Just got home from a particularly pleasant round of Frisbee-golf, or disc golf, if you prefer. Played at Bryan Park, easily the nicest local “basket course” I’ve played. Usually, baskets aren’t my style. Most of the time I play on unmarked object courses — we throw AT objects like trees or poles, rather than INTO baskets […]
Just got home from a particularly pleasant round of Frisbee-golf, or disc golf, if you prefer. Played at Bryan Park, easily the nicest local “basket course” I’ve played.
Usually, baskets aren’t my style. Most of the time I play on unmarked object courses — we throw AT objects like trees or poles, rather than INTO baskets — in the Maymont and Byrd Park area. It’s the original form of the game. Been at it for over 32 years. Several of the players in the group I’m part of have been playing for 20 or 30 years on a half dozen such courses we’ve designed along the way.
Back in the 1970s, Ed Headrick, the inventor of Frisbee-golf quit his job at Wham-O and began tramping across the country, evangelist-like, to spread his game and to sell special golf discs he was designing (the Midnight Flyer depicted above is one of Steady Ed’s models). In this time the game took root in Virginia.
In the summer of ‘76 the first course for what would later be called the Greater Richmond Frizbee-Golf Association was laid out by Larry Rohr, Stew Whitham and your narrator. There were others already playing the game then, too, but not many. That name, the GRFGA, came later, mostly as a goof, but it stuck.
The man who won the GRFGA’s first 27-hole singles tournament in the spring of 1978, Larry Rohr, had the pleasure of seeing his son, Leo Rohr, win the 42nd edition of the twice-a-year competition in the fall of 1998. In the 10 years since, Leo has won the singles championship too many times to count.
It’s been Larry who has been the group’s chief overseer and record-keeper. He has marked down the scores of thousands of rounds, as well as the weather conditions, descriptions of remarkable shots, etc., in his little notebooks.
Players who take their game too seriously don’t always feel comfortable in the loose, party-time atmosphere Larry encourages … no, make that he insists on being prevalent during all regular and impromptu activities. Larry, whose enthusiasm can hit you like a sucker punch, is an also an avid bird-watcher, crowd-pleasing magician and collector of all things orange.
The GRFGA’s natural style of play has facilitated holding onto something that most organized sports inevitably lose once they become organized: the natural joy children feel playing outdoor games of their own invention, without supervision.
Maybe 25 years ago, I had what could be called a parapsychological experience, while playing the par four fifth hole (we borrow the term “hole” from ball-golfers) of the Carillon West nine on an autumn afternoon. My drive had been released late, the classic mistake when you’re going for too much power. It landed about 15 feet down a heavily-wooded slope.
Two other players’ tee shots had hit trees in the fairway that were well short of the target. Since they were lying further from the object we were shooting at than I was, they were obliged to shoot before me. From my position down the hill I couldn’t see either of them. I watched from to see their shots fly by, so I‘d know when to shoot.
The first one was a decent recovery shot, it headed toward the target. The second was yanked worse than my drive. I followed its path as it curved toward the bottom of what we call Death Valley to disappear into the brush. I marked the spot I’d last seen it, so I could help my friend find his disc. And, I noted that I needed to guard against doing the same thing. It’s easy to make such a mistake throwing from a position on a slope.
Alas, when I let go of my disc for my shot it followed the identical path as the last shot I’d just witnessed. I watched it disappear into the same brush near the bottom of the gully. A bad first shot had spawned a worse second shot. My first reaction was to figure I had watched the other guy’s shot so intently that I’d inadvertently copied it.
My next reaction was one of surprise at seeing a disc fly by, as I climbed up the slope to the fairway level. Rarely, but sometimes guys throw second shots (that don’t count), when they are particularly disappointed with a shot. Just to get it out of their system, maybe. It’s a practice that is frowned upon by some in the group.
But when I asked who threw that second shot. I was told no one threw one. Since I’d seen three discs fly by and their were only two guys behind me, their story was weak. I explained what I’d seen. Everyone in the group agreed the second of the three shots I’d described didn’t happen.
As I trudged down the slope again to where I had seen my disc disappear, I grumbled. Naturally, I expected to find two discs in roughly the same area. Mine, I found right away. But I couldn’t find that other one. Finally I gave up.
It took me a few weeks to finally accept they weren‘t playing a trick on me. Only I had seen two discs fly that identical path to the bottom of Death Valley. (more…)