But Karen's son Victor had introduced her to the game/sport and she really seemed to like it, so I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. She gave me a Valkyrie driver disc and a putter and off we went. As expected, I was terrible.
We started at DeLaveaga which is a world-renown championship course - probably way out of our league. But we stuck with it, playing most days after work for an hour or two. Somewhere along the line, we played the courses at Black Mouse, in the spectacular redwoods of Felton, and at Kirkwood, in the Sierra, where you work your way up, then down the mountain, throwing around gigantic spruce trees, over rugged lava rocks, while hiking through fields of wildflowers. The beauty of these courses convinced me that disc golf is a reason to go hiking - most of the courses are in semi-remote areas and it can be a decent workout to play them. Plus, you're looking at natural scenery, trees, creeks, birds, animals. It's certainly a lot more environmentally friendly and interesting than ball golf.
So here I am, three years later and I play disc golf two to three times a week. If the surf is blown out or too small, I play disc golf instead. With the return of daylight savings time, Karen and I now play after work. If we're travelling to the mountains, we stop somewhere and play a round. If we're driving anywhere or are overseas, we're always looking for a new course to play. On weekends or holidays with the family, invariably, disc golf becomes part of our visits. I wouldn't say I was obsessed, but at the same time, I have to admit to more than just a passive interest.
I guess I'm also an evangelist. When a friend's husband had a heart attack in his 40s, I suggested disc golf as a way to begin exercising. Unlike me, he was a natural and the two of them now play regularly. A business associate complained that her husband was getting a bit sedentary. I proposed disc golf, and now he plays whenever he can. In those two cases, both individuals lost weight and got into much better shape. A couple hours of hiking and throwing a few times a week can do the trick. And, because it's fun and you can usually bring your dog(s), it's easier to get motivated to play disc golf than to go the gym to work out.
In France, we discovered and joined a local disc golf club, then introduced several people to the sport and the club. They, in turn, introduced several others and we're seeing a rapidly growing family sport in the region. Check out our first tournament experiences in France in my post Disc Golf France - Coutras Tournament.
So, have I gotten better after my dismal start?
Well, over the first eighteen months, I'd have to say there was improvement, but in reality, my drives and approach shots were, to put it nicely, inconsistent. Others might have called them wild. If we played with Karen's son Victor, he slaughtered me. Of course he's a natural athlete and 20+ years younger, so I had a good excuse. Then he gave me disc golf lessons for a birthday present.
Was I insulted? After all, I'd never taken a surf lesson or a ski lesson or a trail running lesson. Sure, I'd taken hang gliding and kayaking lessons, but that was just for the basics. I was beyond the basics in disc golf, right?
After putting it off for a few months, I finally contacted Jack Trageser to take my lesson. Jack is a professional disc golf player and owner of School of Disc Golf, now part of Play Disc Golf, Jack's new startup dedicated to growing the sport and giving a voice to the casual and amateur players.
Jack played a round of disc golf with me, Karen, Victor, and Victor's wife and analyzed my strengths and weaknesses. I guess there weren't too many strengths. We pretty much started from scratch in our first actual lesson where he showed me how to throw properly and took videos to track my progress. My next lesson was even more informative - approach techniques, and, perhaps more important, analysis and strategy - the mental part of the game.
And so, I started playing and practicing. We have a small park not far from the house which has a few practice baskets. I worked on my technique religiously. Within a few weeks, I surprised Victor. I beat him. In fact, for a short period, I beat him consistently. And then I made a big mistake. I bought Victor a lesson pack with Jack and School of Disc Golf.
Okay, it really wasn't a mistake. In fact, Victor and I trade off victories pretty evenly these days. We work together to coach each other and we're getting to be pretty decent. I don't see us on the Pro tour anytime soon, but we'll definitely be playing in upcoming tournaments and club leagues. Don't tell Victor, but I will be taking more lessons with Jack.
Jack has great vision and plans to bring disc golf into the mainstream. With his remarkable marketing skills and irrepressible energy, I can only see success ahead.
If you haven't tried disc golf, you should. There are thousands of courses in the US and abroad. Most are in beautiful locations and the game gives you a reason to explore places you might never have ventured into. Plus, you'd be surprised at the people you meet and their enthusiasm for the sport. I'm used to surfing. I'd never want a new surfer to join the lineup. In disc golf, it's exactly the opposite. People love to promote the sport and to help us newbies.
Get out there! Take a lesson! And support the sport through Play Disc Golf!