I’ve written before about my enjoyment of Ultimate. However, that’s not the only disc-based sport that I enjoy. I also very much like disc golf.
I’d played disc golf very casually for a while (it features in the story of the found iPhone, for instance). But when I moved to New Zealand, the disc golf craze there was quite strong!
For the unfamiliar, disc golf is played with smaller, more streamlined discs than your standard Ultimate disc. The “hole” is a basket, with chains to help discs land in the basket. The terminology is very much the same (you drive from the tee, then putt to the hole when you get close enough). Scoring also works the same. You can listen to someone talking about disc golf and think that he was talking about actual golf!
One of the first barriers to overcome is that throwing a disc golf driver is much more difficult than throwing a regulation 175 gram ultimate disc. It’s not necessarily all that different, but the larger and heavier ultimate disc stabilizes itself much more readily, at the expense of distance, so it’s very easy to learn bad throwing habits without realizing it.
Many of my friends in New Zealand were better golfers than I am, which in turn challenged me to become better as well. I knew I would never win, but I would set goals for myself for each game — usually something pretty lame, like “no more than one over par for each hole” — so I could have something to strive for that was more attainable than what my friends were achieving.
In America, on the other hand, I am one of the better disc golfers among my circle of friends. This in itself provides its own drive to succeed, as when my peers look up to me it would be an embarrassment to go from being good to being average merely through not progressing in my own skills.
I have, once, scored a hole-in-one. I was out at Bethesda Regional Park in South Durham with a former co-worker. There’s a notoriously difficult hole that sits right in front of a creek bed. It’s a short throw, but into some woods so a straight throw is imperative. An overthrow can be deadly, as going past the pin means a more challenging approach over the creek bed (or, for a very unlucky throw, out of the creek bed). The usual strategy is to drive slightly short, ideally landing at the foot of the basket to avoid overshooting. I wasn’t really thinking, though, and threw to the pin. As soon as the disc left my hand I realized what I had done, and I was expecting to see the disc go sailing by the hole and to have quite a difficult approach on my second throw. But as the disc drew close to the hole, my friend and I both realized that it was going to hit the chains instead! With a satisfying clang, the disc landed in the basket and I had made my first (and so far only) hole-in-one from an official tee.
I haven’t played a round of disc golf in nearly a year now, as I would certainly not consider it an essential activity. I’m probably quite rusty at it these days. I do look forward to the time when I can play again!