Disc golf courses are springing up around Manistee. here’s why

MANISTEE – Almost three years ago, Tom Oele had the idea of ​​bringing disc golf to Manistee. Oele himself is a disc golfer. Two small disc golf courses already exist in Manistee and a third is due to open in September.

There is a five-hole disc golf course at Red Szymarek Park and a nine-hole disc golf course at the Armory Youth Project which opened last fall. An 18-hole disc golf course is currently under construction at Lighthouse Park in Manistee.

The new Lighthouse Park disc golf course was primarily funded by a grant from the Minger Foundation through the Manistee County Community Foundation for $22,500 in October.


Oele, the former chairman of the Manistee Parks Commission, noted the reasons why he thinks disc golf has been so successful in Manistee.

“Manistee has been sandwiched between two great national/state disc golf destinations, the Ludington area and the Traverse area,” Oele said. “Manistee lacked his own real background or local involvement in the sport, aside from five hoops that were set up at Red Szymarek Park over a decade ago and then sort of dropped.”

Oele also explained the recent rise in popularity of disc golf.

“Over the past 10 years, disc golf has grown exponentially across the states in its participation as well as its coverage, and with the pandemic, this outdoor activity has exploded. It has become an outdoor activity low-cost air that anyone can play, whether a novice or an expert,” he said.

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Oele also noted that a disc golf course does not require a lot of money to build and can get a good financial return for the construction cost.

“…A community could invest very little financially, but gain a tremendous asset in the process. I believe the Minger Grants Board realized this as well, and with the dedication of Jeff Mikula and the park commission , we are able to get the grant,” he said.

Oele said he was also heavily involved in the creation of the other two parks.

Armory Youth Project

“The Armory Youth Project nine-hole course is officially open to the public. I was brought in to build it for them and teach the youngsters disc golf lessons. They will be running a disc golf camp for kids in June,” he said.

The course opened last fall, according to Oele

Amy Wojciechowski, executive director of the Armory Youth Project, told the News Advocate in September that she heard about Oele’s plan for the 18-hole course and contacted him to start a program and possibly have a disc golf course at the Armory.

“Tom came over and gave us suggestions and recommendations based on his experience and knowledge of disc golf. We felt like we had great recommendations and suggestions, so we moved forward based on that conversation” , Wojciechowski said.

Red Szymarek Park

Oele said the north side of Red Szymarek Park has been revitalized over the past year and neighbors have told him about real improvements to the park. The five-hole disc golf course is part of this effort.

He noted that a local cannabis company, Dunegrass, donated five new baskets and that he and Manistee Public Works Director Jeff Mikula helped install them on June 3. The park has had a disc golf course since 2009.

Lighthouse Park

Work on the new 18-hole disc golf course at Lighthouse Park began on May 26.

Oele said the timeline for course completion should be by Labor Day.

Due to supply chain issues, Oele said they are waiting for basket orders to be fulfilled. The course is a citywide collaboration between the Manistee City Council, Department of Public Works, and Manistee Parks Commission.