By Josh Woods ~
WATCH THE Video ESSAY HERE:
I’d rather be hit by a Bullet than a Boss. I mean, I’d rather not get hit at all, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the Bullet.
Of course, the odds of being struck by an original Bullet, made by Destiny/Dynamic in the 1980s, are close to zero, because you just won’t find them on a disc golf course. The Bullet was not approved by the PDGA’s Technical Standards Committee.
Although, as Joe Feidt wrote, the Bullet “was one smokin’ hot golf disc” in its day, the movers and shakers of disc golf deemed it too small, too hard and oftentimes too heavy and ushered in safety standards that are still in place today.
Partly due to its outlaw status, the Bullet, along with its manufacturer, would fade into history while other discs and manufacturers rose to prominence.
Some observers attribute the Bullet’s fate to politics and the business dealings of a few individuals. But the Bullet debate is only one of many controversies involving equipment standards and preferences. At the heart of these disputes, there is an ongoing collective discussion about what disc golf should be and how it ought to be played. These conflicts, in other words, are cultural.
The importance of culture becomes more obvious when considering the current context.
In the last few years alone, the PDGA’s Standards Committee has approved several high-speed drivers, all of which are certainly more dangerous than the Bullet. This comes at a time when players are throwing farther, faster and in larger numbers than ever before. But high-speed drivers have become such a valued part of disc golf culture that the idea of outlawing them seems ludicrous.
Hucking a high-speed driver is one of my favorite things to do on a disc golf course. I’m not giving that up, and the reason why is simple: My mindset, like yours, is a product of today’s disc golf culture, not the culture of the 1980s.
While love for the high-speed driver has reached a near consensus among disc golfers, many other issues have not.
In competitive disc golf circles, there are dozens of hot button topics involving rules, equipment, tournament fees, course layouts, state coordinators, gender and racial inequality, drugs and alcohol, overcrowding, and the list goes on. More interesting, I think, is that these issues, while numerous, are smaller in scope than the fundamental cultural differences between disc golfers in the broader community.
Competitive players account for a small percentage of the total population. Beyond the modern achievement domain, there is less consensus about the meaning of the game.
Disc golf is a competitive sport to some, and a form of meditation to others. It is a social club and a solitary act, a weekend adventure and a mundane habit, an escape from family life and a family, a retreat from workplace pressures and a job, a momentary lapse in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle and a hiatus from more rigorous exercise, an excuse to use drugs and alcohol and the only thing stopping an addict from relapse.
Although reliable statistics suggest that something called “disc golf” is growing quickly, its participants are experiencing the game in different ways. On one hand, it’s wonderful that disc golf can be so many different things to different people. On the other hand, a lack of cultural consensus is terrible for the development of a sport. More worrisome than any cultural conflict is the prospect of not having a cohesive culture.
This is where I’m headed in my next installment. Drawing on two chapters from my book, I’ll talk about how the disc golf movement stagnated or grew slowly for decades partly due to its lack of cultural cohesion and the challenge of herding the cats of disc golf land.
To follow along, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel or to my blog Parked. You’ll find the videos and written content under the category “Rise of an Unknown Sport.” You can also follow me on Twitter (@ADiscGolfBlog) for daily updates on all things disc golf, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.