By Josh Woods ~
You’ve heard this story before.
But if there’s one story that should be told repeatedly, it’s this one: Disc golfers spend heaps of time and money building and maintaining disc golf courses for the public good. The disc golf infrastructure in the United States is, essentially, a fifty-year-old community development project headed by philanthropists and voluntary sports clubs.
Over the last decade, while other types of volunteering in the U.S. declined, the number of disc golf courses skyrocketed, because thousands of disc golfers donated their weekends and carried out backbreaking, unpaid labor in the hot sun among the thorn bushes, poison ivy and parasitic arachnids.
Public acknowledgement of these efforts is usually minor. A few paragraphs in a local newspaper, if you’re lucky.
For this reason, I was delighted to discover a new documentary by Coltin Calloway. His film “Welcome to The Sinks – A Film about Chattanooga Disc Golf” tells the origin story of a disc golf course in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Sinks was the first 18-hole course within the city limits. The movie explains how it got there and highlights the need for more courses in the area.
Featuring engaging interviews with key stakeholders, the film offers a behind-the-scenes look at The Sinks project, celebrates the hard work of the Chattanooga disc golf community, and reveals the challenges of negotiating city politics.
After watching the film, I caught up with Coltin Calloway, who filmed and edited the documentary. He told me about his life as a disc golfer, adventurer and filmmaker.
Here’s the conversation:
Parked: Tell me about your disc golf background.
Coltin Calloway: I became an avid disc golfer in late 2012. When I moved to Chattanooga from Baton Rouge in February 2015, I discovered that there was only one legitimate 18-hole course, The Sinks, within 40 minutes of downtown. I was shocked and a little disappointed.
In Baton Rouge, we had three courses and a fourth was installed after I left. I lived two minutes from one course and about ten minutes from another. Both are great courses. But they didn’t get as much traffic as The Sinks. I often found myself playing alone.
Not at The Sinks. I think I’ve played by myself on maybe three occasions out of the hundreds of times I’ve played there. There’s always someone or something happening at The Sinks. Everyone is really supportive. I made a lot of friends in Baton Rouge through the disc golf scene but not like the friends I’ve met here. I mean, we all see each other on such a regular basis, it’s hard not to build friendships (and some rivalries). I think that’s pretty awesome.
Parked: How did you get the idea for the film?
Coltin Calloway: For Chattanooga disc golfers, there’s this constant question: Why doesn’t Chattanooga have more courses? Disc golf is an outdoor sport. And Chattanooga is advertised as an “outdoor city.” The scene here is so active. All our tournaments sell out within hours. Yet, we still have to set up temporary courses to host a legit tournament. That’s a big burden on a TD.
I figured that telling the grassroots story behind The Sinks might help us move forward on our quest for more local courses. I didn’t want to criticize the city for not helping, but I did want to give the players credit. They did virtually everything, and that’s a story worth telling.
Parked: When did you start making the film?
Coltin Calloway: Years ago, I talked to Scott Snow, a local TD, about the project. That was only a few months after I moved to Chattanooga. He had connections and knowledge to help build a great video. But I wasn’t a guy that everyone knew at that point. Plus, I was working full-time at a news station and had a lot of other projects going on. I had been working on films about the Appalachian Trail, paddling the Mississippi and van life.
Many of these projects made their way into an outdoor-oriented film festival called Lookout Wild Film Festival. The festival had grown over the years, but it had never featured disc golf. I figured, as a local filmmaker, I could bring disc golf to this audience. And since I didn’t have any other films this year, now was my chance.
Parked: What did the festival organizers think about your film?
Coltin Calloway: It’s funny, when I first emailed the festival director about this idea, he didn’t think it was a good fit. He also wanted something shorter than I had in mind. The original idea was to make a 7-10 minute, cutdown version of my film, but I sent him the whole thing. At 25 minutes, I knew it would be a long shot. But he watched it and immediately emailed me back saying he was eating his words and he now understands that a disc golf film does have a place. It screened in front of nearly 600 people on January 26, between a film sponsored by North Face and one sponsored by Red Bull.
Parked: Was this a passion project or a paid gig?
Coltin Calloway: Man, I wish I knew how to monetize my stuff! I film tournaments too, but I get paid practically nothing. So, yeah. Not a paid gig.
Parked: What was the most interesting thing you learned from this project?
Coltin Calloway: I’m not from Tennessee. When I moved here, I didn’t know the history of the local politics. So, it was interesting to learn that Bob Corker had played a role in The Sinks getting opened. Back then, he was the mayor of Chattanooga. By the time I got here, he was a U.S. Senator and often in the national spotlight. It’s kind of funny to think of Corker at a ribbon cutting for a disc golf course. Other than that, it was nice to sift through the old pictures of the early days of the course.
Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Coltin Calloway is a filmmaker, dedicated outdoorsman and avid disc golfer. Through 18 years of making films, he’s taken on many subjects. All outdoor, all fun. Check out some of his other work here.
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Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.