For anyone who's ever been interested in learning how to play disc golf (a.k.a. Frisbee golf) - or anyone who plays it casually and wants to get together with different players in town - Athens disc golfers have you covered.
This Saturday, March 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, Athens Disc Golf Club in partnership with Academy Sports and Outdoors is hosting a beginner disc golf clinic at Sandy Creek Park. Local players will explain the basics of the game, including the different kinds of discs and how to throw them, and everyone gets to play a few holes. They'll also provide discs for beginners to use during the clinic. Cost is free with $2 park admission.
The following Tuesday night, March 12, marks the beginning of weekly Recreational Disc Golf Doubles Nights at Sandy Creek Park, where anyone, from curious pre-beginners to seasoned players, can gather for some really relaxed evenings of play. Discs will be available for beginners to borrow, and players can bring a partner or join in the random draw for a partner (a tradition in disc golf, which mixes things up and introduces players to each other). Cost is free with $2 park admission and $1 disc golf course fee.
Athens businesses, such as Jittery Joe’s, Terrapin Beer and Big City Bread Café, are also supporting Athens disc golf and the recreational doubles nights by donating a prize for a weekly drawing (so that beginners have a chance to win as much as the seasoned players). Academy Sports and Outdoors is furnishing the premiere week's winner with a new disc.
For the uninitiated, disc golf is a variation of regular ball golf. It’s played on designated disc golf courses where the “holes” are above-ground baskets that catch discs thrown from as far as 400 feet away, and the drivers, mid-rangers and putters are the discs themselves. Like regular golf, the goal is to finish the round with as few throws as possible.
Also like regular golf, it's not always spectator friendly for the casual viewer. Watching involves asking the disc golfers if you can follow them around the course as they throw, which also makes it difficult for some people to learn the sport if they don't already know the players. Athens disc golfers created the clinic and rec nights to make disc golf more accessible for anyone in town who wants to learn.
"It's a popular sport for all ages and demographics," says Wes Campbell, series director of the Georgia Super Six Series that will run tournaments this year in Blairsville, Rome, Marietta, Athens, Macon and Stockbridge. "People can play alone, in pairs or groups, or with their family. And it's great exercise."
It's also very affordable. Discs can be purchased for less than $10, and most course fees are less than $3. Sandy Creek Park is $1, and Herman C. Michael Park outside of Watkinsville is free.
Those interested in doing some research before hitting the course can read more about Athens disc golf in the Flagpole cover story, or by watching videos online. Brothers Patrick and Brian Yoe are local disc golfers who created the website dontnicemebro.com, which features throws by experienced players, including several hole-in-one shots called "aces." The name of the site is based on the superstition that calling a good throw "nice" while it's still in the air will send the disc into a tree.
On the competitive campus front, UGA players, known as the Disc Dawgs, have twice put Athens at the top in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships. And they're looking for more players.
"We're two-time national champs and would love people to carry on for us," says Disc Dawg Nick Evans. "We're qualified for the national championships in Augusta next month due to our performance last year. We have at least three open spots for nationals." Interested students can contact them at email@example.com.
But the Athens disc golfers will tell you that the overall idea of disc golf is that it's fun, regardless of the skill level, and that's what the beginner clinic and recreational nights are about: walking in the fresh air, enjoying the camaraderie of other players, and throwin' a disc.
Full disclosure: Marilyn Estes is a member of Athens Disc Golf.