As George ‘Frolf’ Costanza once famously said, “I’m back baby, I’m back!”
Tell all your content-hungry disc golf pals who (in addition to playing and watching) read about the sport whenever they can that the School of Disc Golf is back to posting a mixture of disc golf content- not just the instructional stuff tied to our core business.
You’ll once again also be seeing current disc golf news from around the world, with a focus on stories about the sport’s growth around the world. Like this story from Bay County, MI. Check out this awesome quote from director of recreation and facilities Cristen Gignac:
“One of the big parts of this grant is we do public input,” she said, adding during the month of September they had a survey that went out to the community. “There was a lot of interest in disc golf, you’ll see that as a priority in a handful of different places.”
Stories like this are popping up everywhere, and I love to share them. Add in occasional commentary provided by yours truly, Jack Tupp (aka Frisbeebrain), and you’ll see a good mix of disc golf content- much of which you won’t get anywhere else. Use the ‘Subscribe’ link at right to make sure the good stuff hits your email inbox before the metaphorical ink is dry.
A little about the history of this blog:
Back in 2008, I decided to launch one of the sport’s first blogs, DeLa Blahg then went on to write (along with PDGA’s Steve Hill) for Rattling Chains, and after that All Things Disc Golf- both also excellent pioneering Disc Golf Blogs. Since then I launched the School of Disc Golf to offer lessons and teambuilding events and published two books. Three Paths to Better Disc Golf offers multiple tips to help you shoot lower scores, while The Disc Golf Revolution aims to help you share the sport – in all its important glory – with the outside world.
Enough about me, right? Everyone is encouraged to post comments, and send me questions, ideas of topics to cover, and story links. If you want to peruse past posts for ideas, just use the search box. Let’s talk some disc golf!
Finally, a teaser for what’s up next: I’ll be sharing a completely fresh take on whether baskets should be smaller/more challenging on the pro tour. Stay tuned!
Most of you who read this blog know that I run School of Disc Golf as a side-gig, mainly because I thoroughly enjoy getting new players hooked on the game and helping those already addicted to get better. You’ve likely at some point read that I used to play all the tournaments I could get to, topped out at a 999 player rating (so close!) and for a time was an officer of the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club.
What I don’t think I’ve mentioned in quite a while in this space – if ever – is another off-and-on project of mine- Discmasters TV. Since the first new episode in quite a while just hit YouTube I thought I’d take a little time to tell you about the show and its origins.
It all started when I came across a video on YouTube that covered a tournament in Santa Cruz called the Faultline Classic. I thought the video was well-produced given the obviously limited technical resources and decided to approach the guy who posted it with an idea I had been tossing around for some time. The concept was for a ‘lighter side of disc golf’ type variety show that would incorporate instruction, interviews, and cheesy, badly-acted comedy. It should come as no surprise the last part came naturally.
My original model for the show and indeed the name itself came from a cheaply-produced fishing show from the 80’s called Fishmasters that itself was a spoof on another show called Bassmasters. I liked the way Fishmasters turned their minimal technical capabilities (which I think were still greater than ours) into a positive by having it add to the comedic element of the show- knowing that anything we could muster would have the same limitations.
So as I said, I contacted the guy who posted that original Faultline Classic video and learned that he worked for Community TV in Santa Cruz, and the video had actually been broadcast there first, on local TV. At this point, let me introduce that guy- Ben Baker.
Ben had a year or two before that graduated from San Francisco State University with a film degree, and his job at the TV station was his first film-related position. He liked the idea as much as I did, and was even more excited when I told him that I had spoken to disc golf luminaries (and friends) Nate Doss, Valarie Jenkins and Avery Jenkins and gotten them to agree to participate as well. As luck would have it, the disc golf touring season had just ended and Nate, Val and Avery would be in Santa Cruz for the next couple months, enabling us to spend time in both the studio and on courses shooting footage.
A side-note about Ben: When we started the project he was enthusiastic about disc golf but pretty much a novice player. His sidearm shot had power yet score-wise he was all over the place. I even hustled a lunch out of him giving him a stroke per-hole at DeLa (that’s 28 strokes!). Ben was not altogether pleased with that introduction to disc golf gambling. That was a couple years ago. This past season, he captured the overall Championship for the venerable NorCal Series tour in the AM2 division. Good for you, Ben! I’d like to think that my instruction and Val, Avery and Nate’s excellence rubbed off on him.
As we envisioned, the show has covered lots of disc golf-related territory. There have been instructional posts by me (on the show known as Jack Tupp), Nate, Avery, Val and even one on putting by Nikko Locastro. There has been lots of tournament coverage, including the 2011 Pro World Championships and the Otter Open in Monterey.
Lots of disc golf celebrity appearances in addition to our regulars: Greg Barsby, Eric McCabe, and Nikko come to mind, but there have been plenty of others (you’ll have to watch the shows to find out who else.) Viewers also get introduced to players known better in Santa Cruz than the rest of the dg world, like Shasta Criss, Don Smith, Tony Tran, and Jon Baldwin (who became World Champion in the Masters division after his Discmasters appearance).
We managed to get a cool logo created by Nate’s step-sister, the talented Audrey Karleskind. Even a cool theme song (lyrics by Yours Truly). And of course, there have been numerous bits of cheesy comedy.
My favorites are the ones that involve me playing bongo drums while Avery tries to putt, followed by Avery nailing me with a disc with Kung-Fu like accuracy, and magic minis that adversely affect my wardrobe. And of course there is the hipster-doofus named Jimmy Shank. Gotta love that guy. And possibly the best is yet to come as we shot some great footage in which Valarie stars. Stay tuned for that.
The just-released clip I mentioned earlier is a 48-minute studio interview of disc golf hall-of-famer Tom Schot and Monterey disc golf pioneer Merle Witvoet. It was shot just before the 2011 Pro Worlds so part of the talk is about that, but I think the most interesting discussion centers on the history of disc golf in Santa Cruz, of which Schot is principally responsible. Disc golf historians should find it interesting.
DeLaBlahg accompanied Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins to a local TV Station early this morning, then joined them for a practice round at Pinto Lake. The live segment with the local morning news co-anchors went well, and clips should be re-posted on the Worlds homepage and Facebook page as soon as the station makes them available. For now, here is the first segment as captured by the Discmasters camera on the camera on the action.
The morning news team, which is small and amazingly capable, ended up doing two segments that were both a couple minutes in length. Review of the entire show later in the day on DVR showed that they even plugged the disc golf segments twice as teasers beforehand- although the repeated called it ‘Frolf’ until we corrected them during a break. In both segments, co-anchors Colleen Chen and Tamara Berg toss putters toward an orange powder-coated DGA basket and ask Val and Nate questions. After receiving some basic instruction both showed improvement. The sound cut out some on the live broadcast during the second segment, but not enough to ruin it. That’s important, because according to the show’s producer they get a bunch of viewers right at the end, tuning in for the CBS Early Show which follows it.
Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins with Colleen Chen of KION News
We’re hoping to get more coverage on KION/FOX 35 before the end of the tournament, so stay tuned.
Course Notes- Pinto Lake
Headed to check out a couple of the Worlds courses after the TV studio shoot. After a stop at Ryan Ranch to check out the new tee signs, benches, and ‘basket-toppers‘(all looking incredible), we headed to Pinto Lake.
Volunteers were hard at work laying out what will be the words ‘2011 Pro Worlds’ in 80-foot tall letters, along with a correspondingly large KEEN logo on the course’s 1200-foot hole, #11. It’ll be so big it will cover most of that long fairway and be visible from 30,000 feet. When it’s done, cameras in airplanes and/or helicopters will hopefully capture some images we can share.
The rest of the course is looking great – even better than great – but for those heading out to practice for the Worlds, a few important notes:
The yellow OB rope that will be put down on the first five holes and holes 14-18 should be there in the next couple days (by Wednesday August 3rd). Until then, pay attention to hole maps and look for the low-protruding 4 x 4 posts that define most of the OB right now.
Watch out for yellowjackets on holes 10 and 12, in both cases within 50 feet of the basket.
Even though this also should change in the next day or two, hole 12A doesn’t have a basket (it has a tone-pole, much of a tee (two markings on the ground) or signage (none) as of Monday August 1st around Noon. Here’s how to get there and then on to Hole 13: After completing hole 12, walk back up the hill along the OB line to the right, to keep safe from being hit by drives on 12. When you get to the tee for 12, you’ll see the tee for 12A not far behind it. After finishing 12A, walk down to a trail on the right that cuts across toward Hole 13.
Hole 18’s basket will be moved from it’s normal position about 75 feet longer, into the open grassy area short of the restrooms. There is a stake to mark where the basket will be- hopefully in, you guessed it . . . a coupla days. Max. There was already plenty to polish up in the next few days, and that sign is gonna be huge.
Practice makes perfect. Well, lots and lots and lots of practice, plus talent, makes almost perfect. But practice does equal improvement, and the more live broadcasts DiscGolfPlanet.tv gets under its belt, the better it gets at it.
For the Memorial this week, I noticed that the announcers (David Greenwell, Crazy John Brooks, and the ‘Disc Golf Guy) are getting more comfortable and less repetitive, graphics were added to show hole layouts and player names, and the camera work is much more sophisticated. For their next big step forward I’d like to see some form of instant replay. I hate to admit it, but I craved it most in a Nascar-type moment, when a spotter was hit in the head by a Garret Guthrie drive. The guy got up and seemed okay, so I don’t feel too bad wanting to see it again. But instant replay would be a big deal for an ace or some other type of spectacular shot.
Another sign that the pro Tour is growing up is the fact that no one gets more than two or three NT wins in the Open division in a single season anymore. The days of a few elite players traveling the country and hoarding all the wins is over. As Greenwell pointed out on the broadcast, until the last few holes six players were within a couple strokes of the lead, and another three or four of the top-ranked players (Nate Doss, The Champ, #1 ranked Dave Feldberg, Avery Jenkins) were not among them
Josh Anton must hate pars. He’s a birdie machine, and it seems the only time he’s not carding birdies he’s taking bogey strokes because he can’t stand the idea of not birdying. If he learns how to mix in a dash more discretion into his game, he’ll be THE player to beat.
Props to my homie Nate Doss for keeping his cool after the first hole today. He had clawed back to only two shots off the lead after trailing by seven after the first round, and five after the second. The he took at snowman 8 on the first, and dug a hole he just couldn’t climb out of. Still, he showed the poise for which he is known, beating the rest of the group over the final 17 holes and not showing any frustration.
The last time I played the Memorial was 2003, and at the time I thought it was bush league that an NT event would be played on a course with grass teepads. I know that Fountain Hills now has those round cement pads, but I still saw the players teeing off grass again today on one temp hole. And I still say it’s bush.
Nikko Locastro is in town to defend his title at the Otter Open in Monterey, and decided to get here a week early to practice the courses that’ll be played at the 2011 Pro Worlds. I played some holes at DeLaveaga with him on Friday to get some action footage while interviewing him for the upcoming TV show Discmasters.
I’ve heard that Nikko is a workhorse before, and Friday I got to see it for myself. On each hole he threw as many drives as the flow of play would allow, along with multiple putts. That pattern culminated with at the Top of the World, where he emptied his bag trying to ace the basket in its mega-short position. Ironically, his very last shot is the one that hit the cage- and I think we did catch it on film.
He seems to me to be a decent enough guy, and more mature and focused than I was at his age. We’re supposed to play a full round at Black Mouse and talk some more next week, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a funky tight little wooded course with all kinds of blind shots that you gotta play to learn the lines. Maybe, just maybe . . . either way, I look forward to learning more about what makes this rising star in the disc golf world tick.
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.
Professional disc golf has not ‘turned a corner,’ and it certainly hasn’t hit the mainstream. The sport is more popular than ever, and growing at the same steady pace it has been growing at for more than a decade. But the cash to be won by playing professionally – a bottom line if ever there was one – hasn’t changed much at all during that same span.
I’ve gone on record before with my opinion that disc golf needs to be exponentially bigger as a recreational sport before it’ll be anywhere near a spectator sport, or something that makes economic sense to broadcast on TV. But really, all it takes is one forward-thinking corporate sponsor to jump-start the whole thing. If and when that happens, this is how I see true ‘professional’ disc golf’ taking shape:
A ‘World Tour,’ (as opposed to the current National Tour) will be sponsored and promoted by a corporate entity that is able to take it to the next level. Each event will have a purse of 100k and a first prize of more than 10K.
This World Tour will have the money to write its own rules, so to speak, and the PDGA will happily accommodate it to finally break throw to what it sees as the big-time.
As opposed to all current NT events (with the exception of the USDGC), participation is limited to the top-rated touring pros, and regional qualifiers
These regional qualifiers will consist of what are now A and B tier PDGA events, so nothing really has to change with the majority of the events going on already. The serious players will just have more to play for now
Even though it’s one of the ‘majors’ of professional disc golf, the World Championships has always seemed more to me like a Worlds Fair. In fact, in disc golf circles it’s known as ‘Worlds,’ as in “did you go to ‘Worlds’ last year in Kansas City?’
I played in one Amateur ‘Worlds’ in my illustrious career, in 1998 in Wisconsin, and one pro Worlds, in 2000 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both are notable for me for different reasons.
The 1998 event was the culmination of me finally putting it all together as an Am player, and I finished 12th out of 180 or so. In 2000 9after turning pro right after the 1998 Worlds), I was in the middle of a long period of floundering in the Open division, but I had other things on my mind. I was in the first six months of dating my now wife, who is from Michigan. she went with me to the Worlds, I met her family in Michigan and Ohio . . . and sucked big-time at the Hudson Mills Metroplex.
Why all this talk about Worlds? Because somehow, inexplicably, the PDGA’s biggest show is coming to Santa Cruz. We’re hosting it at four courses between here and Monterey, and Tom (Schot)’s vision will have us breaking new ground in several areas. Stay tuned . . .
Another new wave of young talent has made its mark on the disc golf scene, with the legitimacy of a major championship to make it official. Nikko Locastro, at age 19 (or maybe 20- I’m too lazy to look it up), charged from four strokes back of former champ Dave Feldberg and three behind reigning champ Nate Doss to win the 2009 USDGC.
Nate was the first to cut into Dave’s lead early, cutting the three-stroke lead to one before succumbing to Winthrop Gold’s OB rope again and again. Then, after a slow start, Nikko began racking up birdies on hole 4 and never seemed to take his foot off the pedal. On hole 10, a par 4 bunkr hole that makes players choose between trying to carry 430-plus feet to the green with a chance for eagle or laying up short left in the narrow fairway, he missed his first attempt to drive the green, but succeeded the second time, then made the putt for a birdie. Under bunkr rules, he didn’t get charged a penalty stroke for the miss, and his resolve and confidence on the tee paid off. Nate, in contrast, missed in his attempt to drive the green, then opted to play safe with the short layup. And it seemed to continue like that the rest of the round. Other tidbits:
Josh Anton came from the third card to take third place by shooting a course record 53 (15 under par). He was 15 under par after hole 16, but only managed par on 17 (the potentially round-killing island hole) and 18.
I heard tales about the way Harold Duvall tweaks the course each year, and I can’t help but wonder what will be in store next year after the top players really carved up Winthrop Gold. There were quite a few rounds where players were double-digits under par and bogey-free or had only one or two flaws
I can’t help but think of Nikko as the Shaun White of disc golf. His big white man ‘fro and goofy attire (unmatched knee-high socks) could end up being a draw as sponsors aim for the 15-25 market.
Nate closed the gap to one between him and Feldberg, then lost two strokes on 17 and 18 (one each hole, by going par-bogey (OB). So he’s trailing by three going into the last day, tied for second with Nikko Locastro. I’ll be following them the whole round , happy to be nothing but a spectator tomorrow.
After my round today, I went back to my room to change and watched some of the live coverage on my computer. The simulation of a professional ball golf event that the USDGC strives for was eerily apparent in the coverage. You see the manicured grass fairways, the numerous tournament volunteers spotting, with the rd and green flags, and galleries just big enough to call them galleries. My only mixed mixed feeling about this is the fact that I’m proud of the fact that most good disc golf course, in my opinion, don’t resemble ball golf courses at all. They wind they their way through woods and over mountainous terrain, not through genteel grassy parks. But still, the coverage was pretty cool, albeit noticeably a nit amateurish. But the people involved did their best, and I was impressed.
I almost thought I was watching a telethon, they pitched the viewers for donations so often. I think it almost became a crutch when they couldn’t think of anything original to say.
On 13, the famous ‘888’ par 5, I can proudly say that I parred it yesterday and might have today, if the clouds hadn’t opened up and started pouring on us before I could putt out. When I began to address my 23-foot par putt there wasn’t a drop, and by the time I had a chance to putt, it was pouring. Still, my total of bogey, par, bogey on that hole, without ever throwing outside of the ridiculously narrow fairway and island green, was one of the few things I can look to with a modicum of pride.
One of the others is the 30-foot, steep uphill par putt on 18 to end my tournament. End on a good note.
I got to play with two Finnish players, Kai and Janne, and guys from NC, WV, Georgia (Pete May, a very cool 68-year old with a $600 Stetson hat made from 2o percent beaver, and no one I knew before we started.
The two things that make the USDGC special, in my opinion, are the course design that makes great use of OB/Bunkr rope, and the abundance and coordination of volunteers.
Although it strikes a blow to my ego, I’m happy to see our sport having grown to the point that probably 50 players have the skills to compete at the top level. The blow to my ego part is the fact that I’m no longer in the same area code as these guys. But I’ll get over it. The cool part, though, is that at its core this is still golf, and having the raw skills to win an event like the USDGC and actually doing it are two very different things. I watched plenty of guys throw as far as Nate, and routinely can 35-footers like they were 20-footers. But to win the USDGC, they need to pull off these feats with a level of consistency that just amazes me.
I don’t think I’ve seen one tye-die shirt all week
Watch the live webcast tomorrow if you can. It should be epic.