Finding a crowd free Tahoe: Bijou Disc Golf Course
Special to the Tribune
OK, I know, this column is titled “Finding a Crowd-Free Tahoe,” and most people will tell you that the Bijou Disc Golf Course is anything but crowd free. Regardless of its regular use, Bijou retains a wide-open, come-as-you-are atmosphere. Moreover, it is a beautiful place to get in a quiet pre- or post-work walk while engaging in a little friendly competition.
The beginning of the Bijou course 17 years ago has become local lore. It is a story of locals coming up with new ways to have fun in their backyard while volunteering their time to raise awareness and funds within the community.
After seeing pictures of courses in Oregon (taken by fellow city parks employee Greg Ross), Russ Thaw spearheaded the project to develop a course. He jerry-rigged the first baskets out of empty plastic chemical drums.
One of these makeshift pins still stand by tee No. 1 to remind people of the course’s humble beginnings.
Early on, the course lacked coherency, then came along Bob Remeika who first designed the course. Other volunteers like Craig Getty and Jeff Minor worked to bring attention to the fledgling course through a loose organization of Tahoe disc golfers.
Tournaments were the obvious next step. The first tournaments were a creative and fun way to raise money for improvements. The Soup Series, which continues today, was organized as a fundraiser. Every contestant would put $5 into the pot and the winner would get a can of soup, plus bragging rights. The money in the pool would then go to the purchase of professional-quality baskets.
Buying Innova baskets was not cheap – one DISCatcher Pro Target can cost $375. As a result of the fundraising hurdles, each basket developed its own story. For example, the current 27th basket was the first to be upgraded after the first Soup Series. Basket No. 13 was donated by Heavenly Ski Patrol to honor the life of fellow patroller Greg Tsukushi after his death.
Before long, money was raised for permanent tee pads to reduce the dug-out effect from shuffling feet when teeing-off. Clubs, private parties and businesses were called upon to donate. The efforts of these charitable groups are commemorated at each tee with a sign. By the late ’90s, the course had taken on its current form. It has 27 holes, all equipped with factory-made pins, rubber tee-off pads, multiple pin locations for each hole and signs mapping each basket’s location.
Much of the organizational credit for the course’s upgrades should be given to Craig Getty, a founding member of the Tahoe Disc Golf Association. Getty, who has helped developed several of the courses in the Tahoe area, saw to it that the course realized its 27-hole design with a high-end infrastructure.
“It’s a user-friendly stroll in the park that even families can enjoy,” said organization torchbearer Russ Wey.
Although the course is predominately flat, it offers challenges for all levels of play, Wey added.
Wey now acts a liaison to the city and organizes tournaments such as the “King of the Lake” series. This popular tournament has grown to a three-day extravaganza incorporating five separate courses around the basin. Wey was recently contacted by the Professional Disc Golf Association and asked to move the dates of the tournament to accommodate a possible position on the national tour.
“It looks like we’re going to get it,” Wey reported confidently.
This good news comes at a perfect time. The city fire department recently received federal funds to perform fuels reduction work on the land that houses the course. This has affected the course in several ways.
The tree removal has opened up the fairways by removing many of the obstacles. In response to the surge in hole-in-one drives, Wey has taken suggestions from players and some holes have been changed. Most notably is the 17th hole that has completely moved and now sits in a tighter grouping of trees. In addition, Wey has created a “long course” for the pros that includes several long drives and technical putting.
– Nick Miley is a South Lake Tahoe resident.