By Josh Woods ~
What makes something funny? Where does fun come from? Is disc golf fun when it’s funny?
Part of me wants to answer these questions by reviewing scientific research on humor. But then, that might not be much fun.
As the poet E. B. White put it, “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.”
I won’t, as I usually do, offer an academic explanation of fun. Instead, I’ll tell you about a group of disc golfers who seem to have fun figured out.
On December 22, 2018, sixteen Santas, one Grinch and the Christmas Story Bunny took to the fields and forests of Hamburg, Michigan and played 18 holes of random doubles mob golf. A ruckus of disc golfers in red and white and pink and green streamed through The Gulch with discs and carts and candy canes in tow.
Afterward, the jolly old elves gathered for a disc gift exchange, cookies, milk and Bell’s beer.
Dubbed “Bad Santa 2.0,” the event certainly lacked the gravity of a PDGA tournament. Yet, the lack of decorum did not seem to diminish the fun and likely added to it.
I collected reactions from four participants of the event. Agreement was notable.
Summing up the Bad Santa experience, Dave Jones said, “I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Max Halabut offered a similar remark: “Not a single person wasn’t smiling for 18 straight holes, through good shots and bad.”
“It was hands down one of the most fun rounds I’ve ever had,” said Keith Carroll.
When I asked about how, aside from the costumes, the Bad Santa experience differed from a typical round, Paul Whitmore said, “Honestly, the only difference I noticed was those smiles.”
It seems the Santas had so much fun that some of them could hardly remember who won the event. After some searching, I learned that Phil Turner and Sean Mannooch took home first place, along with a glass beer mug trophy etched with the now-famous moniker, “Bad Santa 2.0.”
One Santa, Keith Carroll, traveled from North Carolina to attend the event. Most of the participants are active players in the leagues and clubs of south-east Michigan. Some of the Santas met on the Discraft Buzzz Collector Group on Facebook.
Bad Santa 2.0 was the brainchild of Paul Whitmore and Max Halabut, who started the event in 2017 with four Santas and an elf. Although plans for expansion are in the works for next year, Whitmore said, “We want to keep the close-knit group feel everyone enjoyed this year.”
Writing a Christmas story was not on my 2019 to-do list. But when the Bad Santas shared some of their photos, I couldn’t resist. My favorite image appears above.
Believe it or not, what I find most captivating about this photo is not the Santa suits, nor the lovely mist rising through beams of sunlight, nor even the haunting twist of trees in the backdrop.
For me, it’s the disc. Even with seven Santas in the frame, I keep going back to that tiny blip of light, frozen in midair, making its way to the basket.
And I’m not alone. It looks like everyone in the photo has their eyes fixed on the disc.
That’s what I like about disc golf. When a well-thrown disc zips through the air, there’s this moment when nothing else matters. Everyone in the group goes still, just for a second, and watches.
Take a walk in the woods with disc golfers and you’ll experience it. A flash of collective awe. Camaraderie through flight. This shared sense of wonder that brings disc golfers together and keeps them coming back for more.
Don’t miss a story. Like Parked on Facebook for notifications or subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address below.
Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.