It all started with Karen's son Victor. He had learned disc golf through a friend in college and thought it would be fun to get his mom to play. Karen joined him and they started playing fairly regularly.
For those of you who don't know, disc golf is very similar to golf. The rules are essentially identical, except that instead of using a club to hit a ball down a well-tended fairway hoping to put it in a hole a few to several hundred yards away, in disc golf, you throw Frisbee-like discs with the objective of putting one in a basket a few to several hundred feet away somewhere in a forest, in the mountains - out in nature.
Each 'hole' has a par just like golf. There's a tee pad from which you make your first throw. Your next throws are played from where the previous one landed. Just like ball golf. There are hundreds of types of discs which fall into basic categories of driver - long range, mid-range, and putters/approach discs. Some fly straight, some turn left, some right, some are good in wind, some are better downhill - you get the idea. They're not standard Frisbees.
You see, at the University, while my friends were on the beach throwing Frisbees and doing all sorts of tricks, or playing Ultimate Frisbee (like American football with Frisbees), I was in the water surfing. I'd never learned how to throw a Frisbee with any consistency. And why should I start now?
But with Karen and Victor spending more and more time playing, I ultimately caved and joined them. Guess what? I sucked. I was truly terrible. Victor did his best to help me and I slowly gained a basic competence, but as I watched other players throw and score par or under par, I knew I was light-years away from being any good at disc golf.
For the next year, Karen consistently beat me. At times, I would back off - certain throws hurt my shoulder and I didn't want to risk my surfing or other sports for disc golf.
Jack played a round with me, then filmed me throwing, then started the lessons, showing me how to throw further and more accurately without hurting myself. A few weeks later, I was not only beating Karen, I started beating Victor consistently. I think that was a bit hard on him so for his next birthday, I gave him a lesson package and now, we play at pretty much the same level - just a bit over par on most difficult courses.
But that's just the beginning of the story. The magic thing about disc golf is that anyone can play. It's free - just buy a driver and a putter ($5 used, $15 new) and you can play at thousands of courses around the world. And even if you're not very good, it's a great excuse to get out for a hike in nature with a game to motivate you. And, while ball golfers will tell you about the sound of the ball dropping into the cup, it doesn't compare to the ringing of the chains as your disc flies into the basket.
It's a sport that is easy to play and incredibly hard to master.
It's also addictive.
A friend of mine had a major car accident when he was younger and was limited in his physical activity. He put on weight and had a heart attack in his early 40s. The doctors recommended exercise, but going to the gym and working out just wasn't something he could keep up with. I invited him and his wife to join us for a round of disc golf. It turned out that he was one of those people who threw discs on the beach in college. He was a natural. The walking was challenging, particularly on hilly courses, but he was motivated. He started out only able to play a few holes, but quickly progressed to playing physically challenging courses. He dropped weight and for the first time in years, got into decent physical shape.
We introduced Karen's friend Martine to the sport. Martine is a physical trainer who immediately became addicted and who recognized the theraputic value of the sport for her sedentary clients. Within a year, the tiny club had more than tripled in membership and most of the new members were women. I suspect that in the Basque Region of France, there are more women disc golfers than men.
Disc golf in France has been challenging because there is so much regulation on sports and sport training. Fortunately, Martine and others have made great headway and there are now permanent courses popping up in the Southwest of France.
If you'd like to know more about the history and evolution (or revolution) of disc golf, I highly recommend Jack Trageser's The Disc Golf Revolution under his pen/nickname, Jack Tupp. It's a fascinating account of how disc golf got to be what it is today. It also has a great introduction to the sport and how to play.
If you haven't played disc golf, give it a try. It's a great excuse to go hiking!