The Disc Golf Entrepreneur

Name: Christopher Young Age: 43

Lives in: Burlington

Family: Wife, Serena Parnau; daughter, Lily Young

Primary sports: Disc Golf

Christopher Young wants Vermonters to love disc golf as much as he does. After years of volunteering with the Green Mountain Disc Golf Club, he opened a business in 2018, Disc Golf Vermont, to spread his love of the sport throughout the state. Young continues to take part in competitions across the country while making sure there are ample opportunities for others to play here in Vermont. This month you can catch him at the Green Mountain Disc Golf Championships, Sept. 12-13 at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

What is the appeal of disc golf?

Really, the big thing is the people. I got into the sport in Oregon in 2003. I played there for several years and then I moved to Colorado and played there. I grew up in Brattleboro and I came back home to Vermont in 2007. The people continue to draw me, as much as the flight of the disc.

How did you get into the sport?

I just happened upon a course when I was in Oregon and later found myself in a league where two world champions—Avery Jenkins and Dave Feldberg—were playing. I just

Disc Golf Vermont founder Christopher Young is a sponsorded Innova athlete. Photo courtesy Christopher Young

fell in love with the game and those guys were great mentors. My wife and I had a daughter and we decided to move back to Vermont and that’s when I decided I wanted to get more involved from an organizational standpoint.

The sport was still pretty small at the time with just a handful of events and players and no sponsors or partners. I wanted to grow it and one way was to hold a winter disc golf event called the Ice Bowl. These events are held nationwide and the one I run is at the Center Chains Disc Golf Course in Waterbury. Last winter was the twelfth one and the tenth that I’ve led, and we’ve raised almost $100,000 for the Vermont Foodbank. The Lamoille Community Food Share gets us prizes for the players and all the money raised goes to the foodbank. It’s a really fun event.

What made you start your business?

Generally, states have clubs which are mostly volunteer-based but I wanted to try this model. The Green Mountain Disc Golf Club was in existence when I came back to Vermont and I joined the board as secretary and then became president in 2010. I held that position until I started Disc Golf Vermont to help promote the sport across the state. I’ve always wanted to start a business and as a volunteer it’s hard to put in those hours, particularly with a family and a full-time job as a waiter. The club did a number of things that I have continued, such as the Green Mountain Point Series. We had a few events the first few years and it’s grown to ten events at the most popular courses in the state. Now we call it the Disc Golf Vermont Tour and almost every event sells out every year.

What else does the business do?

I just held two camps for kids in the Burlington area and I’m planning on buying a trailer that will serve as a mobile pro shop. Last year I signed on with Innova, a disc manufacturer, for their ambassador team. They have hundreds of ambassadors across the country, some of whom are also athletes and some of whom aren’t. We’re all working to grow the sport. I work closely with them and sell their products. As a player, Innova discs are what I’ve always thrown so it was a natural fit.

Let’s talk about the upcoming Green Mountain Disc Golf Championship.

We’re holding it at Smugglers’ Notch on September 12-13, which is a great place because it’s the only Vermont venue with two 18-hole courses. One is more forested and the other is more open, but they are both championship level courses and they complement each other.

Smuggs has a great new pro shop with staff and groundskeepers. Players from all over the country say it’s one of their favorite places because they can stay at the resort, ride the shuttle bus and, during their downtime, they can hike and explore the area. Last year we had the Professional Disc Golf World Championship at Smuggs and this year we held the Pro Masters World Championship and the U.S. Junior Disc Golf Championship there.

Jeff Spring, Operations Director at Smuggs, and his crew are the reasons we’ve been able to get all these world class events. It’s one of the stops on the tour and definitely one of our bigger events. It will draw well over 100 professionals and another 100 amateur players and there will be media coverage of the event.

What are some of your favorite courses?

Some of my favorites are in Oregon and include Milo McIver State Park in Estacada. There are also some great courses in Colorado, like the one in Aspen that’s so high you need to take the ski lift to reach it. Locally, I love the courses at Smuggs, but I’m also partial to Waterbury’s Center Chains, which is a free course maintained by volunteers. Black Falls Disc Golf in Montgomery is a private club, but it’s also a beautiful place to play. In the southern part of the state I like Willow Park in Bennington and the new Chester Disc Golf Course.

What were some of your highlights as a player? 

In 2011, I was the Men’s Pro Open winner of the Green Mountain Points Series. In 2015, I won the Men’s Pro Open Division at the New England Disc Golf Championship at Killington which was my biggest win. I had some home field advantage since I knew the course. I’ve been playing about 15 tournaments a year since I got serious about the sport in 2004. I played amateur for a couple of years and turned pro in 2006. The difference is that amateurs play for prizes and pros play for money.

One of the great things about disc golf is that the learning curve is fast. People can get good pretty quickly, but I don’t want to give the impression that it’s an easy sport. Winning is always hard, but I have a lot of second and third places finishes. I recently won my first B-Tier event at Quebec. There are A, B and C-Tier events and the lower the tier, the higher the competition. I’ve played in 87 Pro Disc Golf Association events and won $2,466. [Editor’s note: according to the PDGA website, the highest ranked professionals can earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year, not including sponsorship deals and endorsements].

Is disc golf a growing sport?

I would say that it’s booming. In Vermont we now have between 30 and 40 courses. Maine has 85 and Quebec is starting to grow, as well. There are new players getting involved all the time and it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country. All you need is one disc. I teach mostly in the Burlington area, but I have worked with schools across the state with the Velocity Program. When I teach, I tend not to have new people throw drivers. All they need is a mid-range disc and a putter. Cost is a huge factor in disc golf’s popularity. A round of ball golf is $50 to $100 in green’s fees and a game can take four hours, but with disc golf you can play 18 holes for free at Center Chains in an hour and half.

Are there some groups that are underrepresented in disc golf?

We would definitely like to get more women involved and we will be having Vermont’s first women-only event in Bolton, called Throw Pink, on September 20-21. It will be a fundraiser for cancer research, but the goal is also to get more women playing. The nice thing about disc golf is we have a range of players, from the junior level to those 70 and over. There are divisions based on age and ability. I’d love to see the women and junior side grow more, but having 86 competitors at the U.S. Junior Championship at Smuggs this past August was a testament to the fact that the junior segment is growing. Seven of those competitors were Vermonters.

Do you have time for other sports?

I’ve always been an athlete. Living out West I played soccer and softball and did some mountain biking, but when I fell in love with disc golf it really became my passion. I still do some cross-country and downhill skiing, but generally, if I’m not playing disc golf, I’m organizing for it. Disc Golf Vermont also does some course design and we’re working on new courses in Glens Falls, New York, as well as at Williston Central School and Champlain Valley Union High School. The goal is to get people outside, walking, playing disc golf and enjoying nature. The number of courses is growing and that’s keeping me busy.                          

CHRISTOPHER YOUNG’S TOP 10 VERMONT DISC GOLF COURSES:

1. Smugglers Notch Disc Golf Center

2. North Calais Disc Golf Course

3. Black Falls Disc Golf Course (Montgomery)

4. Base Camp Outfitters Disc Golf Course (Killington)

5. Center Chains Disc Golf Course (Waterbury)

6. Quarries Disc Golf Course (Websterville)

7. Wrightsville Beach Disc Golf Course (Middlesex)

8. Jay Peak Disc Golf Course

9. White River Disc Golf Course (Randolph)

10. East Wallingford Disc Golf Course

Featured Photo Caption: Christopher Young throws a disc at Smugglers’ Notch Disc Golf Center. Photo courtesy Christopher Young

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with her partner Bryan and two cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”

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