The best places to play disc golf in Flagstaff
By: Travis Guy
Whatever you do, do not call it “Frisbee golf.” You will lose a lot of friends quickly.
Disc golf has been around for a while, with Flagstaff being home to a few courses that are not only a good workout, but also a great way to get away from everything and relax for a few hours.
Much like the original sport for which it is named, disc golf require players to go through a course of —generally— 18 holes, with the thrower trying to get the lowest score possible.
WHERE TO START PLAYING
But unlike golf, participants do not need to go out and buy a full set of clubs that can run in the hundreds of dollars. All you need for disc golf is a disc and a few people that are willing to play.
There are four courses in town that the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) recognizes as official disc golf courses. They are the NAU course on South Campus, the Thorpe Park course, a course at McPherson Park and a course at Snowbowl.
Nestled in the back of campus, along the freeway and next to the South Campus parking lot, the NAU course is a good beginners’ course. Players will go through 18 holes that are relatively easy to get to. There are some hazards, though. Golfers have to watch out for ravines, parking lots and, for stronger throwers, the freeway. Participants will also have to beware of some of the more tree-heavy holes, where their partners might find themselves tempted to call you a lumberjack should you hit a tree. Despite these factors, it is a nice course with concrete launching pads, or tees, which is sure to have most participants hooked on the game. Difficulty: 1 flying disc.
The Thorpe Park course sits in the back of Thorpe Park, which covers 219 acres, and takes players through some of the trails in Thorpe Park. This is a more intermediate course with more trees, hills and a wide assortment of rocks to get in the way of players. This course takes a bit more time than the NAU course because it can be a bit more difficult to find the tees, but each launching pad is marked with the hole number, basket location and how far away the hole is. This course also offers players concrete tees and there are plenty of tree stumps and benches through the course for other players to relax on until their turn comes around. Difficulty: 3 flying discs.
During the winter, Flagstaff residents and NAU students know Snowbowl as the place to go and ski or snowboard on some fresh powder for the day. After winter, the mountain becomes a place for people to go hike, bike, take a scenic ride on the snow chairs or play a fun —but challenging— game of disc golf. The course starts golfers at Agassiz Lodge before taking participants on a tour of the base of the summit before finishing back at Agassiz. While this course will offer players more of a workout than others, they will have to wait until next summer to play there. Snowbowl is currently renovating the course and it is closed for the summer. Difficulty: 2 flying discs.
McPherson Park’s course sits on 13 acres, which is 5-7 acres less than a normal course. Like the above courses, McPherson is an 18-hole course with concrete tees. This course offers players a course that varies in elevation. Be ready for hiking, and shots that are not as easy as other courses due to the large amount of dense tree growth. Another difficult aspect of the course is the distance between the tees and the baskets. The course averages 244-foot holes, with a third of the holes being over 300 feet and Basket 10 being 465 feet from tee to basket. Difficulty: 2 flying discs.
HOW TO PLAY YOUR FIRST GAME OF DISC GOLF
Are you and your friends are ready to give disc golf a try? There are a few things to get and know before stepping onto that first tee.
Like golf, there are many different levels of disc golfers. The more experienced players are easy to recognize, as they will have perfect throws and will be carrying around a bag with many different types of discs. Distance discs — or drivers — are used for longer holes and teeing off. There are also fairway and mid-range drivers for when you approach the hole, and putters for sinking the disc into the basket and hoping for par. Just because there are so many types of discs does not mean you have to get every one. It is perfectly acceptable, and suggested for beginners, to just get one disc and build your game from there. As for finding a disc, try asking friends and acquaintances if they have one or two to borrow, or if they would like to go play a game.
You’re now at the first tee and ready to start playing. Then you think to yourself, Wait, how exactly do I throw this thing?” There are a few different ways to throw the disc, depending on what feels more comfortable. The first way is to throw the disc backhanded, like a traditional Frisbee, by bringing your arm across your stomach and releasing in front of you. Another way is throwing forehand. That is when you grip the disc with three fingers, two on the bottom and one on the top, and throw the disc sidearm. This form is a little tricky to get down, the disc will want to curve one way or another, but once you understand the mechanics, it can add some much needed feet to your throw.
As you approach the basket, you want to get the disc in it with as few throws as possible. The best way to do this is to do a backhanded toss — not as strong as a throw — and hope it goes in.
Like golf, the winner of disc golf is the person with the lowest score. That means mastering your throws as quickly as possible so you can be the one rubbing the win in your friends’ faces. Most, if not all holes, will have the par number on the tee, but many participants choose to play with tournament rules.
Tournament rules are where every hole is a par is three, no matter the distance. Keeping the disc in-bounds is also a must. All courses will have the out-of-bounds area marked clearly (but if you do not see a fence next to the street, guess what? The street is out-of-bounds), and if a disc does go out, the thrower gets a penalty throw and adds one to their score. Another way to get an extra point is by landing your disc in a tree.