Calgarians can now brag about a northwest park's global ranking thanks to the explosive and COVID-driven popularity of what once was a niche sport.
Baker Park on the banks of the Bow River just north of Bowness is now the fifth most popular park for engaging in a round of disc golf, according to user-generated data from an app that tracks that sort of thing.
"When the UDisc app was developed and everyone started using it on every course in the world, there was an incredible data set created," Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra told CBC News in an interview.
"We learned to our amazement that our beloved Baker Park is the fifth most popular park on planet Earth, which is an incredible stat, especially considering how much winter we get in Calgary and we are competing with a lot of places that are used year-round."
Fifth. In the world.
And there's another statistic that might feel like a hole in one for enthusiasts of the sport.
In part due to COVID, women's participation in disc golf in recent years has grown exponentially from less than five per cent to more than 30 per cent, the Ward 9 councillor said.
"So now you see families out, you see couples out on a date. It's really expanded from a niche, nerd thing, to something everyone is doing," Carra said.
Disc golf is like regular golf but instead of hitting a ball with a club, players throw a plastic disc that looks like a Frisbee, and they aim for a target that looks like a basket made of metal chains.
Everything else is more or less the same as standard golf — but it's way cheaper.
"Because it is so inexpensive, it's the kind of thing everyone can get into," Carra said.
But it's more than cheap.
"It's got a little bit of everything," Calgary Disc Golf Club president James Koizumi said.
"Beautiful scenery, you can hear the nature, we've got full amenities, including washrooms, and obviously the park staff keep it looking beautiful."
Even with the COVID bump, Koizumi said the growth in popularity is impressive.
"The demand has been next to exponential. It is just incredible. I have never been part of any phenomenon like that," he said.
"I give a lot of credit to the City of Calgary, the parks department."
Josh Meijndert is a volunteer with the Calgary club. He says there are lots of reasons to love the sport.
"You can see improvement every single day," Meijndert said.
"It's beautiful to be outside. You can go any time with people, without people, any time of the day. There is not a specific commitment. You can go whenever you want, for however long you want."
Niche to almost mainstream
Meijndert is off to strut his stuff this month at an international amateur competition in Evansville, Ind.
"It's gone from a very niche sport to almost a mainstream kind of thing now," he said.
"It doesn't really matter where you live, there is a course 10 to 15 minutes away from you, at most."
Carra says he wants to see those numbers go up, to lessen the environmental wear and tear on well-used courses like Baker Park.