You may have noticed the strange baskets near the Red Barn on campus or wondered why people go swimming for frisbees in the pond at the Agricultural Heritage Park.
The reason for both is disc golf.
Though disc golf is a newer sport in Lee County, it has quickly gained a popular following, and new courses and tournaments may soon be coming to the area.
“I had Kevin McCoy who is on the board of directors for the PDGA come down last week, and Tom Monroe who was actually in the room where disc golf was invented with Ed Hedrick," said Opelika Parks and Recreation staff member and PDGA official Billy Jackson. "We have a 350-acre park out at Spring Villa, and we’re looking at building two courses out there. We can host just about any tournament in the country out there if we get that done.”
Many assume that disc golf is like traditional golf but with frisbees instead of clubs and golf balls. However, other than the scoring and jargon, the two sports are drastically different.
Perhaps the biggest difference between disc golf and golf is the terrain. While golf is limited to open greens, a disc golf course can be built on almost any kind of land. That’s why disc golf courses are appearing in parks across the country.
One benefit of the wide variety of terrain is that each hole presents a different challenge for the player. Players must find a way around or through whatever obstacles are in place.
“Don’t take [disc golf] too seriously, everybody thinks they have to come out and have forty discs and a cart,” Jackson said. “I see people come out and have one or two discs, and they have more fun than the people with a cart full of discs”
Another exciting aspect of disc golf is that it can essentially be played anywhere. With nothing more than a frisbee, you and a friend can just find an area where cars and people aren’t at risk of being hit. Then create your own course by marking objects as goals to hit with the least amount throws. In fact, the baskets that are now found on official courses were not invented until a few decades after the sport began.
Disc golf can be played with any regular frisbee, but for dedicated players, discs designed specifically for disc golf are essential. They fly farther, land in baskets easier and even have special flight paths that allow them to get around obstacles.
Like golf clubs, each disc is built to be used in a specific situation, and there are three main types of discs: drivers, mid-range and putters.
For a player’s first throw, the driver is almost always the best choice. The driver is built to be thrown as far as possible by having as much glide and speed as possible. Though some drivers are designed to curve a little to the left or right, they usually will go as straight as possible if thrown properly.
Mid-range discs are the jack-of-all-trades disc and are designed to be versatile and effective in a variety of situations. For most players, mid-range discs are more accurate, so they are ideal for challenging shots such as going between two trees.
Putters are perfect for making that final shot into the basket. These discs are stable and can fly straight to make putting your final shot into the basket as easy as possible. They can also be used in long shots or ‘drives’ if needed.
Discs can be thrown just like a frisbee. For a new player who is serious about learning good technique, internet videos or watching experienced players are good ways to improve.
There are currently two public disc golf courses in Lee County. A full 18-hole course is located at the Opelika Sportsplex. For players looking for an easy introduction to the game, disks can be easily recovered at most of the holes.
“It seems like it’s kind of off the beaten path, but with that new road they’re building, you can turn off the interstate and be right there in five minutes,” Jackson said.
There is also a 9-hole course at the Agricultural Heritage Park in Auburn. However, if you want to avoid any risk of losing your discs to the water, it is recommended that you avoid the Agricultural Heritage Park course as about half of the holes involve water obstacles.
For players looking for serious competition, Opelika Parks and Recreation hosts the annual Frostbite Open every winter, which is a PDGA sanctioned tournament. Players come from around the country to compete. Over a 128 players participated in the 2018 tournament, Jackson said.