By Jenny Cook — Rattling Chains Staff
There are many inspirations for this article. Perhaps my recent trip out west is most fresh in my mind. After spending time with locals and the tournament directors for the Beaver State Fling, I quickly discovered the eminent presence of community between everyone.
They were open-minded and embraced the evolution of the sport we all love to play. And the tournament layout for the tournament proved it. If I could build a house next to any disc golf course in the world — and taking into consideration I’ve only played a handful of courses outside the United States and fewer than 200 in the U.S. — I’d build it within biking distance of Milo McIver State Park in Estacada, Oregon.
The scenery was amazing and the people were great, which created an unforgettable atmosphere.
I have seen something like this in my home state. In fact, I am reminded of it every year as a local club spends months preparing for its annual Ice Bowl in January. I love that bringing two canned goods to the tournament is mandatory. The money raised is given to a local shelter for women and children. There’s also always a hot lunch prepared for players and a nice warm fire where players can get close and thaw out.
Every year, we crawl out of our warm beds in the early morning to reunite with friends who we don’t see as often on the course in the winter as we do in warmer weather. It’s a sanctioned tournament and we’re all there to have good rounds, but if you don’t, you still drive home with a smile knowing that playing in this annual tournament benefited the less fortunate.
The added bonus is spending the day catching up with friends and playing some disc golf — even if it’s really could outside.
Disc golf serves as an outlet to get away from it all in a carefree way. I had the opportunity this past summer to help with a disc golf clinic for a local homeless shelter. The afternoon I spent with the children and adults was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
For a short time, they left worries behind and enjoyed learning and playing disc golf. They seemed to be, in those few hours, carefree, happy and eager to learn. I can’t imagine or know the struggles they’ve endured during their lives. What I do know is sharing the love of the game with others was mutually beneficial — to them and to me. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my Saturday afternoon.
There are hundreds of way to give through disc golf.
I’ve seen it through individual and group efforts. Illinois is so inundated with disc golf clubs that I’ve lost count. Among them are those willing to help out a cause at the drop of a hat, especially when we lose a member of our community. Tournaments are held in honor of these people, plaques are installed and memorials are created.
We are a community within a community and are enthusiastic about spreading our knowledge of the sport. Disc golfers reach out to non-disc golfers, as well as those who are beginners. Golfers offer everything from clinics to hosting openings for a new course.
When we work together, we go further.
For the short time I lived in Germany, I had the opportunity to meet and play with the locals in Hamburg. Connecting with disc golfers was one of the things on my list to do when I got there. That list also included landing a job.
I couldn’t have asked for more kinder and welcoming group, allowing me to play with them on one of the temporary courses in Hamburg’s well-known Stadtpark. Frank and Christoph had a basket on wheels, which we had to set up for every hole we threw. For an unsanctioned tournament held there on a cold spring day, it required the efforts of many people to set up an entire 18-hole course.
Not every target was a basket, however. There were five-foot-tall skinny plastic poles and tape marked on trees, for example. Once the first round was completed, it took manpower, again, to break down the baskets before congregating for lunch.
That’s right — a group of about 15 of us traveled to a restaurant for a warm meal in between rounds. At the time, the sense of community between everyone — on and off the course — was something I had never experienced.
Fast forward a couple of months to a tournament in Dassel, Germany. Once again, I received a warm welcome from players and staff. Starting out the weekend, I only knew a few people and could only carry a conversation in German so far. Luckily, most people I met were more than happy to speak English as they wanted the practice.
It was a cultural experience as I learned about what it’s like to play in another country and I was also able to share my experiences about playing in the U.S.
From Germany to England to the United States, disc golf thrives because of our nature to work together. We help build courses, keep them clean, prepare for tournaments, design courses or organize local clubs.
When you meet somebody on the course who is either new to the sport or to the area, reach out to him or her, especially if you see them throwing an unnecessarily out-of-control overstable disc. I always keep a couple of spare discs with me to give away, if the opportunity presents itself. Share your knowledge of courses in the area, leagues and retail stores, if you are lucky enough to have them.
These small acts of kindness go a long way.
I am grateful for the sport of disc golf and for the people I have met through it. Sure, I’ve traveled and played countless courses by myself, but because of amazing individuals, I am constantly inspired to give back.
Jenny Cook is a women’s Open-division player based in Illinois. She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see some of her disc golf photography at her website.