The picturesque Toronto city skyline is highlighted by the iconic CN Tower, aglow with celebratory lights representing different events and functions on a nightly basis. Over the next week the tower will be vibrantly lit to honour cultural, medical, and historical milestones. These will include: blue, orange, and yellow for Brain Awareness Week and leafy green for St. Patrick’s Day. Over the course of this week however, if you look out from the ledge of that mighty tower, and you squint really hard, you might just see the signs of another celebration- the luminescence of glow disc golf discs.
Sure, the city won’t colour the tower for this occasion, but discers in the city have a bash of their own and the Toronto Open Disc Golf Festival will light the sky up with glowies and light up hearts with congenial competition, while further strengthening the disc golf community here in Toronto.
From Saturday, March 11th to Sunday, March 19th, The Toronto Open Disc Golf Festival will act as a beacon, drawing in discers from all across Ontario. Be it glow discs at Bell and Beaches, or distance drivers at Dentonia and Scarlett Woods, this March, Toronto is a light with fun, community, and good times as ChainLink Disc Golf’s TO Open gets underway.
With registration officially closed, 214 players will be taking to the teepads this week for the friendly flex tournament being held on some of the finest courses this city has to offer. The third edition of Toronto’s disc festival is sure to be one to remember, marked with extra events, more collaborations and sponsors, and a stronger disc golf community in this town than ever before.
Two locals, Jeff MacKeigan and Cara Hovius have embraced this game in this town and are an excellent example that with knowledge, respect, some business savvy, and a whole lot of passion, amazing actions lead to amazing achievements. A few years ago they realized that Toronto was ready for more disc golf and founded ChainLink Disc Golf, a company which designs and installs courses, runs events and tournaments, and is also one of the major driving forces building the incredible disc golf community in this city. They pride themselves on running on three pillars: “courses, events, and community.”
“ChainLink Disc Golf is committed to sharing disc golf with more people… We knew there was a need for additional disc golf courses in Toronto (and beyond), and so we started ChainLink Disc Golf with a goal to do just that. We continue to work to grow disc golf across the province, having installed four disc golf courses in the City of Toronto and several more in communities throughout Ontario. Will your community be next?” - via ChainLink’s website.
If you have played The Beaches, Marilyn Bell, Scarlett Woods, or Dentonia disc golf courses, you are a part of Jeff and Cara’s goal to make disc golf in this city more accessible, more innovative, and just straight up more fun! ChainLink Disc Golf is responsible for opening all four of those courses. As Toronto is currently home to seven courses, Jeff and Cara were behind more than 50% of the courses in this town.
Jeff boldly states, “There is going to be lots of innovation in disc golf in the future and there is no reason why this [Toronto] shouldn’t be the hub of it.” It seems very evident that this is not only possible, but actually already underway. You need to look no further than the Toronto Open to realize this.
THE TORONTO OPEN
The Courses: Dentionia and Scarlett Woods
As winter comes to an end, The Toronto Open acts as a way to warm you up.
The Toronto Open is one of the premier unsanctioned (meaning you don’t need an official PDGA number / all players are welcome) disc golf tournaments in the province. The tournament runs from March 11-19 and is the brainchild of ChainLink. It showcases the four Toronto courses that ChainLink has developed and opened in the city, but the tournament itself consists of rounds at Dentonia and Scarlett Woods.
Dentonia is a course that utilizes the natural elevation of its environment to create some challenging shots, but this isn’t a course that will break your arm or your spirits. Dentonia is actually a city operated golf course during the spring/summer months, but come fall/winter, disc golf takes over. Allowing the disc golf course to open was one of the drivers that helped the golf course remain open.
In 2020, the seven municipally run golf courses were under review by Toronto City Council, with considerations to eliminate the courses and turn them into park land. The repurposing of the golf course, into a disc golf course in the winter season gave Dentonia a second breath; a chance to remain useful to athletes and other park visitors the whole year round. Jeff beams as he shares, “We are really proud of the fact that disc golf had a small, small part in helping to save golf in The City of Toronto.” Sure, frisbees were not the only heroes here, but when ball golf was down hard in Toronto, disc golf had its back.
Jeff and Cara will be the first to admit that ChainLink didn’t come up with the concept of transforming golf courses into disc golf courses in the winter months, but they are pretty damn excited about it. “It’s crazy right? It’s crazy,” Jeff remarks. “We are literally part of a movement right now in disc golf in this city, that every other city will start to look at. The concept of an off season disc golf course.”
Another incredible fact about this course is that the first tee of the Dentionia Disc Golf Course is actually 501 ft from the entrance to the Victoria Park TTC Subway Station making it one of the quickest to access from public transit. Dentonia is the, “easiest and most accessible course in the city,” in terms of transportation explains Jeff. Having this accessibility happen in the city is an important indicator of equity.
During Dentonia’s first month of operation as a disc golf course in 2021, it had 1692 registered rounds on the UDisc app. Jeff shares a big smile as he explains that the parking lot was as full for disc golf in the winter as it was for ball golf in the summer. He very forthcomingly explains though that, “It’s not about displacing traditional golf, but it is about complimenting it.”
The second course featured in the tournament, Scarlett Woods, is also a city run golf course in spring/summer months which transitions to disc golf in the fall. Unlike Dentonia though, Scarlett is not for the faint of heart, or the faint of arm power- it is a championship level course that will challenge even the best players in the city. “That’s where the whole portfolio side comes in,” explains Cara, “You need those beginner courses and then you need a couple of champion courses as well. They are all important. They all play a role.”
This is an 18 hole course with some of the biggest distance in the city. Yes, this course is challenging, but it is also situated on the bank of The Humber River, making this one of the most beautiful and serene courses in the region. With open fairways, beautiful mature trees, and water a plenty, this one is what all of those incubator courses have been building up to. This is your video game “Boss Level”.
“We have a bunch of people in the city that are already quite good at disc golf,” Cara describes, “We have Thomas Gilbert, who is from here in Toronto. We don’t want to neglect that side of the sport, which gives people something to cheer for. Giving people like Thomas Gilbert a place to play is important too.”
There is no single reason why The TORONTO OPEN is so special, because it has so much to offer. This year’s instalment is set to be the biggest to date and will feature more collaborations with a wide variety of small businesses in and around Toronto. With the collaboration of The Toronto Open, these businesses are spot-lighted in the players packs, on social media, and in the player’s handbook. This collaboration between parties is very important to ChainLink and is one of the things that they are most proud of.
If it isn’t apparent that this tournament is inclusive, there are even prizes for the last place finisher. Yes, to the victor go the official spoils in terms of prizes, invitations to future tournaments, trophies, WolfKat Form Shadows, as well as some serious bragging rights, but this tourney is also one that gives out a prize for the lowest divisional scores, too. If you end up last in any of the six divisions- wait for it- you actually go home with a giant 4L jar of Bick’s Pickles! Jeff & Cara used to work for Smuckers, the owner of the pickle company and the pair have kept this sour tradition alive. Prizes of pickles are for people who participate and play pretty poorly, but that’s still a good dill!
Game on, Toronto!
Nick Vescio & Jay de Jager