Video and pictures from the South Pacific’s best disc golf course

You’ve heard of an island green in golf, right? Where you tee off near a shoreline to a green situated on a small piece of land surrounded by water? The course featured in today’s post is nothing like that. In fact, it is much better described as a mountain course considering the fact that it is 5,000 feet up the side of a 10,000 foot-tall mountain and every hole has some type of slope in play. But this course, Poli Poli, is also situated on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, and boasts views of the aquamarine-colored water far below.

I’m purposefully not disclosing the location due to its quasi private/public nature, but those who want it bad enough will be able to discover the truth without too much trouble. Check out this video just posted to YouTube. It’s got short video clips first (sorry for the choppy editing) and still pictures after the vid clips.

How to practice follow-through when putting

One of the most important aspects of proper disc golf putting form also happens to be counter-intuitive to the way people usually first learn to throw a flying disc. I’m talking follow-through, which in a classic putting motion means thrusting the throwing (putting) hand forward toward the target, as opposed to ‘flinging’ the disc from the side like a tossing a Frisbee at the beach.

A different set of muscles are involved, so it not only feels weird at first but also requires some time and repetition to develop those muscles. Check out this short clip on YouTube that demonstrates a short exercise developed to help players work on proper putting follow-through. If you don’t feel like watching the clip, here it is in a nutshell:

  • Pick a target, preferably a basket or something else that won’t inflict abuse on your putters when you repeatedly throw them at said target.
  • Get a stack of putters, preferably at least five or so
  • Standing a short distance from the target (15 feet or closer), pick up the first disc, and prepare to putt at the target as you normally would. Except in this exercise, de-emphasize the ‘take-back/pull-back’ part of your putt, and over-emphasize your follow-through.
  • If possible, hold the disc a foot in front of your body, and fight the urge to instinctively pull the disc back before letting it fly. Instead, try to use follow-through to get as much as possible on your putt.
  • Repeat with the rest of your discs, then collect them and do it again.
  • Once you get the hang of it, try to start with the disc even further from your body. Whether the disc goes in the basket isn’t as important in this exercise as a strong follow-through with your throwing arm ending up completely straight, pointing directly at the target.
  • When you feel comfortable with your follow-through technique, go back to your normal take-back/pull-back but finish with the same exaggerated follow-through. If done correctly, you’ll notice that the disc goes further with less effort, and . . . .
  • If you’re finishing with your hand pointed directly at the center of the target, you’ll also see another benefit: less putts that miss left or right. That part is pretty simple, really. If you pull a putter back on a straight line, and release it on a straight line, it will indeed fly on a straight line.

This exercise is all about transforming a technique that is crucial to proper putting form but can feel unnatural at first into something you do every time without thinking. It can only happen through repetition, though, and as I mentioned in the first part of this post, the muscles involved need to be developed as well. So if it doesn’t seem like you can do it at first- if the disc doesn’t even make it to the basket – just get closer and keep at it. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

Shocked by the sound of chains

One of the great things about disc golf is the way, when you think you’ve seen and experienced it all, something happens to make you realize you in fact have not. Such was the case for me today at Black Mouse DGC.

After two decades of playing disc golf, I can’t remember anything like what happened today. I want to describe it in detail, and ask you, the reader, to share anything similar.

Hole 11 at Black Mouse is (choose your adjective): devious, frustrating, challenging, ridiculous. I’ll try to describe it the best I can. From tee to basket, “as the crow flies”, it’s uphill and maybe 250 feet. But the terrain slopes steeply from left to right, and 80 or so feet from the tee the so-called fairway narrows to an opening maybe six feet wide and 10 feet tall. After that point the hole dog-leg’s sharply to the left. On the left of that opening is a literal wall of redwood trees, and to the right is more trees and a continued downward slope. So you pretty much have to aim for that tiny gap and throw something that will bank left after passing through, or just sit down, to give you an extremely steep upshot.

I’m left-handed, and I try to throw a side-armed Surge driver through that gap that will ideally curve left and uphill toward the basket. Today I missed by at least 10 feet to the left, hit one of the Redwoods, and dropped straight down. My choice was to either sacrifice a stroke by tossing my disc a few feet to the right and hope I’d get a clean look at an upshot for a bogey four, or try to squeeze a blind shot through the wall o’ Redwoods in the general direction of the basket. I knew it wasn’t the wise choice because the gap was barely the width of a disc, and there were plenty of other trees to get past in the fairway, but I chose it anyway because it seemed more fun. I made sure to keep it flat to avoid a second wall of Redwoods closer to the basket, and let ‘er fly.

The first and main objective was accomplished as soon as the disc made it through the ‘crack in the wall’. Since the disc disappeared from view immediately, I listened closely to monitor its progress. I was hoping to hear nothing, actually, since that would mean the throw got as far as possible without hitting a tree. And that’s just what I heard, until I was . . . . SHOCKED BY THE SOUND OF CHAINS! Honestly, I don’t remember being more pleasantly jolted by that sound in all the time I’ve played the game. It was the perfect tone, too, where you just know it stayed in the cage.

I’m interested to hear if any readers have experienced anything comparable. I was hoping to scratch out a bogey, and in an instant realized that instead I birdied a hole I’ve only birdied once before. Do you have a similar story of being ‘shocked by the sound of chains’?

2010 USDGC Observations

This time last year I played in the USDGC for the first and only time. I didn’t know it at the time, but I played with a torn rotator cuff. I did know it hurt like heck, though. After the first practice round, in which I managed a  +1 and figured ‘this isn’t so bad as long as you play clean golf and hit all your putts, my arm was as useless as those little front appendages of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s. But I did my best, which was equal to most everyone else’s worse. Still, it was one thing I could cross off my Bucket List. Watching this year from the comfort of my computer via the live webcast, a few observations come to mind:

  • Will Schusterick and Nikko Locastro are way clear of the field, battling for first. This continues and perhaps accelerates the youth trend in professional disc golf started when Nate Doss captured first at the Worlds in 2006 at age 19 then proved it wasn’t a fluke with another Worlds title and a USDGC title a couple years after that. Some may conclude that players in their teens or early 20’s have the advantage of fresher arms and quicker recovery from fatigue, and that’s part of it, I’m sure. But I know first-hand that Nate also benefited immensely from growing up with the sport, surrounded by numerous talented players in Santa Cruz. As the number of courses and events grow, players that start in childhood are seasoned by the time they are in high school. The trend mirrors that in nearly all other sports. The one possible exception, ironically, is ball golf, although younger players are breaking through there more than in the past as well.
  • If you watched the live webcast on discgolfplanet.tv, you surely noticed the counter that showed how many viewers were watching at any given time. It seemed to range from a low of 800 or so to a high of 1500. Right now, as I write, Nikko and Will are locked in a close battle for first in the final round, and the counter is at 1,187. To me this clearly illustrates that disc golf is still far, far away from attracting the major sponsors that the sport’s top promoters hope will result in much bigger prize money and live TV coverage. As I pointed out last year, those who think we’re close to this kind of breakthrough are ignorant to the development of just about all other sports. Think of it this way: How many people that watch golf on TV have never swung a club? Not many. Golf only became worthy of broadcasting on TV when golf industry advertisers knew that the millions of players and devotees to the sport (who buy golf stuff) would be watching. 1,187 people are still exponentially less than what is required, so the focus should be on introducing more people to the sport.
  • Last year, to watch the live webcast, a fan had to pay a fee. This year, it’s free (although donations are encouraged). I’m sure the logic was that increasing the viewership is the most important goal, and they wanted remove the cost barrier. Did it work? Doesn’t look like it.
  • After having played the course a handful of times last year, I’m really enjoying the webcast this year because I recognize every scene captured on the screen. If you ever get the chance to play the course in the ‘Winthrop Gold’ setup, do it. The video coverage will mean so much more if you’re able to put it in the context of having played it.

If you’re interested in reading my posts from the event last year, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Thanks!

More land for us misfits to play with our toys

People of a certain age certainly remember the Land of the Misfit Toys, a place to where toys that no kids want for Christmas get exiled. It’s part of the old Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer movie from a looong time ago. Anyway, those toys are none too happy to be there, because they are unwanted as well as the fact that the place looks pretty cold and bleak.

Now many people will characterize disc golfers as misfits, for a variety of reasons. Personally I wear that label as a badge of honor, because fitting in has never been on my list of priorities. But with us the story is quite different than with those sad little toys. We actually seek out locales where we can lose ourselves in a self-imposed exile for a couple hours, and we’re finding them with increasing frequency. A recent blog post here on the installation of the Ryan Ranch course in Monterey discusses what I believe to be at the core of the disc golf grassroots growth phenomenon, essentially people going to great lengths to get new courses installed not for monetary gain but to enable themselves and others to experience the game. And now another example pops up – this time in Walnut Creek.

As detailed in a story published on the SJ Mercury website, another course may be installed soon, and for disc golfers it includes an encouraging new twist: a new level of local government support. If the proposal by ‘local disc golf enthusiasts’ is accepted, the city of Walnut Creek will provide $20,000 for equipment costs as well as ongoing maintenance by its parks staff for Old Oak Park. This kind of support is more common in other parts of the country, and it’s an encouraging trend here in Northern California. Local governments are finally realizing what a tremendous success story installing a disc golf course can be.

You take 10 acres or more that otherwise had no recreational potential or viable commercial uses, invest a tiny fraction of what it costs to develop convention parks, or tennis courts, or baseball/softball fields, and wham! Just like that you’ve enabled thousands of people to enjoy the land (in a more pristine condition than you’ll find with any other arrangement that untouched open space), and get exercise many would not get otherwise get . . . all basically at little or no cost to the city or the players. And since unused public acreage usually ends up getting populated by shady people looking for hidden places to do their shady things, cities and counties have removal of those elements as further incentive. More and more, they are seeing the upside of accommodating us misfits and our plastic toys.