With five public courses, Bedford County is no stranger to disc golf.
Now, capitalizing on the sport’s growing popularity and local tourism campaign, “Destination Bedford Disc Golf,” a $19,500 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to support marketing efforts will help promote the county as a disc golf destination.
“Disc golf in general, in this area, especially Bedford County, has skyrocketed,” said Kenny Palmer, parks and recreation operations coordinator for Bedford County. “Disc golf is … the most participated-in amenity at our parks. … Our trails get used quite a bit, but disc golf definitely outnumbers trail users.”
Over the past several years, Bedford County has worked to maintain, improve, or expand disc golf courses as a tourism attraction, drawing visitors and professional or hobby disc golf players from far and wide. Bedford’s five courses are managed by the county’s parks and recreation department.
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“For this particular application, I chose Destination Bedford Disc Golf as the marketing program because people are coming from across the country to play the courses here,” said Nicole Johnson, director of tourism in Bedford County, via email.
When applying for a Virginia tourism grant, Johnson said, the applicant must have a specific project in mind. The grant will fund email, print, digital, social media, broadcast television and radio advertising for Destination Bedford Disc Golf.
Part of the draw of disc golf is that it is an outdoor activity, accessible to most everyone, and not negatively impacted by the pandemic, Palmer said.
Whereas many venues and events were shut down or limited, particularly indoor ones, disc golf in the open air lent itself as something to do in a healthy, safe setting, Palmer said.
The pandemic also allowed parks and rec workers to focus on disc golf, since lulls in other activities opened up more time.
Five-time disc golf world champion and Bedford resident Paul McBeth helped design the county’s newest disc golf course starting in 2020 at the New London Business and Technology Center Park in Forest, in conjunction with the county’s parks and recreation department.
This championship-level course was ranked number 29 of 13,000 in the world by UDisc, according to Palmer, a top app used by disc golfers worldwide. Spanning about 11,000 feet — roughly 2 miles — it is the longest public disc golf course in the county.
In the past year, Palmer said he has seen an increasing number of disc golf players overall, and more people coming from out of the area.
“I’m out on the courses quite a bit doing work. I meet a lot of people out there,” Palmer said. “Generally, more than half of them aren’t from around here. They came here specifically to play disc golf.”