By Bob Carver
“Oh, no!” “Go left, left, left!” “Woohoo!” “Wow, did you see that shot?” “Aw.” “Good grief!” “You’re the man!”And on it goes in the life of a fanatic disc-golf player.
It started years ago--too many to mention--when I took a Frisbee and tossed it at a tree that my friends and I labeled hole number one. I was convinced this was the sport for me. Today, the game is still called Frisbee--with a twist.
Introducing Disc Golf
Every year, my wife and I visit our son, Kelly and his family in Portland, Ore. Kelly took me to the local city and state parks and taught me how to play disc golf. I soon learned there are more than 2,400 disc-golf courses throughout the country. As you read this article, you may think, “I don’t have any disc golf courses near me.” You probably do, and don’t even know it. Look around the fringes of the local park for metal baskets with chains, and you may be surprised. Or better yet, go to the Professional Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) Web site (www.pdga.com), click on “course directory,” and type in a ZIP code to view information on all the courses in the area. The closest will be listed first, along with the mileage.
Playing The Game
Disc golf is similar to traditional golf. There is a tee-off box, usually from a concrete pad, and a bag of discs, each with a particular purpose. Shots are played behind where the previous disc lands, with the last “putt” landing either inside the basket or in the chains. Count the number of strokes and head to the next hole. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Well … not at first, until you learn how to throw. Then the exhilaration of the challenge takes over! The key to learning how to play disc golf is two-fold--you need the advice of an experienced player to show you the backhand and forehand, thummers, tomahawks and grenades, and you need the right discs.
Selecting The Right Discs
The biggest mistake is choosing the wrong discs. There are three types--a putter, a mid-range, and a driver. Each of these varies in color, type of plastic and weight (145-180 grams). The best way to determine which discs to buy is to talk to someone who plays. Ranging from $7 to $20, discs are available in various degrees of plastic--the higher the cost, the more durable the plastic. I’ve seen players carry a whole bag of discs, sometimes 15-25. I have two bags--one contains nine discs and the other is on a golf push-cart and has 20 discs, a towel, umbrella, snacks, gloves, hand warmers, extra socks, a microwave … I exaggerate.
When purchasing a disc, make sure the retailer has a flight chart available; if not, go somewhere else. Another option is to check out flight charts online, such as www.marshallstreetdiscgolf.com or www.gottagogottathrow.com. The charts are divided into distances from one to six, and stability, categorized by over-stable, stable and under-stable. Over-stable discs turn hard to the left, stable fly straight and then left, and under-stable fly slightly right and then left. As a beginner, choose discs between stable and under-stable. Do not make the mistake of choosing an over-stable disc because the first backhanded throw will turn sharply to the left (for a right-handed person), and you will get frustrated immediately.
Go to the Disc Golf Association (www.discgolfassoc.com) or the PDGA Web site for links to various vendors who sell discs in hundreds of styles and sizes.
Finding Disc-Golf Courses
When scouting courses on the PDGA Web site, you will find lots of information—location, date of construction, the length and difficulty of the course, a contact person, etc. Many communities have a disc-golf club, and information usually is listed with each course. Most courses are located in parks--either city or state—but some are on private property, in which case, you will need permission to play. Most courses offer nine or 18 holes, and each hole has a varying degree of difficulty. One of the coolest things about disc golf is that almost all courses are free to play. If there is a charge, it is usually minimal--between $1 and $6.
To date, I have played 59 different courses in 10 different states in four years. My disc-golf bag goes with me everywhere. Camp Allendale Christian Camp and RetreatCenter in Trafalgar, Ind., has an 18-hole course on the campground, and I highly recommend disc golf for any type of camp.
On the professional side of the game, the PDGA hosts tournaments in every state with lots of big names. There are also amateur tournaments with multiple levels of play for all ages. Many communities have their own tournaments and leagues as well.
The Benefits Of The Sport
One of the best reasons to play disc golf is camaraderie. You know what I mean--someone to encourage you when you do badly (and perhaps, will laugh uncontrollably when you do something silly) and someone to high-five when you do something amazing (which happens occasionally).
Another great thing about this sport is that it is good for players of all ages. I play with my 9-year-old grandson, my adult son and daughter, my wife, and with guys my own age (you know, the guys born just about the time the earth’s crust started to cool). Regardless of age, gender or athletic ability, or those with weight, time or financial restrictions, disc golf is a rare breed because everyone can be included. For individuals concerned about spending time away from the family, make this a family activity.
And just think about the exercise. On a course 5,000 feet long, by the time you are through, you have walked at least a mile and a half, bent over and picked up your disc as many times as you have thrown it, twisted your body with each throw, and likely tromped through the woods several times (watch out for the multi-floral rose … it’s brutal. I have a disc that evidently has been programmed to find this sticker bush easily). In one round, which normally lasts between 45 minutes and 1 ½ hours, you work up a good sweat. And it’s a great break from the normal routines of life. So pull out a disc and forget your cares. Whether you are good or bad when you start playing disc golf, you have a blast. And then--like me--you’re hooked.
Bob Carver has been in camp management for the past 33 years. He recently retired as executive director of CampAllendale in Trafalgar, Ind., to become the camp's marketing director. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.