shown in the response of the participants. It took part in the tournament 135 players from 24 countries, mostly because of his presence.

Audiences from Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Serbia also arrived on the field next to the Varaždin Arena on the Drava, i.e. disc golf enthusiasts who wanted to see McBeth live, after watching him for years through broadcasts and recordings from major tournaments in the USA and Western Europe.

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

McBeth stayed in Varaždin for seven days, and the hosts from Disc Golf Club Lagoda took him through the city during his free time and introduced him to the most important historical and cultural sights.

The reception for the world champion was also organized by the mayor of Varaždin, Neven Bosilj, who presented McBeth with city souvenirs, while McBeth responded with a signed disc golf disc from his author's line.

The first episode of this documentary series was released on June 18 exclusively for subscribers of the streaming platform Disc Golf Network, the so-called "disc golf Netflix". 

Since June 25, the episode has been available on the YouTube channel of the JomezPro production company, where it collected over 10 views in the first 17.000 hours after its publication, and until today, that number has grown to more than 50.000 views.

Given that JomezPro has over 460.000 subscribers on its YouTube channel, it is expected that the number will continue to grow and that Varaždin will be presented in a good light before the eyes of disc golfers from all over the world.

Anyone interested can watch this episode on the JomezPro YouTube channel
( https://youtu.be/jpFpzNhcscs?si=O0xx5I11iFproMtg )

"The arrival of Paul McBeth in Varaždin was an extraordinary experience for all of us. His presence attracted many participants and spectators and significantly contributed to the promotion of sports in the region. After the publication of the episode, disc golf lovers from all over the world are already contacting us interested in visiting Varaždin and Croatia", said Šimenc. 

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

The personal contact with McBeth was extremely important for the club and the community, enabling the exchange of experiences and additionally motivating the members to organize large international competitions. After the successful organization of the World Team Championship in 2022, they are ready to raise the bar even higher, emphasizes the president of the Lagoda club.

It doesn't take much effort to start playing disc golf, and the basics of throwing a disc are easy to learn. However, in order to raise the quality of the game to a higher level, you need a lot of training and patience. The community of players in Croatia numbers about a hundred people who are of age from 7 to over 60 years old, and is very inclusive and all people who want to try this sport are welcome.

The specificity of disc golf is that male and female players aged 13-14 can play at the same level, as well as those in middle age, or even older and up to 50 years old, so that tournaments often see competitions for positions among players. from various age groups.

Anyone who wants to learn more about disc golf or even try it, more information can be found on the Lagoda Disc Golf Club's social networks or on the Lagoda Disc Golf website.
( https://www.lagodadiscgolf.com/odiscgolfu/odiscgolfu-stojedg.html )

Photo: Lagoda Disc Golf

Author  Blanka Kufner

5. July 2024.