Professional disc golfer Ken Climo at Lake Hiawatha Preserve in Clermont.
Central Florida Roundup
Disc golf gives Lake County a sporting chance
Rural Florida series
Lake County taps niche sports to capitalize on its abundance of land.
With a population of fewer than 350,000 people, Lake County doesn’t have the resources to compete against Disney World or even neighboring Seminole County when it comes to sports offerings.
To build its own sportstourism business, the county has tried to find niche sports in which it can stand out. It has invested in facilities like a 21-court sand volleyball complex in the center of the county and a kayak-and-canoe boathouse in Clermont at the south end of the county, both of which now are popular sites for regional and national competitions.
Its latest play? The county has launched an effort to establish itself as an international destination for disc golf by building a string of championship- level courses. It’s an appealing option because a disc golf course only really needs a bunch of green space, which Lake County has plenty of, and about $40,000 for concrete tee boxes, signs and baskets (the disc golf equivalent to a hole on a golf course).
The county has offered to give its cities $20,000 toward the construction of a disc golf course provided they work with the locally based Florida Disc Golf Foundation and an Orlando company called World Champion Disc Golf Design.
There are now six locations in the works — one in a countyowned park, plus others in Clermont, Eustis, Leesburg and Mount Dora, and one at Lake-Sumter State College. As part of the terms of a contract with the county, the disc-golf foundation will recruit tournaments to the region. When not occupied by a tournament, each of the courses will be open to the public.
“The goal is to get all six built within a year,” says Robert Chandler, Lake County’s economic- development director.
If all goes according to plan, the Lake County Disc Golf Trail could be the site of the 2020 amateur disc golf national championships. That would be a profitable niche — Chandler says an event of that scale would produce more than a thousand room-nights in area hotels.
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