Disc golf. Who knew? My friend Zakk Shanks knew.
Back in December 2019, Zakk and I were talking, and he asked whether I’d ever played disc golf. I’d never tried it, and had only sort of heard of it, but was immediately intrigued. Golf? With frisbees? What’s not to like?
I say I’d sort of heard of it, because my other friend Paul Normandin and I had briefly discussed Ultimate Frisbee, which he plays. I had no idea what UF was, so in my mind it was disc golf. Our conversation that day was cut very short for some reason, so I never clarified.
Nevertheless, the day after that discussion with Paul, I’d ordered an Innova starter set from Amazon, for disc golf not Ultimate, and they’d been in my closet ever since.
Anyway, I love walking, but I like to have a reason for it, so disc golf sounded right up my alley. Zakk and I set up a time to play, and I met him at the Trinity University disc golf course for my first disc golf experience.
I was hooked. I sucked, but I was hooked. What a challenge!
I started going out to play daily. I discovered instructional videos at YouTube. Also on YouTube, I watched the pros play, thanks to JomezPro.
I went to a local soccer field to practice technique with my throws. I saw my accuracy improve. I saw my distance improve.
I learned about the different types of discs — putt/approach, mids, fairway drivers, distance drivers — and about what the flight numbers mean.
I bought a lot of discs from most of the different manufacturers to try them out. I figured out which worked best for me.
During the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, many of the disc golf courses closed. I was still able to throw at parks and open fields, though. And I did. I even took about 6 weeks and figured out how to throw a decent forehand!
(I’ve completely changed my approach to forehand since then, including my grip and walk-up, but it was cool figuring out my original style alone in the field.)
I started entering tournaments in 2021, and that turbocharged my desire to be better.
In tournaments I often get to play in the MA60 division, which is for disc golfers who are 60 and older. If that is not available, i.e. if the tournament director has chosen not to open that division, then I play in the Recreational division.
Playing MA60 is fantastic, because I am competing against players my own age, most of whom have been playing a lot longer than I have, and I can learn a lot from those guys.
Playing Rec is also fantastic, because I am usually playing against players younger than me, and I can compare and contrast my game with theirs. I can find ways to play smarter to win, even if they can out-throw me for distance.
This is a good place to throw in one other big reason I love disc golf. It’s fun to play with people who are better than me. In other games, playing with people better than I am is a challenge, because there is so much separation between us, i.e. they are so much better, and it’s not a lot of fun for either of us.
In disc golf, even if I shoot +5 with my 825 rating, a player with a 925 rating will average a -5. That’s a 10 stroke difference, but it’s still easy for us to play together, because we are throwing discs, and they only go so far. In addition, I’d say that the majority — or at least half — of the stroke differential comes in putting. So, in reality, I and the higher-rated player are very often reaching the putting area together, but the better player will putt once, while I more often putt twice.
(Which makes me think … why don’t I practice my putting and approaches more? I do practice putting and approaches a lot, but I wonder what would happen if I took 6 weeks and only practiced putting and approaches. Hmmm….)
Disc golf is picking up in popularity, because a lot of people got interested in disc golf during the pandemic.
To illustrate that point, I joined the PDGA on February 19, 2020, just before the pandemic lockdowns started, and my PDGA number is 133380. As I write this on November 21, 2021, the highest PDGA number is 197118, which means that the PDGA has grown by about 50% since I joined less than two years ago. That is explosive growth for an organization that has been around since 1976!
(In case you wondered, the PDGA is the Professional Disc Golf Association, but amateurs are also required to be members to receive ratings.)
I think the thing I like most about disc golf is that it’s something I can do alone or with a group. When I was a kid, my favorite game was bowling, which is very similar to disc golf in a lot of respects.
The ability to play alone was for bowling, and is for disc golf, huge for me, because I love being by myself and able to fully concentrate on my game. I love that I can go any time I choose to, and not have to plan with others.
I’m not sure what that says about my personality, but I know it to be true.
Another very nice aspect of disc golf is that I can usually finish a solo round of 18 holes in 45-60 minutes. I can stay out for 30 minutes or 3 hours. Here in San Antonio, most of the disc golf courses are not too busy, but if the one I’m playing solo is crowded for some reason, I can play the same holes over and over, or skip around the course, if I choose to. After all, I am here to practice, so playing all the holes sequentially is not a requirement. Convenient!
If you haven’t given disc golf a try, I encourage you to check Google Maps or Udisc.com and find a disc golf course near you. Chances are it’ll be free as part of a city park or university. Pick up an Innova starter set from Amazon and hit the course. You may find yourself hooked like me!