It was my first time trying disc golf, and after about a hole and half, I was ready to buy every type of disc possible: a driver, a mid-range (equivalent to an iron used in regular golf, half-sister version) and a putter.
I wasn't even doing well. I mean, I've seen World's Strongest Man competitors throw tires with better accuracy.
Regardless, I knew I had to try this.
The golfer, or me, tees off, about 150-plus yards away, and basically hurls the ball, er, disc toward the bucket. Just like regular golf, I'd also need a short game, hoping to hit the cup for a nice birdie. But really, I'd be going for about a 10-foot putt after my drive — that is if the throw went how I planned.
Sounds simple enough, right?
So, I listened to everything Mike Barnett, the president and promoter of Sun King Disc, had to say, because compared to me, he is the Jack Nicklaus of disc golf.
My first throw was about as straight and level as a country road. On the third hole, I actually lost Barnett's driver. It's sitting somewhere at the bottom of the "canyon" on the Quarry Golf Course — that Well of Souls that's overgrown, surely has snakes as well, and includes a small creek, too.
I guess I didn't listen well enough.
"You have to keep your shoulder and hand level," said Barnett, who has been playing disc golf and helping it catch on in the bay area for the past eight years and who graciously took time not only to teach me how to play, but stifle his laughter at my feeble attempts to get straight drives. "You get your real power out of you hips as you twist them. Most people will just open up and throw with their arms, which is that typical Frisbee throw where you're throwing it to someone. You have to break out of that."
Oh, is that it? Is that all there is to it? All I have to do is unlearn everything I've ever known from playing games of 500 at the local park?
Don't sweat it. Picking up disc golf is no easy task. Learning the forms will probably take you more than a few rounds, and even then, as Barnett says, practice, practice, practice.
"A lot of people can be intimidated to come out to a golf course and play disc golf," Barnett said. "But anybody can play it — it's just how much time you're willing to put into it. & It's about coming out and getting that throw down. Even being around it, you'll pick up tips or see how other people do it and evolve your own game. It'll be just like any other sport."
And like any other sport, it has a professional level. Since the formation of the Professional Disc Golf Association in 1976, a tour, similar to the PGA in format, has been formed, there's a monthly magazine dedicated to the sport and the technology of the equipment has quadrupled. In the time Barnett has had his company, the number of disc golf courses has doubled from 30 to nearly 60, including the six in Hernando and Citrus Counties that he's helped form.
I did finally start to get the hang of it, and then that's when you want more. Once you can get to fade around the trees — hazards in the this case — in your way, you get goose bumps because then all you have to do "chip" — a light toss really — into the cup. Your putter, which is the closest disc you'll have to a traditional Frisbee, is easier to throw for just that reason. It's the drives that you have to hammer down to start getting pars and eventually birdies, since most holes are par 3 and 4s, though Barnett says some of the more professional courses have par 5s.
"When a new player comes out, I don't even sell them a driver," Barnett said. "I tell them to take a mid-range and putter, and then go over the different grips and techniques. & Really, it's just like golf. It's a faster, more hip version of golf, and just like golf, it takes time to learn it."
Just like regular golf, he says, but he's also right. This sport also grabs hold of you in the same way. I was out there embarrassing myself, throwing discs into trees or having them roll on the ground farther than it went in the air, which was eerily similar to when I started playing golf 10 years ago.
I didn't care. I was a novice, pushed down the red tees so I could just let the sport get under my skin. It did.
"It's here, just no one knows about it," Barnett said. "Get them out here and they'll love it."
Hook, line and throw.
Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-9480.