Catching on to disc golf

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Farm Forum

How popular is disc golf?

During the summer months, 50 people a day play the disc golf course at Richmond Lake Recreation Area.

Lots of high school and college students make the trip to Richmond on a regular basis, said local disc golf enthusiast Brandon Davis.

Disc golf is quickly growing in popularity nationwide, said Josh Andrews, who organizes the summer disc golf league on behalf of Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

Several cities in South Dakota have busy, popular courses, Andrews said.

Although there are a lot of local disc golf players, the popularity has not translated into success for the Aberdeen league, Andrews said.

This is the first year the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has operated a disc golf league. But the number of participants is not what Andrews hoped for.

The league was divided into two halves. Twenty-two people played the first half, which was in June and July. The number was smaller in the second half, which concludes Tuesday.

Andrews thinks some people had trouble committing to the league on a weekly basis. The league will probably return next year in a somewhat different form, he said.

The idea behind the league was to give people a chance to play on a course other than Richmond Lake. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department provided the money for Andrews to purchase 10 portable disc golf baskets. Each one cost $150.

For league play, the baskets are set up at Melgaard, Manor and Wylie parks. The league is Tuesday nights.

Those serious about disc golf play a sport that’s far different from the casual Frisbee-tossing days of the 1960s.

Davis, a Groton native, owns 50 or 60 discs. He brings 20 with him when he plays.

“Different discs do different things,” he said. “The main thing with disc golf is your short game, like it is in golf. The short game is where it’s at.”

Good players need to be able to putt from within 50 meters, he said.

How many discs does Davis use in his short game?

“I have seven midrangers in my bag and three putters,” he said.

While the putters are all the same, the midrangers are different “because they do different things. Some are flippier. What I mean by flippier is they turn over at high speeds, and some are more stable, which means they don’t turn over. They fly straighter, longer.”

One technique a disc golfer uses is an “anhyzer,” which is similar to a slice in golf. That throw allows a golfer to steer his disc around an object blocking his path, such as a tree.

Davis, 26, is known for his distance. He can fling a disc 400 to 420 feet.

Patrick Peterson, 30, owns about 25 discs. On a league night, he uses about three of them — two drivers and a putter.

Getting better at disc golf takes a lot of practice.

“Don’t get discouraged when you’re in the trees,” said Keith Crawford, 28.

Farmers know all about discing. But in the world of parks and baskets, discing is something else. That’s what disc golfers call their sport. Others call it frolfing.

The players like the sport because it’s fun and it’s good exercise.

“A buddy of mine called it a hike with a purpose,” Andrews said.

Crawford has been playing disc golf for about four years.

“I tried it once and I was hooked,” he said.

Davis points out that you can still play on windy and rainy days. It also doesn’t cost much to play.

Disc golf is just a casual game “but it can be really competitive, too,” said Andrews, explaining he likes sports in which players can concentrate on improving their own skills.

The better disc golf players win money. Davis, for instance, collected $30 in the first half of the league. Peterson picked up $20.

Players can also win money at tournaments. Parks and Recreation hosted a tournament July 21 at Melgaard Park. Another tournament is Oct. 5 at Richmond Lake.

A lot of disc golf players are in their teens and 20s. But some are older.

Neil Schaunaman, 59, plays in the Aberdeen league. Schaunaman, who has four sons, likes the sport because it’s “something I can do with the kids.”

In addition to spending time with the younger people, Schaunaman is getting better at the sport.

Regardless of who wins, disc golf players seem to get along.

“The disc golf community is really close-knit,” Andrews said.