Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 144 - Disc Golfing


I have never played Disc Golf. This relatively new sport that blends Frisbees and the basic concepts of golf has intrigued me since I first learned of it some years ago, but my interest was never enough for me to act on learning the sport. This remained the case even when my Brother, Abe, became active in Disc Golf several years ago. It wasn’t that the sport didn’t appeal to me. It was just that I was too lazy, busy, or preoccupied to make time to experience the sport firsthand. As a result, I would satisfy my curiosity about Disc Golf by asking Abe about the game from time to time, which would always result in him discussing how much fun he had on the course before inviting me to play a round with him. Each time I would assure him I would take him up on the offer some time, but I never made good on that promise.

Realizing the only way I would ever make time to play a round of Disc Golf with my brother would be a result of reprioritization and a healthy dose of motivation, I decided I would take time to experience the sport for the first time during my “I have never...” year. While the concept of playing Disc Golf for the first time was a relatively easy experience to obtain, I knew acting on the experience would also help me with my underlying goal of spending more time with my family. As a result, I called Abe last month and asked him if his offer to play a round of Disc Golf was still on the table. He excitedly confirmed that was the case before asking me when I wanted to get together to play a round. Eventually, we narrowed in on a few dates where we could squeeze in 18 “holes” before our independent workdays began, which set into motion plans for me to gain my first experience with Disc Golf during a round this morning.

Bring on the Disc Golf!

I woke early today fearful my planned Disc Golf outing would be canceled by rainy weather. Fortunately, the predicted storms had held off through the night, leaving the tail end of an unseasonably warm weather pattern lingering into the morning. With the rising sun shining brightly through swaths of grey clouds, I left my house early this morning and headed Northwest of Madison to Token Creek Park. There I met Abe as dawn broke free to morning, providing us near perfect conditions to play a round of Disc Golf. Upon arriving, we gave one another a quick greeting before Abe gave me a quick breakdown of the game. I found myself unprepared when Abe told me there was a park fee required to play the course, which caused a brief ATM delay in the progress of the day’s event. However, the convenient location of a nearby gas station solved the problem easily enough, and Abe and I were on our way to playing my first round of Disc Golf.

The first "tee" box...
When we arrived back at the park, I promptly paid my fee before Abe I started onto the course. As we kicked through dew soaked grass toward the first “tee” box, Abe tossed me the Frisbee that would serve as my sole tool for reaching the goal on each leg of the course. I was immediately taken by the density and weight of the disc. Although it was smaller in size than the Frisbees to which I’m accustomed, the disc was substantially thicker that the flimsy toys I remembered from my youth. Additionally, the plastic was noticeably hard, with a texture equivalent to some forms of resin I encountered during my experience racing sailboats some years earlier. Abe was quick to explain the profile, size, and weight of the disc permitted it to fly farther and maintain greater accuracy than the Frisbees I was used to seeing, which led him into a brief primer on throwing technique. He explained there were two basic throwing techniques for distance, the traditional Frisbee toss, albeit much more aggressive, and the overhead “hammer throw” that fell somewhere along the lines of a baseball pitch. Understanding his direction, I nodded my head and let me enthusiasm guide my words, “Alright, let’s do this!”

Mere minutes after arriving at the course, I was about to dive into my first experience with Disc Golf. Although Abe could tell I was eager to get the game moving, he advised me it would be best to take a few practice throws from the box before I started. He began by demonstrating his toss, which included full body momentum leading into a sweeping arm movement that sent his disc soaring far into the distance. Considering how easy he made it look, I approached the “tee” box and did my best to replicate his movements. With all my might I lunged forward and released the disc in a similar sweeping motion, only to see it climb skyward and immediately hook hard into the neighboring part of the course. In response, I shook off the terrible throw and gave the traditional approach one more attempt, only to see the disc sweep skyward, hook, and slam into nearly the exact location as my first attempt.

Hammer throw!
“Hammer throw it is...” I said as I moved back to the box. Abe retrieved my failed throw for a second time and tossed it back to me with a few encouraging words. With the disc in my hand, I lined up in the far corner once more and rotated the disc in my hand to prepare for the overhead toss. Then, without hesitation I took three huge steps forward and threw the disc with all of my might. Although my release was a little late, the disc took to the sky in an oscillating pattern and carried outward toward the location of the first “hole’s” pin. While it didn’t fly nearly as far as Abe’s first toss, the disc carried farther than I expected, which left me in good position to complete the first “hole” of the course with a par. Although my technique was still shaky, I followed some quick pointers from Abe and ended up doing just that. To my surprise, at the end of the first “hole” Abe and I were tied.

The pin
With my confidence quickly building, I gave Abe a little smack talk as we walked to the second “tee” box on the course. Abe continued pulling shots with distance and accuracy during the length of the “hole”, but I was much less successful with my attempts. After landing in the woods a few times, I finally landed a shot relatively close to the second pin, which helped me wrap up the “hole” two shots behind Abe. Although Abe had a few less than desirable shots himself, this pattern basically continued for the rest of the course. My throws continued to be slightly off target, and Abe produced accurate throws with relative consistency, widening his lead and leaving me completely out of reach of snagging a victory. That stated, I knew it wasn’t likely I would beat an experienced player (and someone we called “the king of backyard games” growing up) during my first experience with the game, and the real idea of the experience was to try something new and spend time with my Brother. The added benefit of our time on the course was that I actually found myself enjoying the game immensely. The challenge, the environment, and the company made me look forward to each new “hole’, even if it meant we would spend some time digging in the weeds after one of my loose armed throws.

Owning it...
Eventually, Abe and I found ourselves half way through the 18 “holes” we intended to play this morning. After a quick check of the clock, I realized my time to play was running short, which made me hesitant to continue through the back nine of the course. “Come on! This is your first experience. You have to play 18 holes!” Abe said in response to the look of concern on my face. Continuing, he gave me some reassurance wrapped in a thick layer of confidence, “We’ll go quick. Two minutes a piece, and we’ll have these last nine finished!” Deferring to his experience, I gave Abe a quick, “Alright” before he guided me to the tenth tee.

It was so familiar it started to feel like home...

RELEASE!

With time of the essence, I knew I needed to be accurate and effective during the second half of play if we were to finish within the confines of my time constraints. Sticking to his form, Abe set a good example for my objective as he continuously made shots that put mine to shame. I watched as he launched his disc two-thirds of the way down fairways and made “putts” from more than 20 feet away without batting an eye. Meanwhile, although I was having more luck staying out of the weeds, my challenges with accuracy left me mulching a lot of tree bark and missing my goal on easy shots. By the time we reached the two “holes” of the course, Abe’s lead had widened to the point we stopped keeping track of our scores, but that fact did nothing to deter the fun we were having on the course.

No better way to start a workday...

As Abe and I brought my first ever experience with Disc Golf to a conclusion I took time to take in our surroundings and gauge my feelings on the sport. Surrounded by the beauty of the Token Creek County Park forest, it was easy to conclude my morning on the Disc Golf course was time well spent. Not only did I get to spend some time outdoors with my Brother, I found a new sport that could very easily become a hobby in the future. The experience was challenging, fun, and relaxing, which made it easy to enjoy. With Abe extending me an open-ended invitation to play another round in the future, I can there is little question I will take him up on his offer, and it is likely that will happen more than once. The sport is just a good time, and if it gives me a reason to enjoy some beautiful weather and spend some time with my Brother, I know it’s something that will make a reappearance after my “I have never...” year. I just have to find a way to fit in all of the cool events I want to make a routine part of my life when this is all said and done...

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