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From passion to profession

  • tj engle/times news Mike Solt prepares to release his disc on the first hole of the Riverview Disc Golf Course that he designed in East Penn Township.
    tj engle/times news Mike Solt prepares to release his disc on the first hole of the Riverview Disc Golf Course that he designed in East Penn Township.
Published August 12. 2010 05:00PM

Shortly after graduating college, Mike Solt began talking to his uncle Mike Padgett about an unusual kind of sport disc golf.

It didn't take long for the 2002 Penn State graduate to give the game a shot.

"It was something to do," Solt said of the sport. "I went down to the Allentown area and picked up a disc at Play It Again Sports. I went to the South Mountain course over at Lehigh University campus, and actually hated it at first.

But, after playing some more rounds of disc golf, Solt began to feel differently about this unusual sport, and soon he discovered a new passion.

In 2008, an injury pushed Solt to get involved in the game in a whole new way. While rehabbing, Solt took an interest in designing disc golf courses.

"As I went through my six months of rehab, I started hosting some club websites," he said. "Not just locally these clubs and companies were in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana. They were full-fledge companies affiliated with disc golf or clubs."

Armed with the knowledge he gained from those sources, Solt wasted no time in putting it to good use.

Solt helped design a nine-hole course in Weatherly and then later assisted Bill Schwab, Jeffrey Joe Kistler and Louis Accardi in creating the new nine-hole Riverview course along the Lehigh River in East Penn Township. He also helped improve 18-hole courses at Hickory Run State Park and Frances E. Walter Dam in the Beltzville area.

Solt, a Jim Thorpe resident and a Lehighton High School graduate, also had a hand in the creation of the two world-class 18-hole courses at nearby Blue Mountain Ski Area.

Eventually, Solt took on the name "Mr. Disc Golf," and is currently doing his best to help other disc golf enthusiasts from across the United State spread the word about the sport. He is especially excited about the future of the sport in this area.

"In 2005, the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) World Competition actually took place in Allentown," said Solt, who when he's not developing disc golf courses works as a title agent for the Title Company owned by KNBT Bank. "All the top pro players from across the world came to Allentown, and that's where disc golf really took off in our area.

"It's forever growing. It's still in its grass roots effort stages. We don't have the big corporate sponsors like other sports. But, we're slowly getting there."

According to the PDGA website, disc golf is "played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc, or a Frisbee®."

The sport, which began in the 1970s, shares the same object as traditional golf, in that the goal is to complete each hole in the fewest number of strokes, or throws.

In disc golf, the players throw a disc from a tee area to a target (the hole). The hole can be a number of targets; the most common being a "Pole Hole®, an elevated metal basket."

While he uses his own website to educate people about the sport, Solt Internet to spread the word of disc golf as well.

The site recommends disc golf as a way of physical fitness, in which "disc golf provides upper and lower body conditioning, aerobic exercise, and promotes a combination of physical and mental abilities that allow very little risk of physical injury."

There are two huge factors that Solt thinks will help the sport's popularity grow significantly in the very near future.

The first is the cost.

"You don't have to pay to play here at Riverview," Solt said. "At Blue Mountain, you have to take the sky lift to the top of the mountain, and you have to play down. It's a nominal fee of $10 to play at the Sky View Course or $5 to play the bottom course the Valley Course as it is called."

The second is the fact that almost anyone can play.

A couple of weeks ago, Solt held a two-hour clinic for St. Peter & Paul's Summer School Camp in Lehighton. There were a total of 30 elementary school age boys and girls who were taught the basics of the game.

"Disc golf is known as a passive recreation," Solt said. "You're not destroying the land. It's self-maintaining. People from ages 5 through 85 could be out there playing and enjoying the parks and courses.

"It's easily navigable for people. I even see people out here (on disc golf courses) with strollers. People of all ages can come out and play."

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