The first rule of disc golf is that you must call it disc golf
(Only a total newbie would call it Frisbee Golf, geez! You see, Frisbee is just one among many trade names for flying discs.)
I have long been familiar with the general concept of disc golf — you throw frisbees at targets instead of at people. Yesterday after dinner our family ventured to the Disc Golf Course at Champaign’s Dodds Park for our disc golf debut.
Fortunately for our family, disc golf is an activity that is easily adaptable to the fitness levels, disc-throwing skills, and attention spans of your family members. The four of us had a great time wandering Parkland’s freshly mown fields as the sun sank low in the sky, keeping only vaguely to the official course or anything approaching official rules. We shared the expansive course with a group of three young “disc dads” alternating sharp throws with pushing their toddlers in all-terrain strollers, another family playing soccer with their dog, and a solitary dude who kept appearing and disappearing in the reeds on the creek bank, apparently hunting for lost discs (of which there turned out to be many).
The game’s concept is simple. Disc golf, which was formalized as a sport in the 1970’s, shares the same objective as regular golf: to complete each hole in the fewest strokes, or throws. A “hole” in disc golf starts at a tee area and ends at a target, which at Dodds Park takes the common form of an elevated metal basket. Each throw of a player’s disc must be made from the spot where that player’s previous throw landed; trees, shrubs, and other natural obstacles (remember the creek?) are all hazards of the course.
The course at Dodds Park was built in 2014. It is one of four Disc Golf courses in our area, and the only one with 18 holes. Other area courses can be found in Lohmann Park in Urbana (9 holes, behind Thomas Paine Elementary School), Brent Johnson Park in Mahomet (9 holes, in the Thornewood subdivision), and Wabash Park in Rantoul (6 holes, next to Eater Jr. High School). If you want to learn more about the area disc golf scene, definitely check out the Facebook group Champaign County Disc Golf Club.
An aspiring disc golf player simply needs shoes good for walking, and a single flying disc — any kind will do for the beginner. As your disc golf skills grow, you may find yourself carrying multiple specialized discs (for distance throws, for short throws, for rolling, etc.) just as the experienced golfer carries an entire bag of clubs. This use of multiple small and dense discs distinguishes disc golf from the other major flying disc sport, Ultimate (or Ultimate Frisbee), which is a team sport that uses a larger and lighter standard disc. But I digress.
Serious disc golfers — a description that could charitably apply to only one member of my family — aim for each hole’s par, and hope to one day celebrate an elusive “hole-in-one.” The rest of my family, after laughing at the HILARIOUSLY low “par 3” for the first hole at Dodds, quickly stopped counting our shots, invented new rules (“who can hit the most trees?”), and entirely avoided the holes near the creek.
I recommend snapping a photo of the overall course map before you start if, unlike us, you actually want to play the official course in the correct order. (The targets can be difficult to spot.) As with any summer outdoor activity, consider the need for bug repellent/sunscreen/water.
When our family was tired, we invented a new hole — the tallest light post next to the Parkland softball complex — that took us back toward our car. We waved at the few people still working industriously in the adjacent community garden plots, and drove to get ice cream. We will definitely return for another disc golf outing.