Disc golf: Another way to get in a round
A round of free golf is pretty enticing, especially when you don’t have to make a tee time or lug a bag full of clubs around.Welcome to the world of disc golf. The sport has been increasing in popularity, and for good reason. It’s cheap, easy and entertaining.Unlike most other sports, disc golf has a start-up cost of about $20. You can buy a single disc for about $7, and most recreational players carry between three and four.
Just about anyone can throw a disc. Clearly, some people are more accurate than others, but a first-timer in disc golf doesn’t need lessons or hours on a driving range.You don’t need to be amazing to enjoy disc golf, and the game isn’t all about who finishes with the fewest number of shots.”It’s like a self-guided hike with entertainment in the meantime,” said Russell White, a manager at Adventure Ridge, where the Vail course is located.There are many people, however, who have been playing for more than just fun.”The competitive side has grown immensely in Colorado,” said Jeff Panis of the Mile High Disc Golf Club, based out of Arvada. “It used to be there were a dozen tournaments (in Colorado) all year, and those tournaments didn’t fill up. Now there are 20 minimum and everyone is selling out.”
Test roundAfter I spoke with several people about disc golf, I had the urge to go and play a round. There are several courses in Eagle County, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Edwards, East Vail and Eagle; and a total of 22 courses within 60 miles of Vail. A lot of ski mountains have recently installed courses, or have expanded from nine to 18-hole courses. I decided to take the Vail gondola to Adventure Ridge and play Vail’s 18-hole course with a friend who is a recreational player. The East Course has several steep descents and goes through some heavily wooded areas. The West Course has open fairways, but many of the baskets (the disc golf equivalent of a hole) are guarded by trees.It’s a good idea to play with someone who has played the course before, unless there is a map available. Even when there are maps, it still takes a vigilant eye to find some of the tee boxes and baskets. Before I drove off the first tee, I became acquainted with my arsenal of loaned discs. I had a long-distance driver, a fairway driver, an all-purpose disc and a putter. There are only several types of discs, but some of the more serious disc golfers will carry anywhere from 8-12 discs with them.”They have several versions of each disc,” Panis said. “One that has never been thrown, one that is really beat up and one that is kind of beat up. One will turn a bit more, one will turn not so much and one will turn the other way.”
Different curveMy first few holes weren’t as successful as I had hoped. I can throw a regular Frisbee rather well, so I thought I would be in good shape, but the discs act a little different and don’t tend to curve at the end of the shot.Once I figured out how to compensate, I started to spend less time in the woods. Where most golfers won’t spend much time looking for a lost ball, disc golfers go to great lengths, including climbing 30-foot trees, to retrieve lost discs.On a steep downhill hole, I found my stroke and overthrew the hole by more than 100 feet. It felt great to toss a disc almost 500 feet, but my score on that hole wasn’t exactly gratifying.A great thing about discovering new courses is that you could be in for a few surprises. When I teed off on the first hole of the East Course, my drive sailed smoothly toward a basket and landed no more than 3 feet away. I confidently approached my disc and was primed to earn my first birdie until my playing partner broke me the hard news: We had been throwing at the wrong basket.
So may partner, who duffed his shot at what we thought was the basket, was actually in great position, while I had some work left to do. I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t earn my first birdie, but I knew that my aim was improving. After the two-and-a-half hour round, I felt a different kind of accomplishment than when I golf. I’d gone for a hike, hadn’t spent any money and got to hang out with a friend. Web sites: http://www.pdga.com, http://www.milehighdiscgolf.orgSports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado