By Josh Woods ~
Loving something that few people know or care about is not such a big problem. But when you love a loveless thing enough to play it and talk about it, without end—well, now you have a problem.
Your troubles can emerge almost anywhere, and before you know it, they multiply. The moment you utter the word “disc golf” in mixed company, clouds form overhead, the earth cracks, and winged monkeys appear on the horizon.
Just last week, I mentioned my interest in disc golf to a colleague at a holiday office party. Here’s how the conversation went:
“Disc golf?” she asks. “What’s that?”
“It’s like ball golf, but instead of clubs …”
“What’s ball golf?” She squints her eyes at me as if reading the fine print on a medicine label.
I’m not doing this again, I say to myself. “You know, ball golf … the sport played with cheese curds, snow cones and a giant hairdryer.”
“You’re joking, right?”
I’ve had several conversations with people who have never heard of disc golf. How is this even possible? It blows my mind every time. But you can see it on their faces (it’s sort of gross). The pursed lips, the scrunched-up forehead, the I’m-losing-at-trivia eyes. There’s nothing in the cookie jar. Nada. Disc golf does not exist to them.
Such a void presents problems, all right. It means traversing the unfortunate terrain of rudimentary definition. It means boiling your love to the bones. It means saying horrifying things like, “the object of disc golf is to throw a Frisbee into a basket.”
I would rather talk to a person who knows all about disc golf, but loathes it, hates every part of it, than chat with someone who knows nothing about the sport. Explaining disc golf to such a person is like trying to define art, or express the feeling you have while standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s like summing up Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night by saying, “Blue and swirly. Neato.”
Worse is the fact that disc golf’s meaning cannot be found in its definition. Nothing can be said about the rules of the game that clarifies what it means to people.
In fact, the act of throwing a pancake across the kitchen has more to do with disc golf than throwing a Frisbee into a basket. Most families set restrictions on throwing things in the house. Not so in a disc golfer’s household. Throwing things, regardless of place or position, is an unfettered, inalienable right. When you set a stack of flapjacks in front of your daughter, and she chucks one at you, it’s like, of course you hit daddy in the neck with a pancake. Nice shot.
Disc golf is easier to find in an old pile of footwear than in a rule book. That’s where disc golf lives. Among the mangled, rotten carcasses of a prior year’s overpriced boots, and the odd sense of pride you feel when viewing them.
Disc golf involves a kind of progress where simplicity is gradually replaced by unneeded, yet delicious complexity—an evolution whereby the notion of “essential” expands. To play disc golf, all one needs is an arm, two legs and a disc, and yet the veteran disc golfer trudges the hills, loaded down with several discs, towels, scorecards, pencils, sharpies, snacks, drinks, handwarmers, nail clippers, and various redundant junk that ends its life at the bottom of a bag.
In my first years of playing, I graduated from a double-lined grocery bag à la Charles Bukowski, to a child’s knapsack, to a backpack that could be used by the Peace Corps to transport supplies to a small village. At this rate of evolution, half my body should be made of carbon fibers and viscoelastic bubbles within the next ten years.
The spirit of disc golf is like an impromptu party that breaks out prior to a league event in mid-December. There’s no RSVP, no rules of decorum, no standard by which to miss the mark, no reason to even celebrate, save the simple fact that you’re alive, for now, and it’s time to throw.
Disc golf, without doubt, is in the people, and their shared impulse to play, regardless of comfort, regardless of outcome, in all places, day and night, for little more than the rush of a disc in open air and the fact that your friends were there to see it.
Happy holidays disc golf land. See you next year.
Josh Woods is the editor at Parked. He’d like to thank the writers, photographers and sponsors who contributed to this blog over the last year. His deepest gratitude goes the readers.
Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.