I grew up in a somewhat rural area, but not too far from my parents' house is a park that had a disc golf course. Being young and naive, I simply assumed that it was sorta like golf, that you could just use a regular frisbee, and follow the course as if it was akin to the links. Just toss, pick up, toss again, pick up, toss into the "hole," and move on to the next hole. I did this for several years, blithely going along my merry way.
Wrong me... Disc golf
, or Folf as some like to call it, is definitely a sport, with tons of courses all over the country, and a devoted following that grows year by year. I discovered the errors of my ways recently, when a new acquaintance revealed he played disc golf.
"Me too!" I exclaimed enthusiastically. "Maybe we can play sometime."
Turns out he's part of a deaf disc golf group here in Southern California
- and usually went to practice/play at the course at Huntington Beach. Well, if you've been following this blog with any regularity and you have any idea of what L.A. is like, you've probably picked up on the clues and deduced that I live *nowhere* near Huntington Beach. The way gas prices are these days, I'd like to go somewhere a little closer than that, if possible. He mentioned a course in Sylmar. Ok, a bit closer, but still not exactly down the block. Then, as we discussed the deaf disc golf association, a new course in Manhattan Beach was mentioned. Ok, that I can definitely do! So we made plans to get together for a game yesterday.
I showed up a little bit ahead of time (surprised, people??), parked my car, hauled out my old, trusty frisbee, and waited. I watched a group of teens and young adults make the circuit, and they all seemed to have these cool-looking flat sort of discs. Hmmm... Not sure if I fit in-- older guy, greying, not exactly lean and trim, with a... frisbee. Ok, whatever.
After a short time, my friend appeared, hauling a bag on his shoulder. I hailed him, explained I'd been figuring out the course, and showed him my frisbee. I was met with something somewhat in the neighborhood of a snort, with a hint of a gasp, and definitely a healthy heaping of pity, along with a definite chuckle.
"Um, that's a beach frisbee. We don't use that here."
"We don't? I used to play with this all the time back home."
"No, no, that's no good. You need something like this." And with that, he lowered his bag, unzipped the cover, and took out several discs. Ok, I'm definitely not fitting in here...
Within a few minutes, I got a crash course in what disc golf is all about. Beach frisbees definitely brand one as a) complete novice, b) a fool, and c) in the wrong place with the wrong equipment. I learned that discs have different functions (some are best for long-range, some are all-around discs and good for medium distances, while some are great for putting and short tosses), and have different weight, diameter, and rims. My new teacher graciously loaned me a couple of discs that were a tad more appropriate for the course. We circled about and after asking a park employee, found the first tee.
Just seconds later, we were approached by a hearing guy, probably in his early 20s, who asked if he could join us. My friend said it was fine, and explained to me that that was normal to join a group; I had no problem either, figuring now I'd have two people to observe. I sheepishly explained it was my first day. I was assured that it wasn't any problem.
We set out, and both of my companions offered suggestions, tips, and corrections throughout. The big surprise came on the third tee; It was a long section, with a shallow depression curving upward into a hill, with the basket on the far side. There were trees, shrubs and the like surrounding the tee itself. We stepped back to let our hearing player take his turn. As he aimed, stepped forward, and followed through, we watched his disc soar through the air, hit a tree, bank to the right, and... a hole in one. As my friend said, holy shit.
No way am I competing with these guys! Both of them were quite good. I simply concentrated on learning proper form, getting a feel for the discs and their use, and enjoying a pleasant day (the park where the course is is maybe two or three miles, if that, from the ocean, so it was a comfortable environment on a very pleasant late summer afternoon).
After completing the course, our hearing companion spotted a group that he usually played with, excused himself, and left. We decided to continue and play one more round-- partly because we were having so much fun, partly because of rush-hour traffic -- no need to hop in the car! Why bother? Let the peons enjoy the bumper-to-bumper atmosphere, while we soak up the rays and get a little exercise. I improved somewhat over the second set, and definitely gained an appreciation for what I initially thought was a fun game, but is actually a sport.
Once we hit the final hole, we decided to take off, stopping first for a quick bite on the way. My friend was kind enough to give me a few of his discs so I could practice on my own as well as have them for future games. A very generous gift! I left after the meal knowing I now had a new pastime to pursue.
Today my shoulder is a bit sore-- I hadn't felt anything different yesterday, but obviously the repitition took its toll. Still, I'll be headed back to Manhattan Beach, along with other courses, to practice. But don't expect to see me entered in any tourneys soon!