A lot of the outdoor activities in Central Oregon require 1. Spendy gear (skiing or mountain biking, for example) or 2. A level of skill or physical prowess that, without it, the thing is decidedly less fun (rock climbing or mountaineering, for example).
That's not to say that disc golf doesn't require a level of skill in order to play effectively—it's just that a beginner can get out there, try it out, and still have some fun doing it. Oh, and the gear required for the game will set you back far less than investing in—or even renting—that slick new mountain bike. With that in mind, we set out to give some of our local disc golf courses a try—and perhaps secure a new activity we could enjoy with friends who visit from out of town.
"It gives you pace and purpose and it's just a simple way to interact with nature and other people," says Ryan Lane, a local disc golfer.
In this region, the driver (yes, we'll let that pun stand...) behind building courses and furthering the sport is the Central Oregon Disc Golf Club. Its members have been integral in building and/or assisting in the design and construction of the many courses in the area. In addition to the 10 courses listed as "endorsed" by CODGC, there are a handful of "renegade" courses. A quick visit to the club's website will get you started finding a course near you. From there, you can start with about three discs; a putter for close range, a mid-range disc and a driver for those long distances.
Of course, most members of CODGC carry more than three. When we met Lane, a club leader who's taken part in national competitions, he was packing a bag of a dozen or so discs with varying weights and types of plastic, offering varying levels of "drop" and other variables.
We met Lane at the Dry Canyon Disc Golf Course, a nine-hole course adjacent to Redmond's Spudbowl City Park and the Weigand Family Dog Park. Here's our take on the experience.
Wyatt Gaines, 20-something
You'll swear, you'll walk, you'll discuss technique. A bit like ball-golf, as dubbed by our guide, disc golf involves a great deal of technique and flow. First timers will brace themselves as they tee off with that big, flat, clumsy driver in front of their friends, but slowly one starts to ease into themselves and the game becomes totally friendly. Definitely an ideal activity for the "take-it-easy" among us, disc golf is seven to 10 seconds of focus followed by a leisurely walk with your disc bag and some friends.
Advantages to disc golf are plethora. Half the fun of disc golf is visiting all of the courses. You can play in a dry gulch, an alpine forest area or even urban courses with neat architecture. It's relatively cheap, with brand new discs going for $10-20 and starter packs for $20 and up, and everything else is free. That being said, I can't picture myself doing this one solo; a group of friends to keep me entertained is definitely a requirement. Bonus if you can bring your dog on the course without him attempting to retrieve every one of your discs...
Nicole Vulcan, almost 40-something
None of us were total noobs to the sport of disc golf, but seeing Lane's throws compared to ours, it was clear we were definitely in need of some practice. My longest throws went half the distance of Lane's, at maximum, and often wobbled and pitched into the trees. The object of the game, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association, is to "traverse a course from beginning to end in the fewest throws of the disc." So naturally, the fact that it took me five or more throws to get to the basket target wasn't good.
Still, watching Lane's follow-through and heeding his advice to "throw along the nipple line" was helpful, and by the later holes I was starting to throw better. But what's really helpful about playing with an experienced player is learning which disc to use when. Sure, I could continue to play with the two old discs left behind by some errant roommate, but were I to take this seriously, I'd invest in a couple more discs and learn more about what they do. Plus, learning the capabilities of each disc will probably mean less irritation for old shoulder injuries as I try to huck the discs as far as Lane. Maybe someday...
Richard Sitts, 60-something
When I found out we were going to play disc golf, it was like hearing from an old friend. I first started playing what we used to call "Folf" (for Frisbee golf) on the pastoral campus of Kansas State University in the early 1980s. Someone had made up the course that had us throwing around and between buildings, through the crooks of giant broadleaf tree branches and down long pedestrian walkways. Back in those days, there were no fancy chain baskets in which to putt. Instead, we had to throw our discs to strike light posts, trashcans, statues, fountains and other fixed objects. I recall one particularly tricky hole where we had to land our disc up on the elevated entryway platform leading into one of the campus buildings, while hoping that some unsuspecting student was not strolling out of the door.
So on a recent mild, weekday afternoon, we headed north. What a wonderful course! It's a wide, shallow canyon, scenic and protected a bit from any wind. The late afternoon sun put a warm sheen on our sagebrush meandering, and the weather and the scenery were ideal. It was so relaxing and fun that I didn't even bother keeping score. I think I averaged at least two throws over each par 3 hole, but you couldn't tell it from the smile on my face.
Whereas "regular" golf has been described as "a good walk spoiled," Frisbee golf can be thought of as "a good walk enhanced." To the casual onlooker, it might look rather simple and unexciting, but the sweetest pleasures in life are often the simple ones. And when you do achieve that towering drive or chain-rattling putt, it does get exciting. Now that my dormant passion for this sport has been awakened, it's time to let those discs fly.
Central Oregon Disc Golf Club
Tuesday Night Tags at Pine Nursery, Bend. 5:10pm Tuesdays
Friday Night Tags at Dry Canyon, Redmond. 5:10pm Fridays
Saturday-Sunday Afternoon Tags at Hyzer Pines, Sisters. 12:30pm Saturdays & Sundays (varies)