Players at a disc golf community workshop held by Uplay throw discs at the target at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Players at a disc golf community workshop held by Uplay throw discs at the target at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Disc-y business: Nonprofit brings love, art of disc golf to Juneau residents

Juneau has disc fever.

Disc golf is a growing sport, especially across the U.S., but it can be difficult to get experienced players and teachers to visit Alaska.

So when Universal Play Disc Golf, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching the sport, comes to town, schools and a local club take advantage.

“Disc golf is like, the most accessible sport,” said Zoe AnDyke, founder and director of Uplay, and a ranked professional disc golf player, in an interview during a community workshop. “It’s affordable, it’s low-impact, and it’s lifelong.”

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Dozens attend the workshop on Thursday, but they’re the last of hundreds of children and adults that AnDyke and the other members of Uplay have instructed or played with since arriving in Juneau last week, spread across Juneau, Haines and Skagway. They switched up schools, choosing different ones than were selected during their August visit, AnDyke said.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Players prepare to throw their discs during disc golf community workshop held by Uplay at at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Players prepare to throw their discs during disc golf community workshop held by Uplay at at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

“We taught at (Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School), both at DZ and Thunder Mountain (High School. We taught at (Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé) back in August, and Auke Bay (Elementary School) because it’s the closest to the course,” AnDyke said. “We try to pick two Juneau schools and two other communities.”

AnDyke said she got involved in teaching after seeing many schools where students weren’t being instructed properly. Now, the nonprofit goes to communities inside and outside the professional disc golf circuit, teaching kids and adults alike, AnDyke said. This trip, the group has instructed about 500 people across all three communities, including about 400 kids at various schools and workshops, AnDyke said.

“I”d find all these equipment closets with disc golf gathering dust because no one knew how to teach,” AnDyke said. “We service all angles: the outside world, the teachers, the kids and the clubs.”

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Zoe AnDyke, professional disc golf player and founder/director of Uplay, demonstrates technique during a community workshop at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Zoe AnDyke, professional disc golf player and founder/director of Uplay, demonstrates technique during a community workshop at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

The nonprofit is about 5 years old, AnDyke said. The sport has really taken off since the pandemic made people look for new, distanced ways to exist outside, AnDyke said. Skagway was particularly successful, AnDyke said, as the Uplay members were able to teach the entire community some fundamentals.

“That was spectacular. We were able to teach the entire zip code,” AnDyke said. “I can’t believe how many showed up to the Skagway community event. Almost 50% were new players.”

Uplay is focused on teaching communities sustainable disc golf habits, AnDyke said- teaching teachers to instruct others how to play the sport safely and effectively.

“You can’t just ask anyone to teach disc golf. There’s flying objects,” AnDyke said.

Uplay is producing a guide out shortly at www.uplaydiscgolf.org/ for teaching both new players and would-be instructors of the sport, AnDyke said, as well as providing instructional videos on their Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/c/UplayDiscGolf.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Irene Gallion prepares to hurl her disc downfield during a disc golf community workshop held by Uplay at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Irene Gallion prepares to hurl her disc downfield during a disc golf community workshop held by Uplay at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Local players, local games

The Juneau Disc Golf Club, a local organization which organizes leagues and tournaments, helped to bring Uplay to Juneau, said James Houck, who runs the club.

“Shannon Crossley convinced them to come up,” Houck said in an interview. “They add a dimension to the teaching those of us learning they game on our own wouldn’t be able to provide.”

The club has five different leagues and four more tournaments for 2022, Houck said.

“We’re more into getting people to play disc golf than anything else,” Houck said. “This (club) is the most active. It has the most participation.”

The club also has a development league every Sunday, and holds clinics to improve skills, Houck said.

“(I’ve been playing) just about a year,” said Irene Gallion. “The last time (Uplay) came to town was the first time.”

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Zoe AnDyke, professional disc golf player and founder/director of Uplay, throws a disc at the target during a community workshop at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Zoe AnDyke, professional disc golf player and founder/director of Uplay, throws a disc at the target during a community workshop at Dimond Park Field House on May 12, 2022.

Gallion says she plays for fun and fresh air, not out of competitiveness.

“I like the fellowship. I like getting outside. It’s different from hiking or biking,” Gallion said. “You’ve got all ages here. That’s pretty fun.”

Gallion said she really enjoys Uplay’s periodic visits to Juneau.

“It’s fantastic,” Gallion said. Every time these guys come to town is good.”

For more information about events or leagues, Houck said, check out the club’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/JuneauDGC.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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