Disc golf course opens on Chemeketa campus

There’s a new pop of color in the woods surrounding Chemeketa Community College.

Nestled in between the tall oak trees lining the main drive leading into the Salem campus, bright yellow baskets dot the landscape, inviting disc golf players to take a shot.

The college opened a disc golf course on its campus just before winter break in December.

Mike Evans, dean of college access and student life, said it’s intended to re-engage students after a drop in campus life and activities during the pandemic.

“We wanted to make more opportunities for students to be involved and really to be social,” Evans said. “It’s something that anybody can do. It doesn’t take a lot of experience and it’s not a big investment.”

The sport is played with small flying discs which players throw from a designated tee pad, aiming for the basket.

Like in golf, players want to complete each hole in as few throws as possible, and holes have designated par values. Discs differ in size and weight: putters are designed for shorter distances, while drivers fly further. Natural features like trees, hills and water add challenges.

The final basket on the Chemeketa Community College disc golf course, installed in late 2023. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

People at Chemeketa have talked about a course for years, said Isaac Talley, the college’s technical development manager for facilities. Last spring, several departments put forward about $50,000 for supplies to make it happen.

Talley worked with Oregon Corrections Enterprises, which made the baskets, and plotted out the course.

“I just went out and did a bunch of throwing to kind of test out what made sense and what made a good challenge,” Talley said. He joined other college employees who play disc golf, testing the course and working out kinks.

The baskets went into the ground in November, and tee pads and signs were installed in December.

The first hole starts on the west side of South Campus Loop, across from Marion County Fire Station #8. The spot is also marked on Google Maps.

Talley said the third hole is his favorite.

“It’s not a terribly long hole but it requires a fairly particular shot style where you’re throwing a putter far,” he said.

The course joins existing public courses on the Oregon State Hospital grounds, Woodmansee Park, Keizer Rapids Park and Cascades Gateway Park.

Though it’s only been open a few weeks, it’s earning good reviews from local enthusiasts.

“If you could sit there and design a course that we’re lacking, it fits perfectly,” said Roger Stephen, owner of Tiger Discs, Salem’s disc golf shop.

The tee pad for the final hole on the Chemeketa Community College disc golf course. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Stephen said Chemeketa is an ideal beginner course because it’s difficult to lose a disc — not always the case when courses traverse ponds or deep woods.

He’s a retired teacher and was attracted to disc golf as an inexpensive source of recreation. A few discs is all most people need to buy to get started.

“There’s not a lot of things out in the world you can spend 30 bucks and have a great time” for months, he said.

Evans said the college is working to get sets of discs students can check out to use on the course.

Woodchips are also planned to cover some areas that got muddy after being dug up to build the course.

Once Salem’s weather improves in the spring, Evans said he hopes to host a tournament.

But for now, the course is open and free to use for anyone with a set of discs who wants to play.

“It’s not like you have to be part of a team. You can do it by yourself or you can get three or four people and just go have a good time,” Evans said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.