Summer Fun: Learning to play disc golf

Disc golf is a lot like regular golf. Oh, you throw plastic discs instead of swinging long metal clubs. You score by heaving a Frisbee-like disc into chain nets hanging on poles instead of putting a ball into flag-marked holes. And, you can play for free on courses set up in parks instead of driving to a public course and paying greens fees.

Disc golf is a lot like regular golf. Oh, you throw plastic discs instead of swinging long metal clubs. You score by heaving a Frisbee-like disc into chain nets hanging on poles instead of putting a ball into flag-marked holes. And, you can play for free on courses set up in parks instead of driving to a public course and paying greens fees.

But, the whining is the same. The good walk still is spoiled, as the saying goes, by a sport that seems impossible to master, initially, and even more difficult as each hole passes. It just takes less time playing disc golf than “real” golf, so if you play badly, you don’t complain for as long. And, just like in traditional golf, sooner or later, even the “blind squirrel” of the playing partners will throw a disc that will spin pure, fly straight and travel far. That will be the shot that causes a player—especially a newbie sort—to tell himself that disc golf is a great way to spend recreational time. Nothing to this activity. It’s a walk in the park.

“I love this game.”

Which, is another way of saying that you don’t have to be good at disc golf to enjoy it. You just have to like to be outside.

“You didn’t do too badly for the first time out,” Bill Griffith told me after my first attempt at the sport at the course in Arboretum Park in Canton, a public facility that Griffith, a course designer, helped expand into 24 holes.

Griffith, a member of disc golf’s hall of fame and a player for several years, knows bad disc golfers when he sees them, but speaks kindly to them for their own enjoyment. He found a compliment for my very first shot—a 70-foot that veered left toward wet and overgrown ground.

“That’s OK, most beginners end up in the creek,” he observed. “The fact that you stayed out of it means you did fairly well.”

If you look, I suspect you’ll discover that Griffith, a kind and yet effective coach, has sewn a silver lining onto his disc carrying bag.

Many experienced disc golf players carry a couple dozen different discs when they play, in case a “club” is lost in deep weeds or thrown into the middle of water. A novice can get away with buying a starter set of three discs—a “driver,” a mid-range “fairway disc” and a “putter.” Griffith loaned me an easier-throwing mid-range disc and wisely steered me clear of water holes.

“This is the easiest hole on the course,” Griffith noted at one point, right after altering our play away from a pond. We aimed instead at a hole on which beginners usually score their first “birdie”—a 2, since 3 is par on disc golf holes. “It’s short enough that most beginners can get to the corner, and it’s close enough on the next shot that they can throw it into the hole.”

I threw my first shot into the weeds and the next shot sort of toward a tree. The only birdies I came close to hitting were startled sparrows. I think I scored a six or a seven. Might have been eight.

The rest of the round was similar in scoring, which beginners should note is identical to regular golf. You score a stroke for every shot, and the low score for the round wins, unless the beginner has stopped counting strokes after he picked up his disc behind a bush and walked to where he could safely putt on the fourth hole. Don’t ask me why I am so knowledgeable about this rule.

My mentor spent much of the remainder of my round offering helpful hints and providing encouragement. He noted that the major mistakes of beginners are allowing the disc to get too far up in the air where wind carries it and snapping their shot off at the wrist instead of the elbow.

“The next time, we’ll work on footwork.”

There will be a next time. That’s another way in which disc golf is similar to club golf. Both are addictive.

I had decided to buy a starter set of discs before I left the Arboretum parking lot.

ABOUT SUMMER FUN

SummerSummer in Stark County is full of fun. We go behind the scenes to give you the insider’s experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Loretta Paganini’s School of Cooking and the Massillon Museum, as well as a hands-on account of learning to play disc golf and getting a VIP shopping experience at The District Boutique.

More Summer Fun

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass