Disc golf takes off in Niagara County

RANSOMVILLE, NY — Most people are familiar with or have even played the game of golf.

It’s called disc golf, also known as frisbee golf. The basic concept is relatively the same — try to throw the disc into a basket in the fewest throws possible.

While the sport continues to grow, one course in Western New York is rated among the world’s elite places to play.

It’s might be just a game, but Sam Castiglione takes it very seriously.

He’s been playing disc golf for about 20 years and it’s gone from a passion to a part-time profession, with a sponsorship to battle the best in the sport.

“I’ve been to worlds,” Castiglione said. “I’ve been to the US championship, so I’ve really traveled a lot for the game on a high level. And just locally it’s kind of fun to compete against the other local pros because there’s a lot of great players in the game and it’s fun to play the courses against them.”

One of the best courses Sam has played is one he helped design. It’s at Bond Lake Park in Niagara County. It opened in 2019 and for the last two years, the disc golf app U-Disc has ranked it number one in New York state and among the Top 50 in the world out of more than 13,000.

“To be in the Top 50 is pretty remarkable after only being in the ground for three years,” Castiglione said.

It took years of planning and building after Niagara County received grant money from the state to make it happen.

“We got blood, sweat and tears into this place,” said Frank Rotella, Niagara County Parks supervisor. “This was my whole life. I basically lived in the woods for three years.”

Rotella has played disc golf for a long time himself. He and his crew had to cut down trees and clear brush and weeds to create the course with picturesque views of the Niagara Escarpment.

“Something that’s going to be around for generations and get to leave a mark on the whole county,” Rotella said.

And players have taken notice, not only from nearby. They’ve come from places from like Canada, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania, just to name a few.

“It’s becoming a destination for people,” Castiglione said. “It’s great for the county, great for Western New York.”

Niagara County isn’t stopping with just one disc golf course. It recently opened another at Royalton Ravine Park that officials hope earns just as much praise as the first one.

Each course costs about $40,000 to build.

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