(Note: The following is a personal account by Jenny Cook on her climb in disc golf as a female player. Enjoy!)
It all started with a snowman.
Not the kind made from snow, but the kind that can creep up on a scorecard as an 8.
Hole No. 2 punished me with a 7.
Hole No. 3 — another snowman.
From hole No. 4 on, I probably didn’t see a score on a hole better than a 6. It was frustrating how every shot I threw only went 150 feet and raced straight to the ground. Hard.
After that hot summer day of playing disc golf in Rockford, Illinois, I only played a handful of other times, most often in the streets of my college town for a round of object golf. Other than that, I wasn’t sold.
One year passed.
The summer of 2005 brought many changes to my life including a new commute to and from my new job. Along that route I discovered a much less intimidating disc golf course — a little “9 hole-r.” I stopped to admire the oak trees with metal baskets peppered throughout the property. It was beautiful, convenient, and reminded me of why people called me the outdoorsy type.
“I should be out there,” I thought. “No, I belong out there.”
Soon after my mini revelation, I decided to buy a few discs from the local mart, swallow my pride, and hit the course.
Even if it was going to hurt, I was going to give this disc golf thing another try.
I picked it up again on that same 9-hole course. Hole No. 1, started with a 4. Not bad, I thought. But as I looked around at all of the other people playing, I concluded that my 4 was a disgrace on this 235-foot hole.
I’m not going to lie, I was intimidated at first. Not just because I was terrible, but because I didn’t see another female disc golfer. I weighed my options — miss out on something that could change my life, or sit in the corner worrying about what all these guys thought of the “only girl out there playing.”
It was obvious. I would press on.
After a month of playing every weekday after work until dark, I decided it was time to befriend a few of the locals. I wanted to be educated about disc golf. I quickly accepted a few tips on how to improve my game along with my first
putter — a Pro Line Rhyno.
I figured that if I kept swallowing my pride and played with people who were better than me, that I, too, would rightfully start earning more deuces and grow as a disc golfer. The weekends now belonged to disc golf, too. It was me, my Disc Golf Course Directory, and my map.
By no means did I become a better player overnight, and my first tournament proves this point with these two letters — DL (dead last). Because no other women were present that day, I decided to compete in the men’s recreational
division. That’s not the only thing I finished last in — I was DL for the entire tournament.
Well, I thought, I can’t do any worse from here on out. It will only serve as inspiration to keep on competing.
My competitive edge crept up on me during the summer of 2006.
I appreciate a casual round of disc golf as much as a round that is played for a rating or money. But at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was compete. I joined the PDGA.
After I played my first tournament that year, I started a journal and wrote about every tournament I played in. This journal has, since then, served as a tool to help me to learn from the mistakes I made during the round, and also take note of what I did right.
Being one of the few females playing courses over the past few years, I have observed the number of male disc golfers compared to females is significantly higher. Proof of this can be seen during a casual round and on a tournament
registration list. This jump in numbers is often a topic of discussion on public forums, social media and even talked about among friends.
I often hear the disgruntled male disc golfer chatting about how he can’t seem to get his girlfriend or wife engaged in the sport. My advice to those men is, “Don’t worry, there’s still hope.” Listen to her reasoning for not wanting to join you and your friends to play a round. It could be that she simply doesn’t enjoy playing.
Disc golf isn’t for everybody, believe it or not! But if she says it’s because she’s not good at it, then you have some options. Introduce her to less stable and/or lighter discs, stick to only mid-range discs, and use one-step drives off the tee pad.
You can invite other women to play with the group or browse the web for suggestions from women’s disc golf forums (such as Facebook and
The disc golf community can often times feel small, but it is making an impression in all corners of the world.
When I moved to Hamburg, Germany in 2007, the local disc golfers made me feel right at home. Showing me their local temporary course, they insisted that I never had to be the one to push the portable basket when setting up each
individual hole before we played it.
They were also the ones to take me to my one and only sanctioned tournament in Germany, where I placed first in Open Women and also tied for first in the doubles tournament the day before. To my amazement, my partner and I exchanged very few words during the entire round — non-verbal communication at its best.
Moving back to the U.S. I was grateful to again be surrounded by courses which gave me the luxury of driving 20 minutes to the nearest course, and I didn’t have to go by train, foot or trolley.
There are hundreds of reasons to get involved with disc golf. Each of us has a story. But what I find most interesting is how this sport has affected us differently. Disc golf has the capability to engulf our lives in ways that might cause us to hang 200-plus discs on our wall, carry 25 in our bag, and keep an extra 40 in the trunk of the car.
For others, it’s a homemade bag with five discs and a hobby to take up with friends on the weekends. Any of these reasons, or somewhere in between, make us all have the same thing in common.
My goal is that disc golf will always be part of my weekly routine, whether it’s playing a round, taking pictures on the course, writing about it, or teaching new disc golfers.
I can only hope the next generation will consider easy access fairways for the old ladies like I will one day be, so that we may be able to, at the very least, walk the course and remember the “good ol’ times.”
Jenny Cook (PDGA 28692) is a women’s Open-division player based in Illinois. You can see some of her disc golf photography at her website.