Back when I lived in Wisconsin, one of my closest friends was the physical education teacher at the school I worked at. At some point during our friendship he invited me to play “disc-golf” with him one day after school. At the time I had absolutely no clue what he was asking me to do and honestly thought he was making up words. Turns out, disc-golf is an emerging recreational activity that is popular in urban natural areas such as city parks. Disc-golf is similar to traditional golf but instead of hitting a golf ball into a hole, you throw a frisbee into a chain basket that is raised above the ground. Like traditional golf courses, disc-golf courses will contain obstacles such as water features, trees, shrubs, etc. In 2011 there were almost 3,000 disc golf courses in the USA (including at least one disc-golf course in Wisconsin!); up from 300 in the later 1980s. I was actually pretty terrible at disc-golf the one time that I played and most of my throws resulted in the Frisbee being stuck in the trees.
Anyway, back to the research part of this post…emerging recreational activities, like disc-golf, are particularly challenging for managers to deal with. Managers often have to make decisions about how to manage new activities without much information about the social and ecological components of the activity. Therefore, emerging recreational activities can be really interesting topics of study in the field of recreation research. Back in 2013, Yu-Fai Leung and some of his graduate students decided to examine the social and ecological aspects of managing disc-golf activities. They were interested in answering three questions: (1) How does the public perceive disc-golf as a recreational activity? (2) Is there evidence that disc-golf has environmental impacts? and (3) How can this information be used to inform the management of disc-golf?