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Eagles Wings Disc Golf Goes to Zambia

Story and Photos contributed by Dustin Leatherman

The dream of a disc golf course in Zambia started as a joke four years ago in the office of Push The Rock, an international sports ministry. Eric Thuma and his wife Corie were preparing to move to Macha, Zambia to open the second international office of Push The Rock. Dustin and Hannah Leatherman were just starting to think through the idea of adding a disc golf ministry to Push The Rock, and joked about one day bringing disc golf to Zambia. Well, earlier this year in May that idea became a reality and the first disc golf course in Zambia was installed in Macha!

Push The Rock began as a one-week, summer basketball camp located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania in 1997. Today, it has grown to be a year round, international sports ministry, building into the lives of thousands of children a year through summer sports camps, after school programs, home school gym classes, and mission trips to various destinations around the world. In addition to three offices in the United States there are full-time offices based in Macha, Zambia and San Jose, Costa Rica.

In 2015, Eagles Wings Disc Golf was launched by Dustin and Hannah Leatherman, along with Jim Schultz as a division of Push The Rock. Eagles Wings Disc Golf exists to carry out the vision and mission of Push The Rock through the great game of disc golf! This is done through youth and family programs, course design and installation, a disc golf chapel ministry, and disc golf mission trips.

After it was determined that Macha would be the destination of choice, Eagles Wings set out raising money, resources and a team of volunteers who would take part in the trip. After applying for and receiving Marco Polo grant funds from the PDGA, funds were allocated and went a long way in making the trip and the project possible. The grant helped to cover the cost of materials for the course, employ people in the country to build the course and clear the land, and help with some of the equipment costs. On top of the assistance from the PDGA, Innova Champion Discs donated 2 traveler baskets, and 40 new discs to be taken to Zambia. Paragon Disc Golf also stepped up by helping with fundraiser t-shirts, and donated 50 shirts to be taken to be given away to staff and kids involved in the program. Due to the generosity of many we took 100 shirts, 120 discs, and 5 traveler baskets to be left with the staff in Macha.

Before the team arrived in Macha, there was much discussion about baskets. Shipping baskets was not an option as there was a possibility of theft. After going back and forth with various ideas, the Staff eventually settled on hiring a local welder to build the baskets using materials purchased locally. While the welder had no idea what it was he was building, the baskets came out great and surprised the entire team by how well they caught.


Local welder building the first basket

The land designated for the course turned out to be perfect for a disc golf course. The PTR Zambia staff cleared a good bit of the land before arrival, and the first day was spent mapping out the course, cutting additional trees, and clearing a few additional sections. The goal was to put in a beginner friendly 9-hole course with a second, more advanced set of tees. The area was the perfect size, and just so happened to have 2 walking paths running through it that each had a fair amount of foot-traffic. There were a number of strange looks the first couple days of work, but many of those same people were stopping to throw with the Staff later in the week.


Eagles Wings course construction team

By the end of day 3, there were 9 baskets installed, 18 tees, 9 hand painted tee signs, and a beautiful course sign. The unique terrain made for some great holes included some quite large termite mounds, and some very cool looking trees. The course turned out better than anyone expected coming into the trip, and the crew of Eagles Wings looked forward to teaching the sport to the community for the rest of the week.


The first disc golf basket installed in Zambia

The week-long trip provided a great opportunity to teach disc golf to the community. The first official clinic was with the after school program that comes to the Push The Rock Zambia rec center on a daily basis. The prospect of learning a new game brought out approximately 100 kids ranging from age 4 to 18. Instructors taught the basic skills of the game, and played some fun group games. It went over better than they could have expected as the kids could not get enough! Later in the week, Staff had the chance to expose these same kids to the course that had been built.

In order to encourage the sustainability of the sport within Zambia, an in- depth clinic with the Push The Rock Zambia staff was coordinated. There are 14 Zambians on staff and a few other volunteers, so Eagles Wings took the time to teach them how to play, rules of the game, and most importantly how to teach to the locals. The staff caught on quick and were very eager to get better, and to compete with one another. Later in the week, as Eagles Wings did clinics with the locals, this same staff would assist, translate, and at times lead the teaching, ensuring that instruction would continue long after Eagles Wings headed back to the States. Taking part in the clinics were doctors, nurses, teachers, church staff, and others come out to learn disc golf. Many left eager to return to the course, and the Staff even fielded questions about how to build a course in their community, school or church!

The future of Zambia disc golf appears to be very bright! Push The Rock sends between two and three teams to Zambia each year, and there are already have requests for more discs, minis, and tags to be sent with the team that will be traveling in August. This will also allow an Eagles Wings staff member to join a trip to help with additional teaching, course improvements, additional holes, or possibly additional courses! Maybe one of the most exciting things is that for the first time, one of the Zambian PTR staff members will be coming to the United States in October, and plans to enter an Eagles Wings PDGA sanctioned event! More to come on this as plans are made.

In closing, Dustin had this to say, “The Marco Polo grant was a huge part of making this trip possible. We are incredibly grateful to the PDGA and all who contributed to make this dream a reality!” Well, big thanks to Dustin, Hannah, Jim, Eagles Wings Disc Golf and all those involved in this project for making this dream become a reality. Add to Disc Golf Zambia the recent success of Yohannes Desalegn and the Ethiopia Disc Golf project, and it is extremely apparent that disc golf in Africa is on the rise!


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