Clifford the Big-Armed Dog, and another oddball first for me

Nearly all of us have played disc golf with people who can seemingly throw a disc with half our effort and make it go twice as far. Such natural power is to be envied, but it occurred to me today that in some ways these freaks of nature deserve our sympathy as well.

Watching Clifford the Big Red Dog the other day with my kids, I thought of how large active dogs need more room to get the exercise they need. If you have a 90-pound Labrador Retriever you should be taking that dogs for runs in open space every day. A Chihuahua, on the other hand, can get all the exercise it needs running around the back yard or even the living room.

It’s kind of like that with disc golfers that can throw 450 feet or more. If they live in an area with courses that have mostly short par 3 holes, imagine how bummed they must be! I try to be a glass-half-full kind of guy, and as my arm (which was never a big gun even in my prime) loses a little each year, I find that more and more holes present new, distance-related challenges. Usually that comes off as a bummer, but disc golf is no fun without the challenge, and this Chihuahua is finding more challenge every day. Yipee, I think.

Black Mouse Disc Golf Course has been my place for exciting happenings this year. There was an ace several months back, and more recently possibly my most surprising birdie ever. And now today, it happened again. I was playing hole nine, which for those of you who don’t know is a very short, sharp dogleg right that is flat until the dogleg then drops sharply downhill. I’m a lefty, so I throw a hyzer that is supposed to cut just around the Redwoods that define the dogleg before dropping down to the right. Today I hit those Redwoods and my disc stayed behind them, forcing me to try to save par with a sidearmed turnover shot that hopefully would slide under a tree guarding the basket. Instead, the shot hit one of the tree’s thin branches solidly, shot across the fairway (left-to-right), then ricocheted AGAIN (right-to-left this time) off a huge overturned root system of an Oak tree to the right of the basket and INTO THE CHAINS. It was a Surge, by the way.

Another sidearm shot (which I throw as little as possible due to my torn rotator cuff) that was meant to just get close enough to save par goes in for a birdie. When my putt on the next hole for birdie hit dead center but slid out, I just laughed and assumed that all my luck for the rest of the round was used up.

By the way, did I mention it was a running round- or two rounds? 36 holes, up and down rain soaked, muddy slopes, in 54 minutes and six seconds. Yeah, it’s a short course, but still . . . . not bad for an old Chihuahua!

Odd targets and unusual setting still made for big fun!

It’s easy to think that playing object golf is like washing clothes by beating them on a rock, with so many basket courses available to us these days. But it’s a reminder of how flexible and adaptable our sport is. Essentially, if you have a flying disc, anything can be a target, and almost any setting can be co-opted for use as a course. That being said, I’m glad modern business parks are built with !@#$%^&* sturdy windows and most office workers take the weekends off. Otherwise the (unofficial & unsanctioned) 7th Annual Palm/HP Tournament in Silicon Valley would have been much less feasible. Although they don’t really convey how fun it was to take part in this departure from the ‘modern’ game, click here to see pictures from the event.

Street is OB, target is in the background, with yellow tape

With almost no other people and cars there to complicate things, it was much more fun navigating through parking lots, past buildings, and around shrubs and trees than it woulda been on the wide-open vacant lot across the street!

As I understand it, the event was created to encourage employees of Palm (as in Palm Pilot) to try out disc golf. Therefore, the format is as unique as the rest of the tournament. First of all, it consists of an 18-hole par-2 putting course round, followed by 18 holes of object golf. Grass is outnumbered by concrete and asphalt by about a 1000 to 1 ratio. Second, even though I ended up winning $25.13 by placing first overall, it didn’t cost anything to enter. Gotta like that! And third, due to a payout structure with an objective of everyone walking away a winner (each hole paid something), first place isn’t usually even the biggest money winner! Looking at the spreadsheet used to determine payout made my head spin! Only in Silicon Valley, right?

The TD uses advanced algorithms to compute scores and final payout

Here is an incomplete list of objects used in this most unusual example of object disc golf:

  • Palm tree- the most common of all objects used on object courses
  • Light pole- second-most common
  • Manhole cover- discs had to come to rest on the cover, completely surrounded by metal
  • Bike rack- disc had to pass completely underneath the rack, and I incurred my only bogey on the regular course when my disc got stuck trying to pass underneath the lowest point
  • Sewer grate- disc had to end up completely in the grate, with the obvious hazard of actually sliding into the sewer! One year a kid had to be lowered by his feet to retrieve a disc!
  • Metal cage around utility meters
  • Fire hydrant- The first course I ever played, at UC Santa Cruz, had a hydrant for a target
  • Parking lot planter- disc had to come to rest inside
  • Median surrounding giant corporate park sign- same deal as the planter
  • Square trash cans
  • Metal benches- By far the most challenging as they were quite slippery and the disc had to come to rest on the bench as opposed to just hitting it. Someone actually completed the hole on a bench hole with his first shot on the putting course. Quite unbelieveable
  • All cars and non-playing humans were considered OB and carried a one-stroke penalty if struck. We had to place a ‘spotter’ in front of a couple cars that were obviously in flight paths, with the spotter using his judgment in decided whether to swat down a threatening throw.

There was one ace on the regular course: Fittingly, since it was the Palm Tournament, someone aced the palm tree hole. This event was proof that people intent on having fun with a golf disc can do so just about anywhere.