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Disc Golf in the Wilderness

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With the weather finally cooling off here in Texas my thoughts turn to outdoor activites, and what could be more appealing than a few holes of disc golf. You know the sport – like traditional golf, but with baskets instead of holes in the ground, and happy stoners in cargo shorts instead of car salesmen in lime green slacks.

This is the weekend of Octoberfest 7, a big disc golf tournament being held not far from here at Moody’s Disc Golf Country Club. A friend who’s playing in it convinced me to join him for the Friday afternoon doubles session. He wanted me to play the whole tournament, but with kids and work there’s no way I can take a whole weekend to play 54 holes of disc golf, but one afternoon for 18 holes is just about right, so I agreed to join him as his partner for the doubles on Friday afternoon.

Dave Moody’s course is a tribute to the ambitious vision of the disc golf entrepreneur. It’s in Red Rock Texas, about 40 miles east of Austin and just a little bit south of Bastrop. Not exactly the center of civilization. But he’s done everything he can to turn a family ranch into a disc golf mecca with the power to attract players from far and wide.

To start off with, it’s a pretty nice course with a nice variety of holes spread over about 100 acres of land with attractive scenery and a nice mix of long leaf pine, pin oaks and cedar trees. It also offers a pro shop and campsites for travelling players. But the real key to getting players there is promotion. It helps that Dave Moody is the course pro at the enormously active Pease Park course in the heart of Austin’s university community. That gives him a captive audience to advertise his home course to when they’re ready to move on to something more ambitious. With all the players who go to Pease there are going to be more than a few willing to drive a few miles to try out a new course. Another good promotion is holding a PDGA pro-tour event like the Octoberfest tournament. This brings in players from all over who’ll spread word of the course, plus it’s an excuse to produce promotional discs which get sold and traded throughout the disc golf community, further spreading word of the course.

My little taste of Octoberfest was nothing if not unusual. The course is big, challenging the legendary Round Rock course for length. Plenty of hiking, a couple of thousand-foot holes, two water hazards which are a bit dried out after a hot, rainless summer, and lots of pretty long leaf pine trees to marvel at. Moody has done an excellent job of clearing the land – with the help of his cows and horses, I suspect. There’s very little underbrush, so the course has a park-like appearance which is excellent for long, clear shots with the trees presenting just enough of a challenge.

There are only a few shortcomings to the course. One is courtesy of nature. The sandy soil of the region is great for the pine trees, but also very gopher-friendly and the tunnelling fiends pile up the sand on the surface creating patches of treacherous footing and some dangerous holes, but also making the course very unreliable for those of us who like to roll their discs for a bit of extra distance. The other is a design weakness. There’s a set of holes in the middle of the course – 10 through 12 as I recall – which are just too close together, with fairways which run parallel to each other and are close enough that when the course is crowded discs cross into neighboring fairways fairly frequently and playing groups are close enough to cause some distraction. The three holes are also rather similar to each other with medium-length straight approaches. With so much room to work with these holes seem poorly conceived and unimaginative.

Our actual round was a bit peculiar. It was doubles, which means that players are in two-man teams. Each player throws and they then both make their next throws from the better of their first two throws, and carry on like this until they finish the hole. It’s a fun way to play, but can be time consuming. Since it was Friday and my partner had to work, we arrived at the course after 5. This meant we were in serious danger of running out of sunlight, which became inevitable once we got backed up behind a couple of slow groups. With the length of the course and a large, slow group infront of us, there was a lot of waiting, and we ended up in pitch darkness by hole 15.

It gets really, really dark in rural Texas when you’re forty miles from the nearest city of any size. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to bring a mini LED marker light and we played the last 4 holes shooting at this tiny red dot placed in the basket on each hole, with other players spotting disc lies mostly by sound, or by wandering around looking for them in the light from cigarette lighters and cell phone displays. One of the peculiar characteristics of the ‘new’ plastic used by Innova is that a lot of the newer discs make quite a bit of noise while in the air, so we only lost 1 disc out of about 50 throws.

The most bizarre part of the whole experience is that our team birdied more holes in the dark than we did while the sun was up. It’s almost impossible to judge distances in total darkness, which I think helped our putting, because we just threw as hard and straight as we could right at the marker light, and it seemed to work as we hit a couple of 30 foot putts which we weren’t making earlier when we could see well enough to wimp out and lay our putts up short.

I don’t know how we actually did since they weren’t going to tabulate the scores until today, but given the conditions, how out of practice I am and the length of the course I’m pretty happy that we ended up even at the end of the round.

Dave

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Just for the record, I got the results of the doubles from Friday and we came in 5th, which is better than I expected given the conditions and that we’d never played the course before.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    I love disc golf. I’m not too good at it but it’s very enjoyable.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    It also involves less of a financial commitment than traditional golf, which is a plus.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    And it’s a great way to visit with friends while also going for a walk.

    Of course if your friend’s daughter – who is about five – beats you… well, that be a tad akward.
    But you can always blame it on an old work injury.

    Not that happened to me, of course.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Now that WOULD be embarassing. But impressive on the part of the toddler, if true.

    What always impresses me is how much dope some people can smoke in mid game and still play amazingly well.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    I plead innocent to the dope charge though it may have improved my game.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Not even second hand smoke?

    Dave

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    I enjoy the softer side of Dave Nalle. It really humanizes you :)

    Dumb question, I know, but I’m famous for them: this is played with frisbees, right? That’s what it looks like. And you have to get them in the baskets?

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    That’s how you play, Babs. But not just regular frisbees – the sport has evolved its own variety of specialized discs which are harder, flatter and smaller than traditional frisbees and made from specialized high density plastics. These allow you to throw enormously farther than a traditional frisbee.

    Maybe I’ll do an article on the history and development of golf discs. It’s actually an interesting collectibles market. Some old, rare discs sell for as much as $100.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Maybe I would have played better if I’d used frisbees.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I hear that if you smoke enough dope you don’t need the actual physical frisbees.

    Dave

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    I played this alot while I was in college. There were two courses very close to campus. It provided an entertaining way to waste time. Plus, we never had to buy any discs because we were constantly finding lost ones, due to the wooded areas in which the courses were located.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Ah, lost discs. I remember the days of my youth when I’d actually go swimming in the creek that runs through my favorite course – exposing myself to god knows what diseases – just to retrieve lost discs.

    But you know, people do write their phone numbers on the discs for a reason…

    dave

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    Yes, some did contain phone numbers. But as a poor, starving college kid at the time, unless I could verify beyond a doubt that it was a smokin’ hot girl that the disc once belonged to, the call was never made.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Now I know who to blame for the loss of my favorite discs, anyway. Vengeance shall be mine sayeth the disc golfer!

    Dave

  • Chris Woj

    Finding lost discs is how every new player keeps his small collection up. Its only once you get your own first callback from someone with one of your own losts that you realize the err of your ways.

    Or you start playing with a local club and they severely admonish you for your ways as happened to me :-X

    As for the pot smoking… I made a pot-induced change to my putting two weeks ago that suddenly has me hitting 30-40 feet 60% of the time… it’s quite a genius little plant, isn’t it?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Someone ought to do a scientific study on the impact of marijuana on sports performance. I suspect there’s something there. It clearly seems to narrow focus and calm the nerves, which are a big help in putting.

    Dave

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I love the culture that surrounds disc golf. My introduction came courtesy of a friend visiting town. He took me to a local course where we promptly lost his best driver in a pond.

    Later we saw some teens fishing out lost discs and described ours, but figured they’d take it and we’d never see it again. It was a nice disc, after all.

    When we finished the course and made it back to our car, there they were, shouting excitedly that they’d found the disc. Finding out I was a beginner, they gave me two of the discs they’d recovered (no phone numbers) and said they hoped they’d see me out again.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been out much and haven’t run into them again, but it’s a warm memory, and I bet I’ll see them this fall sometime.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com alienboy

    I’d never heard of this sport until stumbling across this post and have to say two things:-

    Firstly, what a great idea! Love it, and the, er, techniques to improve play.

    Secondly, as the similarly natured Bob Booey observed, it’s nice to see the non-political Mr Nalle.

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Where do you live, Phillip? I’ve played DG all over the nation – perhaps not as many courses as the pro tour lunatics, but quite a few.

    The pro tour is another amazing aspect of the sport. There are a couple of dozen very good players who go around the country in campers playing every weekend and winning enough money to live on. I’m not sure what sponsorship money is up to now, but I suspect that Ken Climo makes a pretty decent living as a pro. But most of these guys live off of money from the entry paybacks on relatively small local tournaments, and that means they really have to be consistent to do decently.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    It is great to see a non-political mr. dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Most of my articles are non-political, Scott. Or anyway half of them are. But it’s hard to resist dabbling in the political stuff when so much crazy and innacurate stuff is being circulated.

    dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    But where do you live, Dave?
    I play in the DC area.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I used to live in DC. There’s a nice course I’ve played in Fairfax and a much nicer one in College Park. Where do you play? I go up there periodically.

    Dave

  • es

    your blog is not accurate!! for starters hole 10-12 do not have conflicting fairways!! Also, they are each drastically different type holes and there are no 1000’+ holes at moody’s!!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Hey, I was playing in the dark, forgive me for mis-measuring the holes. I was told that from the long tees two of the holes were around 1000 feet and/or ‘longer than Round Rock’, which adds up to the same thing.

    And I didn’t say they had conflicting fairways, I said they had fairways which were too close together, which they are – unnecessarily so given the amount of room on the course. And IMO a hole where you throw in a straight line across a field to a clump of trees from south to north isn’t much different from a hole where you throw across the same field to a clump of trees from north to south.

    But hey, if you disagree, write your own review.

    Dave