Chapel Hill: Sports

Carrboro slips a disc (into the hands of kids)

Max Kuhlman, age 12, drops a ‘putt’ into a pole hole during a clinic on disc golf, hosted by the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department on Saturday, April 30, 2016, at Anderson Community Park.
Max Kuhlman, age 12, drops a ‘putt’ into a pole hole during a clinic on disc golf, hosted by the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department on Saturday, April 30, 2016, at Anderson Community Park. chnsports@nando.com

The record for the longest drive in disc golf was recently broken: 338 meters. That’s a whopping 1,108 feet – a 370-yard drive. Any professional golfer on the PGA tour would be enviable.

That said, in disc golf as in traditional golf, the short game is all important, as was pointed out to the dozen participants of all ages at Saturday’s Disc Golf Clinic at Hank Anderson Park.

“You drive for show, but you putt for dough,” said instructor Matthew Smith, who has been conducting Carrboro Recreation and Parks clinics for around seven years at the Anderson Park disc golf course that he helped develop.

It was for that very reason that instruction began with basics on disc release and how to “hole out” by hitting a “hole pole” with the disc from close range.

While the sport has gained undeniable popularity in young adults as a leisure activity – particularly among college-aged and young professional adults – Carrboro’s free clinic was geared toward families.

“As a department, we want families out here,” said Carrboro recreation supervisor Galen Poythress, who was also on hand Saturday. “Our disc golf and fishing clinics started as just being for the kids, and the parents were sidelined. But why not have the parents participate with the kids?

“We try to have two disc golf and two fishing clinics every brochure period. We use PeachJar (email flyers), Facebook, and Twitter, but I’m also just trying to put signs out.”

The disc golf clinics give parents and children the opportunity to learn together about the sport of disc golf, including an understanding of rules, etiquette, the basics of throwing discs through tips and technique instruction.

The Professional Disc Golf Association boasts a base of over 80,000 members, according to its website. The PDGA is the governing body for the sport, and sanctions competitive events for men and women of every skill level from novice to professional.

The sport of disc golf is played like traditional golf, using flying discs or Frisbees instead of a ball and clubs. With rules formalized in the 1970s, the sport’s object is to complete each hole in the fewest number of strokes – or throws in disc golf.

“A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target which is the ‘hole,’ and the hole can be one of a number of targets, the most common being a ‘Pole Hole,’ an elevated metal basket” the PDGA rules say. “To finish each hole, a ‘putt’ lands in the basket, and the hole is completed.”

The sport demands little investment. Anyone can play with a single disc, which can be purchased for as little as $15 to $20.

“I recommend that people get one disc and learn that disc until they break it,” Smith suggested. “I carry a competitive bag with about 14 disks in it.”

“For the clinic, we’ve got all mid-range, light-weight disks, and they’re great for kids,” Smith added. “Everyone wants to go out and buy a ‘Destroyer,’ but the faster the disk, the harder they are to control. All of the disks we have here are about 130 grams, I think. They can max at 175 and go as low as 100 grams.”

The growth of disc golf locally mirrors the popularity worldwide.

Courses are located throughout the Triangle area, with Chapel Hill courses located on grounds of UNC’s Outdoor Education Center (formerly the Chapel Hill Country Club), at Chapel Hill’s Southern Community Park, and at Hank Anderson Park.

“This has been here at Anderson since 2007,” Smith said. “Brendan Moore and I helped put the course here, and the final design was signed off by Russel Schwarz from Innova.”

Courses in Durham include Cornwallis Road Park, Bethesda Park, Leigh Farm Park, and Valley Springs Park. Also, a lot of the companies in the Research Triangle Park are getting courses on their business campuses.

While disc golf equipment is simple and inexpensive, Smith keeps the lessons simple as well.

“We want to show up and explain what disc golf is, because some folks show up and don’t know what (traditional) golf is,” he said, “So, we talk about the objectives of the game, then we warm up and get loose, we’ll try some putting and short-range stuff, and then we’ll take a step back. We’ll try a couple field shots, and we may even play a couple holes.”

“We try to focus on a backhand and forehand shot, because as soon as you show them the overhand, that’s all they want to do,” he added.

Among about a dozen participants Saturday, young and old, was Isabel Wang, who understood the importance of learning the basics and the short game first.

“I like throwing long,” said Wang, 8, “(but) I also like hitting the poles.”

Tracy Kuhlman said the clinic seemed like a great way to introduce a new sport to her family, which included husband Brian, daughter Lizzy, 15, and son Max, 12.

“I think I saw it in a brochure, and I thought it would be a cool thing for our family to start doing together,” Tracy said.

Poythress was particularly pleased with the turnout given the gray morning and light drizzle.

“With this weather, I’m really happy with it,” he said. “I’m just happy we had a good number of people show up.”

No matter how you spin it, under blue skies or gray, one toss – a short chip shot or a drive of 1,108 feet – makes it easy to see why disc golf’s popularity is soaring with local families.

For more information on Carrboro Recreation’s upcoming clinics May 28 and June 25, call the Recreation Department at 919-918-7364.

Where to play

Chapel Hill courses are located on grounds of UNC’s Outdoor Education Center (formerly the Chapel Hill Country Club), at Chapel Hill’s Southern Community Park, and at Hank Anderson Park.

Other courses are located throughout the Triangle area. Durham courses include: Cornwallis Road Park, Bethesda Park, Leigh Farm Park, and Valley Springs Park. Also, a lot of the companies in the Research Triangle Park are getting courses on their business campuses.

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