An education on disc golf

Disc golf is America’s No. 1 outdoor sport. Okay, not really. But, it is certainly growing, and if you haven’t been out to the Windsock course in the sports complex on the west end of town near the airport (how’s that for a string of prepositional phrases?), you are missing a premiere attraction of the city.

Hyperbole aside, local enthusiasts and I just upgraded our little nine-hole course into a full-fledged 18-holer (we refer to the target baskets as “holes,” even though they are all above the ground). That’s kind of a big deal for our small town. Sure, there are other cities our size with complete courses, but ours is…well…ours. And, it’s pretty good, if I may say so myself.

Jerry Schwilling and Mickey Tibbetts installed the first nine baskets a year ago this summer. Then, Jerry moved away to the Emporia area, where he can enjoy about a dozen courses within a disc’s throw of his home in Lebo. That sort of left me in charge of finishing the dream of expanding the ‘Sock, as we call it. I hit the streets in July, and thanks to the good men and women of commerce in our fair city, I sold sponsorships of the new set of targets within a couple of weeks. Again, I want to express my appreciation to those merchants and the chamber of commerce who stepped up.

We are not quite finished with the project. The next step is to pour concrete for tee pads and to install signage with descriptions for each hole. With any luck, those finishing touches will be completed within the next year. We may be looking for more sponsors to fund those additions.

Area players have already formed a community on Facebook. Check us out at Hillsboro Disc Golf Club. We have held several “league” events already. Plans are in the works for a beginners’ clinic. Doug Sisk, the city recreation director, has sold a number of disc sets with backpacks already, and I bet he could be talked into ordering more. They are a real bargain and will get you on the course and enjoying the game for next to nothing. Did I mention that there is no fee to play disc golf? And, there’s plenty of room for everyone.

I am still a relative beginner at the sport, though I have played more than 140 rounds at area courses in the past 15 months or so. I have learned so much from Jerry and Mickey and others with whom I have engaged in friendly competition during the past year. So, I feel obligated to pass along some wisdom I have gained through trial and error. Here are the top 10 things you need to know to be successful at disc golf.

10. Always play with someone younger than you. And, he or she needs to be agile enough to climb fences and trees to retrieve wayward discs. Younger players are also often willing to dig into the weeds and bushes for you. Don’t be afraid to play the age card.

9. You can never have too many discs. Most people start with just three basic projectiles: a driver, a midrange and a putter. Before long, they find they have accumulated at least a dozen. I once met a guy in a disc golf store in Wichita who said he owned more than 400. Now, that’s a man with a problem.

8. Get to know your discs. Each has a different purpose, and each has a set of numbers that indicate the speed, glide, turn and fade. As you learn the game, you will soon understand what those numerals mean. There are literally thousands of different variations of plastics, weights, brands and shapes of discs. It’s a huge business.

7. If your significant other is hesitant to let you out of the house to play, tell him or her how healthy the sport is. In addition to hiking the course, the throwing is good for your upper body, and the yelling of obscenities at the trees that eat your discs is good for your lungs as well.

6. Trees will eat your discs; it’s nothing personal.

5. Always write your telephone number inside each disc. Your name helps, too. Most golfers will be happy to let you know when they find a disc that fell out of your bag or was lost in the trees or tall grass or bushes.

4. Get yourself a disc retriever. Mine cost $45, and it has more than paid for itself in recovered discs, both mine and my playing partners’.

3. Learn to live with the wind. In Kansas, calm days are rare. I recently tossed a round at Melverne Lake with 35 mph+ winds. I don’t recommend it.

2. Talk to other players before you invest a lot of money in discs. Most experienced golfers will be happy to assist you in understanding flight patterns of various plastics. When you play with others, feel free to ask what another player just threw. We are all trying to grow the game.

1. And, the best thing you can do to improve your disc golf experiences is to subscribe to the Udisc app. It’s free for a while and then just a few bucks a year. It may be the best money you can spend, with the exception of a retriever.

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