Disc Golf: More than just a walk in the park

By JAMIE MASSENGALE,

You may not realize it, but disc golf, or frisbee golf to the layperson, has been around for decades.

The sport (yes, I said sport) has been constantly evolving and growing. Long gone are the days of throwing big rimmed discs at objects across the quads of your college campus.

Now are the days of super-fast distance driver discs that one can chunk a country mile.

Don’t believe me?

This past weekend, the Professional Disc Golf Association hosted the annual Disc Golf World Championships in Peoria, Illinois.

California native Paul McBeth, a true beast in the sport, took home his fifth World Championship on the fifth day of the competition.

As the sport has become more mainstream, many production outfits have started covering the sport and posting videos on YouTube. Disc golf has been featured on ESPN highlight reels and the production value has really excelled in the last few years with companies like JomezPro, Central Coast Disc Golf, and others producing video recaps of professional tournaments. See for yourself by searching either of those companies on YouTube.

With the PDGA Worlds event, the PDGA teamed up with SmashBoxxTV to bring live coverage of the tournament to disc golfers worldwide so they can watch the sport they love.

An app company, UDisc, even provided live updates of every score of the tournament with their UDiscLive app. Let's just say that times have changed and along with technology, a sport like disc golf is making strides. It is definitely something that should be featured on ESPN 8, The Ocho.

I learned of disc golf at a young age when I first attended Camp Bratton-Green as a camper.

In the early days, we would throw discs at trees that had ribbon on them instead of the metal baskets made with chains that are used as holes today.

In the early 1990’s, Innova was the main company that made discs and with their help, I started with a small collection of discs.

I had putters, midranges, and drivers, all of which have different stabilities and beveled edges. (Drivers have sharper edges and can go much further, while midranges and putters have more blunt edges and are more accurate).

Growing up in Meridian, our closest course was a little 9-hole course at Clarkco State Park near Quitman, a good 45 minutes away. It wasn’t much, but some friends and I would break free and go throw every now and then.

It wasn’t until I moved to Hattiesburg that my love for disc golf fully developed.

Paul B. Johnson State Park is home to the Desert Fox Disc Golf Course, the place where I really honed my skills. It started off as just casual rounds with friends, but eventually I had to try my hand at competition.

The first tournament I ever competed in was the 2004 Hattiesburg Ice Bowl and as a newbie, I was not familiar with tournament play, so it took me a while to finally get acclimated to playing in events and learn how to be patient.

Disc golf tournaments are not known to be fast-moving events.

That first tournament was in late January and had 180 competitors playing in different divisions. The tournament directors even set up a temporary course to maximize the field. 

I played a few more local tournaments in 2004 and 2005 and began getting acquainted with the local disc golfers. \

After Hurricane Katrina, the course at Paul B. was devastated. By then, I had started making new friends in the sport and we began travelling to places like Mobile, Baton Rouge, Jackson, and Memphis to play in events.

With every event I played, I got a little better and I eventually picked up my first win in 2007. My friend, “Disc Daddy Dale” McVeay, and I had a really fun experience when we rode up to Tishimingo State Park that Summer and each won our respected divisions in a large regional tournament. We each won a brand new portable basket and had to figure out how to haul them home.

One of the greatest things about a sport like disc golf is the people you meet and the friends you make. I have made so many great friends over the years that I still keep in contact with.

I continued to play disc golf tournaments up until around 2014 when I started getting back into tennis. I still keep in touch with a lot of my disc golf buddies and will play a casual round from time to time.

So, this past week, with me being able to watch the PDGA World Championships from the convenience of my couch or The Shop Downtown, it has really gotten me wanting to get back in and play an event.

The Hattiesburg Disc Golf Association has been doing great things with getting new courses installed in the area. Michael Munn, who serves as president of the Hattiesburg Disc Golf Association, has really stepped up big time and is a great ambassador of the sport of disc golf, along with many others.

If you have ever seen Field of Dreams, you are familiar with the quote, “if you build it, they will come.” That’s what they say about disc golf courses. If you install a disc golf course, disc golfers are surely going to come check it out.

I encourage any of you reading this to go out and check out your local disc golf course. There are courses at Tatum Park, Paul B. Johnson State Park, Ashe Lake Recreation Park in Brooklyn, and Little Black Creek Campground Park.

Get some discs from Play It Again Sports and go give it a try. Watch some videos on YouTube.

I promise it is not as easy as Paul McBeth makes it look.

Jamie Massengale is a local disc golfer (sometimes). He is planning to play in the Big Rip Classic at Little Black Creek in October.

PREP SPORTS: