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Baker: 'I've always found that when I golf ' with somebody, it's easier to talk to them.'

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Grace Church Pastor John Baker stands next to hole 3's target on the disc golf course he designed in June.

Grace Church Pastor John Baker is grateful to have a park area right outside his office window.

He appreciates the approximately five acres that encompass Grace Park in Molalla so much that he recently decided to design and install a small disc golf course on the park grounds for public use.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, disc golf is just like ball golf, but with Frisbees, or discs, to which they're more commonly referred as. The goal is to get your disc to the target in as few throws as possible, and the person with the lowest score wins.

The course at Grace Park has nine holes that are all between 100 to 200 feet in length, making it a beginner-friendly layout.

It doesn't come without challenges, however, as a few of the holes play over a parking lot, a gravel driveway, and a playground structure, which are considered out of bounds; any shot that lands out of bounds adds another stroke to your score. There are also several trees that block the straight shot, so some creative play is required to get to the target in one shot.

While the course does not have traditional basket targets, it does have laminated signs nailed to posts or trees to denote the target. Baker said he does not anticipate basket installation as of yet, but he is installing new signs that won't blow away in the wind or rain.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - The course is situated on about five acres of land at Grace Park in Molalla, and is open from dawn to dusk each day.

A few years ago, Baker initiated the process of having the church grounds become a City-recognized park, and since then, the park has become a multi-purpose area for youth sports, picnics, and now disc golf.

"Our vision statement is that we exist to help others find and follow Jesus," Baker said. "And the way to follow Jesus is beginning with the relationships; what we have here is a big grass field, and I talked to Aldo [Rodriguez] and some of the folks at City Hall because there's not a lot of park space in Molalla, so in starting grace Park, we began to recognize that grass is important."

"And we're saying that if relationship is important to show Jesus is important, we've got to get to know people," Baker said.

Baker enjoys both ball golf and disc golf, and he decided a few months ago that Grace Park would be a nice place for a simple course.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Some of the holes require touch shots to get to the target. This photo shows the view to hole 3's target from the tee area; on the right is a small patch of grass bordered by out of bounds while the left has several trees blocking the approach.

"It just started with me thinking 'OK, how can we put together a Frisbee golf course so that the parents who are bored with baseball or the kids bored with baseball, and the families out here having picnics have something to do," he said.

Baker has about a dozen discs available to rent for people that want to come and try out the course during the church's open hours, but he encourages people to bring their own discs since the park is open dawn to dusk daily.

The course starts and ends by the gym on the east side of the park, and users can find printed out scorecards with accompanying images of each hole to give players an idea of the shape of the hole. Most of the holes are par twos, but there are a couple par threes and even a par four.

The normal way to play the course is to hit the pole or tree the sign is place on, but the advanced method to make things a bit more challenging is to hit the sign itself, which is a much smaller target.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Hole 2's target is on the tree straight ahead from the tee area, but only has about five feet of safe area behind the tree where the parking lot serves as out of bounds. The shed to the right also provides for added difficulty on this hole (helpful hint: try the forehand approach if you're right handed!).

Baker said his involvement with disc golf came from the enjoyment he got out of "throwing things, hitting things, and aiming at things."

"If you pick up a Frisbee, you can play catch with it, but it's more fun to have a goal," Baker said.

"I've always found that when I golf … with somebody, it's easier to talk to them," Baker said. "You never know where conversation is going to go, but you begin by just getting to know somebody, and sports are a great way to do that … and all of a sudden you're building relationships."


Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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