On the 18th of last month I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Russell Schwarz, Director of Special Projects at Innova Disc Golf in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I found Russell easy to talk with. He’s a man comfortable in his own skin, and he obviously loves what he’s doing. An enthusiastic missionary for the sport.
Russell’s used to interviews, unfazed by tape recorders and cameras pointed his way, having done dozens, if not hundreds, of them. Yet, as you’ll see below, he manages to offer fresh, interesting insights into the expanding world of disc golf.
I met Russell at the Innova Disc offices on the outskirts of Rock Hill on a busy day. The company’s offices were impressive. Simple and functional. Innova obviously doesn’t waste money on the expensive yet frivolous decorations so often seen at companies of this size. Encouraging! Maybe that’s one reason Innova’s survived since 1983 as the leading supplier of disc golf equipment.
Once we sat down, Russell was more eager to talk about disc golf than about himself. But I was able snag a few biographical details as we went along. Including his involvement in disc golf and how he arrived at Innova. Here they are:
I asked Russell to compare disc golf to ball golf and quickly learned “ball golf” is considered a pejorative term. It’s “traditional golf,” or just plain golf. He also explained that most anyone can play, and enjoy themselves. From kids to seniors. Without spending a fortune on equipment and club memberships.
Russell had quite a bit more to say about his “obsession,” as he described it. He said there were only twenty-some courses in the whole country when he began to play in the late 1970s. Now there are more than 5,000. So, it’s an enduring phenomenon, not just a fad. Steady fifteen percent annual growth since the late 1970s doesn’t add up to a fad.
Finally, I asked Russell about the new disc golf course at Chester State Park. It’s one of several courses he designed in 2013, and he’s pleased with it.
The Chester facility really is two courses. One easier nine-hole course and one eighteen-hole course. Russell’s intention was to create a facility where anyone with an interest in the game could play. Here’s a quick video tour of the eighteen-hole course.
Kids and seniors will find the nine-hole course more comfortable. The eighteen-hole course is designed to offer medium-level players a challenge on the first nine tees, and champion-level players a test of their skills on what he called “the back nine.” I’m no golfer, disc, ball, or otherwise. But the eighteen hole course sure is a pleasant walk in the woods. Here’s a look.
So, there you have it. Disc golf as explained by one of the sport’s premier course designers. Thanks again, Russell Schwarz, for your time and expertise. Your contribution to Chester State Park will be appreciated for years to come.