On the fringe of Fairmount Park, almost every day, you’ll find a growing throng of “golfers” on what is said to be the nation’s second oldest course.
No, not on the nearby driving range at 33rd and Oxford streets in Brewerytown, though that is popular, too.
It’s at the Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course, with 27 holes that weave their way through Fairmount Park.
The sport is something of a rarity, perhaps, but here, the game where players arch plastic discs towards metal trap baskets — the holes — is proving to be a popular past time for all types of players, beginner to amateur, old and young alike.
In place since 1977, player attendance at the course is growing steadily, and according to members of the Friends of Sedgley Woods — a volunteer group of disc golfers who clean and maintain the course on a regular basis — the popularity of Sedgley Woods shows no sign of slowing down.
“We are even looking for more land because it’s so popular,” said John A. Di Sciascio, a member of the friends group who has been playing disc golf for more than 20 years.
“In the past year, I’ve seen more new players out here than I probably have in my entire life,” he continued.
“On weekends, forget it,” agreed fellow friends member and player Madison Rast.
Asked if perhaps the new Tron film — where the digital characters engage in competition using Frisbee-like memory discs — propagated an interest in the Frisbee-based sport, the men laughed.
“I think it’s because it’s cheap, there are no fees,” said Rast. “We get such a diverse crowd; there are a lot of great people out here.”
The inception of what would become Sedgley Woods began in 1977 when Fairmount Park hosted the “Philadelphia Frisbee Championships,” a multi-event tournament. For the tournament, the organizers set up a temporary 18-hole golf course for Frisbee throwers.
The event was well attended and impressed Wham-O, makers of the Frisbee disc, enough that they donated 18 of the steel and chain “holes” used for disc golf to the members of the local Frisbee club.
They found room for the course near Smith Playground on the grounds of what was once Sedgley Mansion, and the course was born.
But, the origins of the friends group began years later when, in 1991, a number of the steel trap-like holes were stolen by vandals.
“They were worthless, they weren’t worth anything. But, that was the catalyst to form the Friends of Sedgley (Woods),” said Di Sciascio.
After that, dedicated players got together and replaced the steel baskets.
They cleaned and greened the course to create what Di Sciascio said is a course that allows players to “commune with nature.”
It proved popular, and to handle the player growth, the group worked with the city five years ago to add an additional nine holes to the Sedgley Woods course.
“It was all a vines and weeds. It was a mess,” said Di Sciascio about the area of Fairmount Park where volunteer members of the friends group forged new areas for the new holes.
“We were able to extend [the course] with the city’s blessing,” he said.
Now, with more players at the course every weekend, the friends group is potentially looking for new areas to expand. If possible, Di Sciascio said, the group would like to have 36 holes in total, enough for two full courses.
“We are looking for land because it’s so popular,” said Rast.
So, given the popularity here at Sedgley Woods, what’s the draw?
The men couldn’t say for sure, but they both said the group offers outreach programs to area youth groups and they each said they had different reasons why they have long loved the sport.
“I just love watching a disc fly. When you throw one right, there’s just nothing better,” said a grinning Rast. “And, out here, you don’t feel like you’re in the city at all.”
Di Sciascio said he loved the variety of players that descend on the course for a round of disc golf, and he likes how it’s a game for all ages.
“We encourage a family atmosphere,” he said, noting that disc golf players can be anything from “vagabonds to rocket scientists.”
Beyond being free, they also noted that getting involved doesn’t require expensive equipment.
While the special disks used for the game can be purchased from friends members, they’re not needed to have some fun.
“You can just show up with a Frisbee, of course,” said Di Sciascio.
The course also has a positive impact on Fairmount Park because Sedgley Woods members do more than simply tend to the course.
They also clean litter they find in the area and last year, the group planted 40 new trees in the park.
“We want to honor the tremendous value of the land here,” said Di Sciascio.
Along with open play on the course, the Friends of Sedgley Woods also offer a variety of leagues for beginners and knowledgeable players as well as regular tournaments.
The group is launching a new league for women, to begin this weekend, with league games at 2:30 p.m. every Sunday.
For more information about the course or to learn about how to sign up for a league, visit the Friends of Sedgley Woods website at www.SedgleyWoods.org.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215–354–3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org