Book Excerpt: Why golf is great, and why in the 21st century disc golf is better

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

It is my firm belief that the sport of disc golf — which already has enjoyed strong, steady growth for more than two decades — will experience an explosion in popularity when two things happen:

  1. The general public is properly educated about the true nature and accessibility of disc golf, and all the nuances that make it so much more like traditional golf than most people assume to be the case (the variety of discs and throws, the effects of wind and terrain, etc.).
  2. Disc golf reaches a ‘tipping point’ in terms of popular opinion, triggered by either a critical mass of popular culture/media recognition or a handful of random watershed moments. For instance, if a super-famous person suddenly lists disc golf as their favorite activity, or a TV show, website, or publication with millions of fans features it prominently.

Now, it is altogether possible that a famous person will stumble across disc golf at any time, fall in love with the sport, and by sharing his or her passion for the sport do more to promote it in one day than all other players combined have done up to that point. But unless there is some exhaustive source of correct, detailed, and compelling information available that explains the many different reasons why people that have played it love it so much, chances of that watershed moment resulting in anything but a temporary fad are minimal.

Those seeking the truth about the sport will find nothing substantial — or worse, the misinformation and oversimplifications that currently exist. My goal is to fill that void and have answers to the inevitable questions ready and waiting in a book, for the day the dam breaks.

I’m writing a book that aims to make the two events numbered above much likelier to occur, as well as making the inevitable explosion of disc golf a mere launching point for something with staying power. The book will include chapters that discuss the history, finer points, unique grassroots growth, and formats of the sport, among others. But the unifying theme is a very specific sales pitch for disc golf, and it’s established in the first chapter and repeated throughout:

  • Golf is a great game — perhaps the best game ever  invented — and here is why;
  • But golf has a number of barriers that prevent most people from ever getting to experience its greatness;
  • Disc golf, by retaining the essence of traditional golf while eliminating ALL the barriers, enables everyone to experience the greatness of golf;
  • In many ways, disc golf even improves on many of golf’s strongest points.

Beginning here, I’m going to post excerpts of the current draft of the first chapter, in hopes of soliciting your feedback. Let me know what you think. Challenge my ideas and facts. Suggest points I may have missed. If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good we share a common goal: Letting the rest of the world in on a secret we’re all too happy to share.

EXCERPT ONE

Arnold Palmer said “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated, it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind have ever invented.”

Palmer — one of the most famous players and promoters in the history of the game — was right, to a point. Golf is a great game — and would be the greatest game ever invented ‘without a doubt,’ as he said . . . except for the issue of accessibility.

It can be played with others or in solitude. Played for the sake of competition, or camaraderie, or both. When playing golf in a tournament or even a friendly match, intelligent players realize they are actually competing against the course, the elements, and their own psyche. Another great quote comes from golf legend Bobby Jones, an early 20th century player who possessed incredible skills but didn’t realize his full potential until finding a way to master his emotions. He famously said that “competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” Anyone who has played competitive golf knows that to be — figuratively, at least — all too true.

Golf has a rulebook thicker than a Porterhouse steak, yet requires no referee, umpire or judge. Players are expected to officiate their own game. Unlike baseball, about which many players have said “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’,” golf is linked to a sense of personal honesty and integrity. In the business world it’s often said “If you want to get to know what someone is really like, take ’em golfing.” The implication being, of course, that if a person observes the rules and maintains his composure while playing as difficult and often maddening a sport as golf, he’ll do likewise elsewhere.

In the literal sense, golf is played on an expansive course that traverses miles of terrain — another factor that makes it a special and unique sport. Consider the fact that, alone among the major popular spectator sports, a golf competition can’t be viewed in it’s entirety by sitting or standing in one place. This is important because, also unlike other major sports, it’s growth and eventual place among the world’s most recognized sports is due more to its popularity as a sport to be played rather than a sport to be watched. Golf became a spectator sport because of the number of people who played the game, whereas with most other sports it is the other way around.

But golf has some serious drawbacks and limitations.

Traditional golf is in a steady, slow decline, as even it’s most ardent supporters acknowledge. In a story that ran in the Palm Beach Post on May 15, 2012, Jack Nicklaus, a contemporary of Palmer’s and winner of the most major championships in history, put it bluntly: “What are the three main things we’re dealing with? The game takes too long, the game is too hard, and it’s too expensive.” In an effort to stem the tide, Nicklaus has advocated and even experimented with events that have fewer holes, strict time limits, and even holes twice as large as normal.

An examination of the facts make it obvious why so many are concerned for the future of the game, but perhaps the solution is a version of golf that retains all that is great about the game while addressing it’s shortcomings in a drastic way.

That’s just a little taste. The next posted excerpt will appear soon, and it’ll begin to discuss the drawbacks/barriers of traditional golf and counter them with corresponding strengths of disc golf.

If you’re interested in helping to promote the book when it comes out, email me directly at jack@schoolofdiscgolf.com. To those around the world that have already contacted me, thanks! I’m trying to come up with some novel ideas for getting it noticed by the non-disc golfing public, and any suggestions are very welcome.

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0 thoughts on “Book Excerpt: Why golf is great, and why in the 21st century disc golf is better

  1. have been involved with disc golf for awile now and have seen a lot of changes! it is great to see a lot of corses going up. we have a great corse set up here at cal state san marcos in california! the game gas gone 10 fold here and is still growing. it will be soon on the list of all time favorites.

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  2. I am excited about your book, and will buy a copy when you publish. I shop fairly frequently for discs, etc., and I always look for books. In this electronic age, the medium of paper books is being utilized less and less, especially for our passion of disc golf.

    If successful, would you consider writing another book, perhaps without the large concentration of comparisons to ball golf? I have never played ball golf, nor do I have an interest in doing so. None of my disc golfing friends play ball golf. When I talk about disc golf to those who have not played, many are not interested because they are not interested in ball golf, or because they have a bad taste or misconception about ball golf.

    I think what you are doing is great, but it might alienate part of the population who are not interested in ball golf.

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    • @BlueAndy- Thanks for the support. You’ll find that most chapters of the book don’t remain focused on the ball golf comparison angle. That’s just my planned ‘hook’ to get non disc golfers interested in reading it. And really, using that particular hook is designed specifically to get people to understand that all those reasons why they don’t like ball golf don’t exist in disc golf. Our sport retains all of the good and pretty much none of the bad. Great feedback , though. Much appreciated!

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  3. Wow, sounds great.
    Maybe some free stuff to celebrities or personal trainers for celebrities or sport trainers for major sporting clubs . As this could be a good cross training for major athletes. A pro / celebrity charity match . All for charity. Should get good media coverage . we need to keep the kids promotions going. But we Need a gimick to get the public talking. Keep up the good work.

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  4. Im primarily a disc golfer but I have done a decent amount of ball golfing, and my dad does a lot of ball golfing. I would agree that disc golf has many improvements over ball golf, especially for the everyperson. There are two things that ball golf still does better however. Losing a ball is not as bad as losing a disc (we live with this) and putting is much more dynamic in ball golf. Reading the green on putts and even chip shots is a great and challenging aspect to ball golf where in disc golf any clear shot at the basket requires almost the same exact throw. I don’t believe every basket should have a clear 30′ ring around it to be its green. There should be a clear landing zone by every basket but I think hazards such as slope and trees/bushes should also be cleverly incorporated into basket locations. Some courses do a great job with this while others do not.

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    • @Tommy@- Great points, I agree with both of them. When you lose a disc, it’s like losing your trusty three-wood or sandy wedge in ball golf. And the nuances of ball golf putting and dramatic difference between the light touch required in putting and big whack of a drive tops disc golf for sure. I actually mention those points in my book in an attempt to be somewhat objective. I also agree about the green, except when there is a ton of foliage right next to a basket. It’s a bummer when you can throw a great shot from 350 feet to get 15 feet away and still be completely blocked. Here is Santa Cruz most courses strike that balance pretty well.

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  5. I really enjoyed the excerpt and look forward to reading the book. I can tell you that the sport’s popularity is reaching critical mass out here in the Pacific NW. I see a new face on my local course everyday, without fail. Maybe you can come out and do a signing at Powell’s Books in Portland once it’s published. 🙂

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  6. Must read this book!

    Here are point I wish to add:
    • I’ve heard it said that disc golf now is about where ball golf was in 1900. I wonder if that’s just about true.
    • I think disc golf will be popular as more people play it, just like what happened with golf. I think a lot of people of various ages and backgrounds want to play it, because it seems easy, but then they find learning to throw these disc golf discs turns out to be sort of difficult. Only the ones who stick with it end up being disc golfers. But with the generations there will be more widespread knowledge of how to do it, just like ball golf has widespread knowledge among the general populace, even when getting on a course is less accessible. I wonder what it was like when golf was growing and (mostly) men were attempting to hit the ball with a club looking like hacks heaving a low-swinging baseball bat.

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