A few weeks ago we shared the video of Nate Doss working with Fiddlehead Brewing Company as part of the 2015 Green Mountain Championships. It was clear to us the Green Mountain Championships at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont was taking the idea of a disc golf tournament and making it more than just the action on the course. After the tournament was over, we began talking with tournament director Jeff Spring to learn more about the GMC and their partnership with the resort itself.
Plus, with the announcement of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the spotlight for the GMC grows even brighter for 2016.
For those unfamiliar with the Green Mountain Championships, let’s first talk about everything that goes on with this event. It is more than a disc golf tournament, correct?
“That’s right. The GMC presented by Discraft is the centerpiece of Smuggs Fall Fest (Smuggs is short for Smugglers’ Notch Resort). The festival portion started modestly at the 2014 GMC. After utilizing the resort facilities in 2013 with two bands and a Fiddlehead Brewing event for the player’s party, the potential of growing it into a festival was apparent. I saw some locals and employees enjoying the party and many showed up to watch the tournament the next day. The opportunity to grow the model of hooking guests with the festival and then exposing them to the disc golf tournament clicked for me at that event. After growing to include two nights of live music and a special beer release brewed for the event in 2014, the stage was set for the successful festival component we enjoyed this past year.”
“The 2015 Fall Fest was billed as a celebration of Northern Vermont culture with the GMC as its centerpiece. We included craft beer & cider, local food, and live music for the event participants that not only included the disc golfers, but mountain bikers and rock climbers as well. We ran concurrent events for those sports on Friday and Saturday, then invited them to attend the final day of the GMC on Sunday. The evening events went off really well. It helps that resort guests only need to walk out of their condos to arrive at the festival! Friday night featured the Fiddlehead Brewing Company Can Release which drew hundreds of people. This was the second year they brewed a beer for the event and it was a collaboration with Nate Doss. They brewed a Session IPA called ‘Understable.’ It was a hit and they sold all 400 cases over the weekend!”
“The festival was also successful with just over 1,400 people attending the evening music, food and craft & cider events. We saw nearly 500 unique spectators over the course of the three days of the disc golf event, and hope to grow that number significantly in 2016.”
There is quite a bit happening during the tournament and throughout the year at the resort. I’m sure having a host like the resort can certainly take this to the next level, right?
“Yes, this is one of the best resorts in the country. Smuggs is best known for its family & kid friendly reputation and comprehensive programs and activities. We have two central seasons when we offer programming and guest packages; winter (December through mid-April) and Summer (June through August). The winter ski & snowboard season has been our largest area of recognition. We’ve been named the #1 family & kid-friendly resort in the country for 17 consecutive years as voted by the readers of SKI Magazine and have taken home #1 resort overall in the east in the same survey in 2013. In the winter I work as the Operations Director of the Ski & Ride School and in addition to Disc Golf, have created a Mountain Biking Facility, School & Guide Service in the summer.”
“In addition to these activities, there’s a big summer camp program for kids, endless adult and family activity offerings on a daily basis, a spa and massage center, plenty of dining options including a country store and 4 restaurants. Some of the facilities that our disc golfers most enjoy are the pools and hot tubs. We offer 8 heated pools, 4 waterslides, 2 hot tubs, splash pools and a two mountain reservoirs to play in, as well as other pools in each condo community. The condos have also been a big hit for the disc golfers as they all are built as family units and feature full kitchens and living rooms housing anywhere from 4-12 people. Many golfers have started bringing their families and taking advantage of our fall rates associated with the event to have a nice vacation as part of their tournament stay. The resort has approximately 4,000 guest beds and we are excited to continue to grow the number of disc golfers we put in those beds!”
Can people play the Green Mountain Championship course all year long?
“Our disc golf operation runs from May 1 – November 1, weather dependent. We are looking into winter golf, but there are no imminent plans at this time. We have two 18-hole championship courses. Brewster Ridge debuted in 2012 and is ranked as one of the top 20 courses in the USA. Fox Run Meadows had served as a 9-hole addition to Brewster until this year. Our crew started working on expanding to the current 18-hole layout used in the 2015 GMC in May 2015. We were very pleased with the results and Fox Run now serves as an excellent complement to the more wooded Brewster Ridge layout. As part of the resort, we work to function within the bigger picture of needs and land uses. Therefore, we plan on some changes to course design in the coming years, which should all work to improve our courses. We hope to open Fox Run Meadows by early summer in 2016 with some small changes and plan on moving forward with two 18-hole championship courses as our disc golf offering for the foreseeable future.”
One of the unique moments to come out of this year’s tournament is a partnership between Fiddlehead Brewing Company and disc golf pro and avid homebrewer Nate Doss. The end result was the Understable IPA. Tell us some more about how this came together.
“As I mentioned this was a great success for everyone involved. This idea started in 2013. Nate and Val came to the 1st GMC on the recommendation of Avery Jenkins who had visited the course and resort the year before. 2013 was when we had the Fiddlehead tasting event and music as the player’s party and they brought a number of different types of beer for players to try. Matty O, the founder and owner of Fiddlehead, is an avid disc golfer and Nate was an avid home brewer. As you may imagine, spirited conversation ensued! After the tournament, Nate and Val visited the Fiddlehead brewery for a tour and this idea of brewing a collaboration was born. In 2014, we all worked to make it happen but there were some scheduling conflicts that got in the way. When it was clear that we’d have to wait until 2015, everyone buckled down and made it happen.”
“Nate shared some recipes with Matty and Matty was able to make some adjustments to accommodate for the difference with his brewing set up. Those two were the decision makers on style, and decided to go with a session recipe that makes for easy drinking with the disc golfer in mind. We all collaborated on the name and the can art and were happy with the great looking can that Taylor Johnson (another local disc golfer) designed to represent the sport, the event, and the collaboration. The beer was also delicious and has gotten great reviews. Nate is not only an avid home brewer, but he and Val are working towards a brewery of their own. Based on these results, I will be very excited to try their beers!”
This year you hired Terry Miller to come out to the tournament for video coverage. You’re running these videos on Vimeo with the first three rounds free to view and the final round in a pay-per-view format. While the move to Vimeo over YouTube isn’t that big of a deal, why did you choose to go for the pay-per-view format for the final round?
“Our in-house video director, Alex Martin, films and produces our videos. He is a recreational disc golfer and does a great job producing our content. He was excited to bring Terry in to work with the production this season. Alex has a large number of projects he works on for the resort and was tasked with finding a modest revenue model for the large amount of time he puts into the videos. We have worked hard over the years to produce high quality and professional video content and this sparked an idea in our minds on a new way to monetize an important and growing piece of disc golf culture.”
“More and more production companies are springing up, especially in the past few years. You have Terry and his Disc Golf Guy and SmashBoxxTV platforms. Marty McFly has been around for years. Central Coast Disc Golf is one of my favorites. Spin TV is doing great things. Now Jomez is a big name as well. There are also the other live coverage companies like DG Planet, Emerging Sports and now the Pro Tour will feature all live coverage of their events. These are just a few that stand out to me but the list goes on! All these productions have different reasons for creating disc golf content and different ways of monetizing their efforts. I haven’t seen many options where production companies simply ask for a small payment in an online format. We are interested to see what the results will be, and hopeful for moderate success. We decided to use Vimeo since it is a higher quality video platform. It also has an easy payment system that utilizes paypal and that helps us get over a barrier for payment. With it being simple and easy to pay, we think most folks who watch video will support the production by contributing.”
Has the conversion to the paid model been successful so far? Do you think you’ll continue with the pay-per-view video model in the future?
“We have only just released the round 4 front 9 video! We aren’t sure what the results will be, but are excited to see what type of viewership we get over the next few months. The final round of the tournament was not a barn-burner as Ricky had a solid lead going in and folks can always look up past results, but there is plenty of beautiful disc golf video, commentary, and other features that we feel make the $1 you pay to watch worth it. You also own it once you buy it so you can watch it again. Both videos are $1.50 if purchased together. We encourage people to not only purchase to see some great disc golf content, but to also support the growing disc golf operation at Smugglers’.”
“With the Disc Golf Pro Tour coming to Smuggs and Brewster Ridge next year, we will feature live coverage of the event. We will be working on our media plan throughout the winter and will announce when registration opens for the GMC in early March. At this time I envision creating a post-production video that encapsulates the entire weekend. I’ve always loved some of the DVD productions that have covered an entire tournament or included footage from all the round and surrounding events. There is a possibility for that type of production to compliment the tournament and festival and tell the story of the entire week. I would picture that following the Vimeo model we have set up for our round 4 videos this season.”
Speaking of the future, the recent announcement of the Disc Golf Pro Tour has the Green Mountain Championships as one of the marquee events along with Smugglers’ Notch Resort being host for the Tour Championships. We’re sure you’re excited about being a part of the DGPT. How did these plans come together?
“Yes, we are thrilled about the Pro Tour! The GMC is the final event and is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday – Saturday. The results of the A-Tier will then inform the final standing of the Tour Championship which will be held Saturday and Sunday. The top 48 players in the season standings after the GMC qualify for the quarterfinal round with the top 8 getting a bye to the semi-finals. Visit the DGPT website for details on the very exciting format for the Tour Championship. That will be played on Fox Run Meadows. As the course winds its way around the basin, there are not only amazing views, but some of the best spectating I have ever seen in disc golf with great viewpoints and separation from the players.”
“After a year of talking about collaborating with Steve Dodge, the final plans came together very quickly. Steve and I have known each other for about 3 years, ever since I began attending the Vibram/MHO in 2012, and promoting our disc golf operation there. I have taken a lot of inspiration from attending and playing in that tournament and applied it to the GMC. Last year we started talking about collaborating on our event up in VT. At that point he said ‘hold on, I may have something bigger in the works, let me get back to you.’ Well, it was a little bit of a wait, but he got back to me this fall after running into some challenges. It really came together with encouragement to move forward with the 2016 Disc Golf Pro Tour by Nate Heinold, the buy in from him and Ledgestone, and our discussions about the role of the GMC and Tour Championship. After initial discussions, it became clear that the festival portion of the GMC was a similar model with similar goals to what the Pro Tour envisioned building at each event.”
“For me, it has felt like becoming part of this effort was a perfect fit for our event. I have felt creative and energized since deciding to have the GMC join the tour. I have many thoughts on the growth of the game and several align with Steve’s vision for the Pro Tour, especially the thoughtful nature of planning with the touring pros in mind, the importance of the spirit of the disc, doing right by the environment in our efforts, and of course the festival and other initiatives to get more people watching the sport both on site and online. I hope to help the tour plan and implement some festival functions in the future and do what I can to help it grow!”
Will we see any changes to your tournament or the corresponding events now that you are part of the DPGT? What else do you have planned for 2016?
“Bigger and better! We will start the GMC a day earlier in order to finish on Saturday instead of Sunday. The Tour Championship will run Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. We expect more golfers, more festival goers and more events around the tournament. The earlier start in the week allows us to put on many of the fantastic events that we have been planning and make this more of a weeklong festival! Of course the live music will continue with bigger and better acts! We also plan to continue our collaboration with Fiddlehead and Nate Doss, so look out for next year’s craft beer offering. We hope to increase the local food offering next year and have ideas on bringing in local farmers and local chefs for a food festival-like atmosphere. We love glow golf here in VT, so we plan on having a very well done glow round. We will also debut our Par 3 Frisbee-only championship a la The Masters! We are planning on having a poker tournament to help raise money for our Special Olympics team that competes each winter in the state Special Olympics Winter Games. We will have a $5,000 fundraising goal for our Special Olympics team next year.”
“A special event that is part of the GMC is the Village Fair. The last two years we’ve run it at a local elementary school early in the week as well. Thanks to Innova and the EDGE program we were able to give away two EDGE packages to local schools during the GMC. This year we plan to again have our long drive contest at the school as the headlining event for the fair. It will also feature a temporary urban disc golf course, country fair games, farmer’s market and food vendors, music, and pro clinics for 4-6th graders and tournament competitors alike! We hope that the fair lets the entire town rally around the event and gives them a chance to participate as well! Who knows what else we will think up, but that list will most likely be enough to keep us busy!”
“As far as other plans, we look forward to debuting an online store for branded discs, merchandise and apparel from Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Brewster Ridge Disc golf and our partners. This functionality will most likely live on our blog and website – brewsterridgediscgolf.com. We also look forward to running our other events, the BRO (Brewster Ridge Open) which is traditionally the Saturday after Memorial Day and is a qualifier for the MHO, along with other some other fun events. As always we love putting in thousands of hours on the courses to make them better!”
You’ve certainly grown this tournament into one of the popular A-Tier stops on the PDGA schedule. If you have one piece of advice to other tournament directors to help them grow their events, what would that be?
“The course and actual golf tournament comes first. That takes support from a team of people. Make sure everything is dialed in on that side, but once it is, collaborate. We are lucky to have the venue and resources we do at Smugglers’. However, from what I’ve seen from traveling to disc golf events around the country, every location has something to offer that is special and unique to that area. Reach out to the local community and see what type of partners there are to work with and decide how to make you event more fun or meaningful to participants. Whether it’s music, charitable causes, contests, sweet player’s packs, games, raffles, food & drink, there are many ways to build buzz and expand tournaments to include your community and get people to mark your weekend on their calendars every year. Once you have a good list of ideas, piece them together in a vision for the event. As TD, you’ve got to believe in it, you’ve got to own it, and you can’t let small hiccups, issues, or folks telling you to do things differently change that vision. If you find better ways to do things through collaboration, great, but if you believe in your vision, don’t compromise, and empower people that join you in that vision. Lastly, think of your golfers as guests of your event, meaning: treat them with a ‘we want you back’ attitude. Cultivate tradition. Grow slow. Is that more than one?”
Is there anything else you want to make sure we mention?
“I just want to give a big shout out to my crew that has helped make BRDG what it is today! Jon Lange, Pat Abbott, Evan Shper, Kyle Shlosser, Nick Hover, Danielle Digangi, Matt Marro, Drew Tolbert. Thank you!!!”
“Check us out and follow us on the interwebs!”
Thanks to Spring for sharing the story of the Green Mountain Championships. Their event is a true example of taking an idea and growing it into something larger than many could realize. We’re anxious to see how things grow in 2016 with the addition of the Disc Golf Pro Tour and Tour Championship events.
Finally, we’ll just leave this here:
Are you ready?
Posted by Brewster Ridge Disc Golf on Monday, August 24, 2015