Playing always trumps watching; Pinto Lakes manicured fairways

As a kid, I remember watching football games on TV. I’d be interested to watch my heroes perform, for sure, but when halftime came around I was much more excited about actually getting out to the street and doing it myself.

I think the same holds true for disc golf- or for that matter any sport that an average person can play well into middle age and even beyond. I love the fact that enables me to see the top pros (especially Nate Doss, for whom I have a friendship and hometown-based rooting interest) compete in the top events as they happen. But if it’s a choice between watching them or heading out to Pinto Lake to play a competitive round myself . . . it’s not a difficult decision. Doing beats watching every time.

I mention this because it’s a truism that applies directly to what I believe are well intentioned but misguided efforts to introduce disc golf to the masses that have yet to discover its charms and benefits.

Pick any sport that people watch en masse – either live or on TV – and they fall into one of two categories: Either they have spectator appeal because they are difficult and/or dangerous, like cliff diving, downhill ski racing, or (people DO watch it) figure skating; or, on the other side of the spectrum, it’s a sport we can all play, or have played at some point in our lives, like baseball, soccer, football, basketball, tennis, or . . . golf.

In the case of the second category – into which disc golf falls – there needs to be a critical mass of people that play the sport before there can be any hope of it being attractive as a spectator sport, since the only reason we’d watch such a sport is the fact that we identify with it – however remotely – as participants. Yet the overwhelming majority of disc golf promoters seem to be approaching their promotion with an exactly opposite approach. They keep trying to gain major sponsorship for our sport which is neither dangerous or difficult, in the hope that that will then generate the attention and/or funds required to get it broadcast on television, which will then make it appeal to the masses. Puzzling, no?

Speaking of Pinto Lake (I spoke about it in the 2nd paragraph of this post, if you didn’t notice), that course is now my clear and away my favorite in Santa Cruz county- despite (and in part because of) the aggravation that several of the holes routinely bring. The upper meadow holes are now being mowed regularly, thanks to a donated riding mower and an obsessive course patron saint. The fairways are carved out of natural grasses and brush, and each one is bordered with OB markers and rope on each side. They are as pleasing to the eye as they are displeasing to the score. For disc golfer on the Central Coast they offer quite a different type of challenge. Check it out:

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