Peace Corps volunteer works to grow disc golf in Kyrgyz Republic

By Luther Flagstad — For Rattling Chains

Picking my way across the field of cow pies and broken vodka bottles, I waved and said, “Salymatsyngarby” to a few students on their way to class. I stepped up to the first “tee” and tested the wind.

I would have to be careful today – an old man was tending his sheep in the fairway.

I am an American disc golfer and Peace Corps volunteer living in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a country I had never heard of before this experience. Kyrgyzstan is a small, former Soviet Union country in Central Asia. It boarders China and some other countries of which you might not know.

When I got the assignment in the mail five months ago, my first thought was to ask if there were any disc golf courses.

Surprise.

A local looking sharp in his shiny suit prepares to throw.

There weren’t. But since I couldn’t imagine a world without disc golf, I packed a few discs and t-shirts anyway.

After a month of getting settled into my permanent site in Karakol City, I headed out to the park across the street from my work. It was mid-day and students were walking through the park on their way to lunch. I snapped a few across the field and one of my discs landed on a sidewalk. A young student wearing a shiny black suit picked it up and tossed it back.

“Nice throw!” I said in Kyrgyz, the local language.I explained that it was disc golf and they should try and throw it from where they were to the object — a telephone pole. I spit out the rues in broken Kyrgz. A few other kids joined and we threw discs around for a little while.

“Keremet! Awesome throw!”

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Wysocki to team up with Rattling Chains

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Disc golf has gone through quite an evolution.

Even to those of us who are newer to the sport, there’s a history to be celebrated. From the early days of Frisbee to discovering disc golf and “Steady” Ed Headrick, the history is much longer than one might think. There are tournaments and historic courses. Players such as “The Champ” Ken Climo are known for all they’ve done in the sport.

Saying the name Dave Dunipace to many will quickly help turn a disc golf conversation to Innova.

Then there’s the more current names in the game — players such as Dave Feldberg, Nate Doss, Eric McCabe and Avery Jenkins — all recent world champions.

Then there are the young guns.

These are the players who might make people take notice as the next group of fun and exciting professional disc golfers coming through the system.

When discussing that next bunch of players, the conversation often begins with Ricky Wysocki, a 19-year-old out of North Carolina who is a member of Innova’s Star team.

And for somebody who isn’t even old enough to legally purchase alcohol, Wysocki is already making a name for himself in the disc golf world. In fact, he’s won more than $20,000 playing the game this year as a full-time touring pro.

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Poll 27: Your personal course directory

Psst… some good news (at least for me) — I finally got out to play a round of disc golf this weekend.

To be fair, it was but a nine-hole course. But it was disc golf nonetheless. And, it was on a course I had never played, which brings my total to 19 courses played. That’s quite a small amount from other people, I know. But it’s slowly growing!

It got me thinking to many of these courses I’ve played and the things I liked and disliked about them. But in the end, it was always an experiences and a course added.

From object courses to well-maintained ones, I’ve had the chance to play on some fun and cool course. And I look forward to the many more I’ll add in the coming years.

Before we get to this week’s poll question, however, let’s check back to last week’s and see the results and what some people thought.

Turns out people can spend some money playing this sport.

While it’s true that the sport, overall, is cheap (one needs but a disc and a place to play), it can become quite expensive when you factor in more equipment, travel and fees associated with tournaments and leagues.

But, in the end, it appears that many of our readers can keep it on the cheaper end. Of the 202 people who placed a vote, 47 percent (94 votes) said they spend between $100-$499 per year.

The prices went up after that. In second was $500-$999 (19 percent/39 votes), followed by $1,000-$2,000 (15 percent/30 votes). Ten percent (20 votes) of the people chose less than $100, and nine percent (19 votes) said more than $2,000.

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How do you rate a disc golf course?

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

It is true of most things to which the words “subjective” and “opinion” may be applied. And so it is with disc golf courses, as well. When I read user-submitted course reviews on dgcoursereview.com, it’s clear that different people value different features in a disc golf course.

Disc golf courses can be quite unassuming.

Some of the most popular — and most famous — are almost invisible to the uninformed eye when not populated with clusters of people flinging bright colored flying discs. That is because one of the elements of disc golf of which its practitioners and proponents are most proud is its ability to conform to nearly any hikeable environment — with minimal or no alteration. In fact, for a large part of the disc golfing population, the more rugged, the better.

And then there are those — no less ardent in their love of the sport — who highly value open, flat fairways where their discs can soar unimpeded by the “thwack!” of a tree and have no chance of plummeting into a deep, dark brambly chasm.

It’s all a personal preference.

Some players like a remote course that is so removed from the hustle and bustle of civilization (and, they might say, the watchful eyes of Big Brother) that having to hike half a mile on foot just to reach it is a bonus. For others, that would be a deal-killer. They want convenience, safety, and even supervision, and couldn’t care less if the park is shared with other users and bordered by streets with cars constantly zipping by.

For some folks it’s all about the equipment.

If a course doesn’t have some type of permanent teepads and baskets (as opposed to posts or other objects), they have zero interest in playing it. On the other end of the spectrum, I know people who still regularly play courses like Old Sawmill in Pebble Beach, Calif., or Little Africa in Carmichael, Calif., even though neither has regular targets or teepads. They do so because the courses are set in amazing places, convenient to them, and/or consist of great hole designs. But they obviously don’t mind the lack of official equipment.

So what makes a course great in your eyes?

Personally, I break it down into two broad categories: courses that I can play on a regular or semi-regular basis (home courses), and courses I may only get to play once or twice (road courses).

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Six months with Rattling Chains — what’s next?

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

So the answer has to be given … did we rattle the chains?

As readers will remember, we came out of the gate quickly when we started six months ago. We were super pumped and the possibilities were endless. The ideas that were being thrown around were plenty.

When we initially started this blog, we said we’d revisit it in six months. At that point, we’d decide if we wanted to continue or shut it down. As someone who has been a writer for most of my professional life, I didn’t want to let the blog go to hell. If we weren’t doing well, we’d shut up shop and move along.

But it wouldn’t come without a fight, that’s for sure.

Over the course of the first half year, we’ve had some ups and downs. We started quick, we slowed up, things looked bleak and we’ve kind of bounced back.

We also got lucky to get some quality contributors right off the bat in Jack Trageser and Steve Hill. Since then, we’ve added Andre Fredrick and Jenny Cook. We also have a few people who have submitted things to us here and there, giving us some great things.

What I’ve really liked about this blog is all those different voices. From men to women, we’ve tried to give what we can.

This three-day schedule on a weekly basis hasn’t been the best for visits, however. And that’s understandable. After all, if there are fewer stories, people won’t come back every day.

That meant is was decision time. We’re at that six-month point. So what to do?

Do we continue?

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Poll 26: Is disc golf really a cheap sport? Spending habits on notice!

Is disc golf really a cheap sport?

We know that most courses are free. And once you have a couple of discs you should be good to go, right?

I mean, how much more could this game take in regard to spending money?

That’s what we’re here to find out. I’ve talked to so many people recently about the money spent on this game. Equipment. Tournament fees. Travel expenses. Leagues.

It all adds up if you are highly into the game.

We’ll get back to all that in a moment, though. First, I’d like to re-visit last week’s poll to see what people thought about a little football.

Turns out not many people change their disc golf routine because of football season.

Of the 87 people who cast votes this week, 63 percent (55 votes) said no. The other 37 percent (32 votes) said yes.

Personally, I don’t plan anything around football. If I’m home, I’ll flip it on. But if there’s something else I wanted or planned to do, including disc golf, I’ll catch the score/highlights and everything else later on.

Let’s see what some readers had to say.

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Playing at night can be a fun way to change your game up

Glow discs, like these, are one way to play night golf. Having LED lights on the disc is another.

By Andre Fredrick — Rattling Chains staff

One of my fondest disc golf memories has to be visiting Minnesota and playing my first round of night golf.

It was a defining moment that changed my feelings about the sport. If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you have, you still might find this guide helpful on your next nocturnal outing.

Night golfing can be a frustrating experience for those who are under-prepared.

Preparing for a throw during a night-golf outing. (photo by Michael Owskey).

I realized this after losing a friend’s glow disc and spending 45 fruitless minutes searching for it before calling it a night. I never found the disc. A sour experience can easily turn even the most enthusiastic of us off of night golf.

When done right, playing at night can be one of your most memorable disc golf experiences, so let’s get you prepared.

First, you need a course that allows for night play.

For example, my local course closes at dusk and enforcement is pretty heavy. As much as I have been tempted to sneak out and try to play a round after hours, trespassing is never a good idea. So don’t do it. Check with city or state offices to see if public courses are open after dark to make sure you’re allowed to be out there. If your local course is privately owned, check with management to see if it’s something they support.

Now that you’ve avoided a trespassing charge, remember safety. This list is by no means definitive, but the following items are good to have.

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Book Excerpt 2: Now is the time for disc golf to shine

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

The previous excerpt of my upcoming book hopefully accurately captured the essence of golf, what makes it such a singular sporting activity, and why both versions of golf share the remarkable qualities.

Next up is a point-by-point discussion of where the two sports are starkly different, and why those differences position disc golf as the golf of the future. Today the discussion focuses on the economics of golf and disc golf.

The Economics of Golf

For all but maybe five percent of the world’s population, cost alone is a nearly insurmountable barrier. Even leaving out of the discussion those hundreds of millions in developing and/or impoverished countries for whom any leisure activity will never be a consideration during their lifetimes, golf simply costs too much.

In a 2008 report written for Yahoo! Sports titled “The cost of public golf,” Sam Weinman wrote “The average cost of greens fees for a course built before 1970, according to the National Golf Foundation, is $42.70. The average, however, for one that was constructed between 1970 and 1990 is $48.33, and $60.55 for those after 1990.”

In the same article, former USGA president Sandy Tatum is quoted as saying “The question is do you have affordable access to golf, and on too many fronts, the answer is no.”

Even in the most prosperous countries, $50 for an afternoon of recreation is too expensive for an average member of the population. In countries like Thailand, where total average annual income in U.S. dollars is less than $5,000, it’s not even an option for anyone but the richest of the rich.

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Poll 25: What’s football season do to your game?

Hut, hut, hike!

It’s that time of year. Football, football, football! College football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sunday.

Parties, cookouts (while it’s warm enough), tailgating and whatever else you might do with football season.

But does it take a toll on your game?

We’ll get back to that shortly. First, let’s check out last week’s poll.

Basically, I was trying to find out how much some people have spent on discs, whether it be collecting or whatever. However, we had some crazy choices and I think I probably merged the possibility of three polls into one.

So the odds are we’ll probably revisit these polls down the line and split them up.

Of the 425 people who cast a vote (or two) in this poll, 51 percent (216 votes) overwhelmingly said they only buy discs they play with. That says something to me right there — plastic was made for throwin’.

In regard to how much people have already paid for a disc, 23 percent (96 votes) said they had paid more than $25 for a disc. That was followed by more than $50 for a disc (10 percent/43 votes); more than $100 (4 percent/18 votes) and more than $250 for a disc (2 percent/8 votes).

On the other side, 28 voters noted they’d pay more than $25 for a disc. Following that was willing to pay more than $50 and $100, which were tied with seven votes each.

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Product Review: Disc Beeper

By Jack Trageser and P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

It seems that as disc golf equipment technology evolves, much of the advances are slight, such as a disc that flies slightly faster or farther, or a basket that has chains that hang at different angles.

Even in the world of accessories, nearly all products hitting the market are manufactured versions of do-it-yourself gadgets, such as telescoping poles to retrieve discs.

The Disc Beeper is something entirely new and it solves a problem every disc golf encounters at some point — a lost disc. Despite the fact that numerous people have probably mused a concept such as this, nobody has every built it.

The Disc Beeper is a small electronic device with the diameter of about a quarter. It’s light (about six grams) and attaches to the bottom of a disc. When activated, it beeps at three-second intervals after a 45-second delay.

The current model is a permanent attachment to the disc, so it would not be allowed in PDGA-sanctioned events.

The following is a joint review by Rattling Chains writers Jack Trageser and P.J. Harmer.

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