old school discs

What’s the oldest disc in your bag? For me, it’s a 180-gram DGA ‘Disc Golf Disc’ #1, which was factored by Steady Ed himself into a less stable #4. I bought it from Steady Ed at his warehouse in Freedom, CA after getting a little tour of the facilities. I’d guess it came out of the mold in the late 80’s or early 90’s, and I bought it around 1997 or so. I paid Ed $20 for that disc, and a few others like it!

And it’s not in my bag for nostalgic reasons, either. I only use it as a roller, and it’s useful because I can start it off almost like an airshot thrown into the ground and it will stand up and eventually turn over. On #6 I actually put hyzer on it- it’s that understable. At DeLa, I use it as my driver on #6 (remember I’m a lefty), and I regularly use it for the tricky 2nd shot on I-5 (hole 13). The second-oldest disc in my bag might be my ‘beat putter,’ an Aviar from an early 90’s tourney at DeLa with a Jamba Juice stamp.

stream of consciousness

played Dela today, with Alan. we started on Hole 7, and right from the get-go i was agitated. it’s such a common emotion for me when i’ve been out of town for a few days, looking forward to playing, and feeling fully deserving of some disc golf. it seems that at such times I also expect to birdie every hole (except those I ace), and that doesn’t always happen.

In this case, I noticed right away that for some reason my release was a little off, and it resulted in me scrapin’ by to be at par until hole 13, then +3 afterward. It was one of those holes. I ended up -1, and considering the sometimes windy conditions and medium-difficult layout, that’s not so bad for 28 holes at DeLa. But the philosophical discoveries on this day prevailed.

First of all, on hole 18 I had to admit (sheepishly) that part of my frustation was due to the fact that Alan was beating me by six strokes. Even though we (as opposed to the years past) make a point of being less competitive, it’s still there. we both know it. And that makes the frustration all the more acute. Anyway, I mentioned to him then that I needed t0 take my own advice and enjoy the other aspects of the experience when the scoring part isn’t there, and that helped. Even though I didn’t get another birdie until 21 I did end up doing better by caring less about the score. Once I focused on the nice (but windy) day, and all the other things I had to be happy about, I played better. Imagine that.

Pinto Lake has me yearning for more (punishment)

I’ve only played the first nine holes of Pinto Lake CDGC three times, and my score has gotten worse each time. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m only now fully aware of all the OB that exists on almost all the holes, but still . . .

There is also the frustrated mindset that many of the holes play much tougher for a left-handed backhand thrower, but that’s nothing new. I often go through that rationalization when confronted with a new course or hole location (like DeLa’s new spot for hole 6’s basket), then get tired of whining about it and go about solving the puzzle. So join me as I analyze each of the nine holes and try to learn from my numerous mistakes. After carding a +7 yesterday with, let’s see, four OB strokes, many are fresh in my mind.

Hole 1
One adjustment I made already was to throw my lefty hyzer far to the left and let it fade back toward the fairway. That worked well yesterday, leaving me with a 70-footer for birdie (which I missed).

Hole 2
Yesterday I tried to play it safe by throwing a mid-range down the middle and landing it short of the fence and creek. Being left-handed, however it trickled right at the end and ended up a couple feet into the OB road on the right. I guess I have to throw something with even less fade, and maybe keep it lower.
Hole 3

Not sure how to attack this hole yet. The fairway slopes down from right to left, and a wall of trees 80 feet from the tee offers no gap to aim for larger than 10 feet. It seems that drives that don’t get cleanly (and somewhat straight) past this wall will very rarely result in a par. And even those that do must contend with a narrow, tree-happy fairway and a steep green eager to suck discs away from the basket. Looking at the hole map at left, the red sqares show the OB along the left and the basket is in the upper-right corner.
Hole 4
The layout of this short hole forces me to do something I very rarely do- throw a sidearm shot off the tee. So far, though, so good, as I’ve had birdie putts every time I’ve played it.

Hole 5
Although three holes of these 9 holes use fire roads as part of their fairways, 5 and 7 so far give me fits. On both these holes the terrain slopes from left-to-right with the right side including OB lines. I don’t think it’s a whole lot easier for right-handers, but when I throw my lefty drives they have to be perfectly straight, accurate, and flat. Too much hyzer and they will fade right and go OB; turn it over or just miss left, and the disc (with its lefty spin) will hit the steep hillside and aggressively spin back across the road and end up OB. And on this hole the road-fairway climbs slightly and curves to the left, with the basket up and on the left guarded by a steady wall of trees.

Hole 6
This 320-footer is comparitively benign, and has no OB to contend with. But all along the right side of the fairway and behind the terrain slopes steeply into nast schule. Except for that, though, it’s wide open.

Hole 7
Almost as nasty as hole 5, this par four road hole presents a more difficult drive in terms of keeping it in bounds. The drive is downhill to a flat landing area (making smooth landings less likely), and the OB on the right seems to creep in even closer than on hole 5. After that, though, at least the basket is on the road itself and visible from the entire fairway.

Hole 8
This sub-2oo foot hole presents some challenge due to trees guarding the basket and a fairway that crosses a mini-chasm, but compare to the rest of the course it’s quite a G-rated reprieve.

Hole 9
Maybe the toughest par three on the course, or at least as challenging as #3. The dogleg right is sharp enough – with OB on both sides – that throwing a full-strength hyzer doesn’t follow the contour of the hole. So far I haven’t gotten any kind of a realistic look at the basket after my first shot.

So now, armed with this reflective analysis from yesterday’s round, I went out today with a bit more of a gameplan. I threw many more mid-range discs as drives (on all three road holes at least), and in general, and tried to value placement much more than distance. The results were on the whole positive, although #5 and #7 continue to frustrate me and I still went OB twice (drives on #7 and #9. I was shooting par until a very frustrating double on the last hole that hit a hidden high branch of an early tree and trickled a couple feet OB on the left.

Score-wise, here’s the rundown: #1-par 3, #2-par 4, #3-par 3, #4-birdie 2, #5, bogey 5, #6-pr 3, #7-bogey 5 (P), #8-birdie 2, #9-double bogey 5 (P). So the strategy worked, but I still have some figuring and learning to do before I’m shooting par or better here on a regular basis. As much as I always talk about perfection in golf being a life-long persuit, this course should offer ample opportunity. And humility.

Putting practice, indoors, without a basket

I travel fairly frequently for my job, and I end up spending a decent amount of waking hours in my hotel room. Even when I’m in places that have courses near enough to get in a quick round, I usually just scurry around the course, note it’s highlights despite the fact that it’s no DeLaveaga, then split. When I’m on the road, I rarely get in any putting practice at all.

So one time I pulled out my putters in the hotel room, wedged myself in one corner, and aimed for a reading chair in the opposite corner. It worked- sort of. Trouble was, the discs would often bounce off the chair and loudly smack the wall, Worse, after a couple beers they would sometimes miss the chair altogether and slam the wall like the fist of an unrequited lover. Inevitably someone front desk would then call and ask what the hell was going on in my room. I needed a better mousetrap.

So this week I’m in ‘the OC,’ and I brought with me an adjustable pull-up bar I bought online for $15. I wedged the bar between the walls of the entryway, then draped a hotel towel and part of the bedspread over the bar. After positioning myself as far away as possible (maybe 15 feet), I aimed at one small part of the bedspread pattern and let fly. And guess what? It worked! The discs hit the linens draped over the bars (silently) and fell to the ground (almost silently). So while this exercise doesn’t give me the absolute resolution of seeing a disc come to rest in a basket, I still get to practice the motion of extending my arm exaggeratedly toward the target. That particlar element is important to my particular consistency, and although I don’t know the muscles involved, I’m sure it improves muscle memory and even exercises the muscles themselves more than turning the pages of a book or fondling the TV remove in my hotel room.

There is a thin line between dedication and obsession. Feel free to join me as I straddle that line.

Santa Cruz vs. San Jose Match Play Results

The first of hopefully many team match play events in Northern California went well today, with Team Santa Cruz prevailing 8-2. It may seem like a sound whoopin’, but a closer look at and understanding of the numbers will show that the matches were all pretty close.

First of all, there were 16 total match points being contested. Each singles match was worth one point, for a total of 8, and the doubles matches were worth two points each- also totaling 8.

During the matches, each hole is worth a point, and players keep playing out the entire match even if someone wins the match with holes left to play (example, a player/team is 3 up with two holes to play). So with all that in mind, here are the scores:

Open
Shasta Criss tied Manuel Fernandez 4-4
Chris Foss defeated Christlus 8-2

Shasta/Chris Foss defeat Manny/Christlus 7-4

Masters
Jon Baldwin defeated Shannon Carson 6-4
Jack Trageser defeated Thom Magraw 5-4

Jon/Jack tied Shannon/Thom tied 4-4

Advanced
Nick Garcia defeated Eric Kopit 7-5
James Pendergast defeated Assaf Sadeh 7-5

Nick/James tied Eric/Assaf 1-1

Am. Masters
Gregory LeBaron tied James Brennan 4-4
Ed Baskirk defeated Mike Miller 4-3

Gregory/Ed defeated James/Mike 5-2

According to my shaky math, the total by hole-points was Santa Cruz 58, San Jose 46.

So now it’s on to the re-match in San Jose sometime in the near future. A couples side-notes:

  • Manny Fernandez turned his ankle halfway through the doubles match, and Christlus has to play odd-man with one extra shot on each hole the rest of the way.
  • Gregory Lebaron aced hole 21 during the doubles match, after his partner shanked his drive first.

Match Play Gets some Play in Santa Cruz

We’re trying to start small with some ‘club vs. club’ match play this Sunday at DeLa. The Hellyerites (or Hellyerians?) are bringing a team over the hill Sunday to compete in a match play event against us Santa Cruzans for 18 holes of singles and 18 holes of doubles match play. When San Jose team captain Mike Miller mentioned it to players from other clubs at the recent Otter Open, he heard repeatedly ‘we want in,’ and that’s exactly what we hope this eventually becomes: a four or five team club vs. club annual or semi-annual event.

For now though it’s just two 8-player teams (2 open players, 2 masters, two AM-1’s and two Am Masters players). If you’re interested in checking it out, we’re planning to tee off around 8:45 AM on Sunday. For those that don’t already know, match play is a form of competition where (in the singles format) a player from one team goes head-to-head against someone from the other team. Rather than cumulative scoring, though, each hole is worth a point. It’s like skins, but ties on the hole don’t carry over to the next hole. So if two players in a match both get pars on the first five holes, then player A birdies hole 6 and player B pars it, player A now is “Up 1” in the match. It’s especially challenging since normally in golf we condition outselves to try to block out what the other players are doing, in match players we make shot decisions based in large part on what the other guy just did or might do. Match play also lends itself well to the team concept, which should make Sunday both fun and interesting.

Pinto Lake CDGC- The Course and the Community

The new course in Watsonville’s Pinto Lake County Park – or at least a temporarily nine-hole version – is now officially open, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday, March 1st. Each hole has a concrete teepad, Mach III basket, and sweet tee sign with a color map of the hole. Turnout at the Grand Opening was excellent considering the rainy conditions, and attendees includes an encouraging mix of die hard disc golfers (from as far away as SoCal), local community members, and even county officials and some of California Conservation Corps members who worked on the course. It’s hard to find the words to describe how stoked I am about this course, but I’ll try. It really comes down to two things- the course, and the community.

The Course
When I started playing DeLaveaga is the late 80’s, it was the only disc golf course with baskets within 100 miles. And except for Berkeley, there were no other courses in the Bay Area or Central Coast. And it stayed that way for quite a long time. And then other courses started popping up in Monterey, San Jose, and eventually right here in Santa Cruz County. But none of these courses even approached DeLaveaga’s combination of challenge, beauty, variety, and professional tees and baskets. The Oaks course at CSUMB Monterey probably comes closest but still falls short in a number of ways. Around Santa Cruz we’re blessed to now have Black Mouse and Aptos High, but I still choose DeLa 90 percent of the time because, well, if you have a choice between driving a Rolls Royce and a serviceable Ford Taurus, which you gonna choose?

The point is, if the first nine holes and designer Tom Schot’s description of the longer, more open back nine are any indication, Pinto Lake Championship Disc Golf Course is going to rival Dela on all fronts. Also, for those that don’t know, Tom designed DeLa 25 years ago and is in the disc golf hall of fame. Usually a masterpiece can only be topped by the author of that masterpiece.

The Community
To me, Pinto Lake is potentially a symbol of disc golf as a unique and appealing sport. Golf is a great game, possibly the greatest game in the history of the world. But due to socioeconomic limitations and to a lesser extent degree-of-difficulty barriers, a large majority of the world never gets to experience the game of ‘stick golf’.

Enter disc golf. Affordable for everyone, easy to learn, and a sport that definitely brings divergent groups together rather than separate them into the haves and have-nots, can and can-nots. I see this in the near future being illustrated at Pinto Lake as much as anywhere on the planet. The course will initially attract a majority of seasoned disc golfers as they hear about the incredible challenge that Tom Schot has built into the design. But local kids will become a bigger and bigger part of the equation as they look for something to do while their parents play on the adjacent soccer fields in adult leagues (which are a big deal in Hispanic-dominant Watsonville). Then some of those kids will get better in a hurry, and grow older and stronger, and all the while their families and friends will hear about their new obsession.

Pretty soon we’ll see disc golf spreading through an entirely new demographic group in Santa Cruz County, and then that group will mesh with other divergent groups that already play the sport . . . and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m just glad we now have plenty of courses from which to choose. I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna need ’em!

Bonus Info: Tom told me that the ‘back nine’ holes will likely be spliced into the existing nine between holes 3 and 4 or maybe 4 and 5. That means the holes now know as 4-9 are likely to eventually be changed to holes 13-18. Or something like that.