By Allen Risley – for Rattling Chains
As a big fan of Disc Golf Course Review, I had to read the profile of its history that ran on Rattling Chains.
The article — and its follow up –was great. Steve Hill did a fine job of highlighting the the various tools available on DGCR – tools I have made a great deal of use of over the past several years. Whether it’s searching for new courses to play, tracking the courses I’ve played, building a road trip itinerary or searching for plastic through the marketplace, DGCR is a great resource. And I’d like to feel I played a little part in making DGCR happen.
You see, I compiled the first PDGA Course Directory.
I had to chuckle a little when reading about the frustrations of DGCR founder Tim Gostovic in regard to planning disc golf road trips using the “check the entire Internet” method. Imagine how frustrated he would have been back in 1984, when there was no Internet to check! Hell, at that point there wasn’t even a complete list of courses in printed form to check, much less one with a search function.
Early disc golfers – those with 4-digit or lower PDGA numbers – typically used word of mouth, a dog-eared copy of the PDGA Pro Tour tournament calendar, or an old copy of Frisbee World or Flying Disc Illustrated magazine to find new places to play.
And paper maps — lots of paper maps.
There weren’t a whole lot of places to find. Back in the early 80’s there were only a few hundred disc golf courses in the ground. In Florida for example, where I played, many of our tournaments were played on temporary courses set up just for the weekend using objects, homemade targets or portable DGA baskets. So even the tournament listings weren’t a sure bet to use to find a new course – it may have been packed up in someone’s trunk right after the trophies were handed out.
In 1984 I set out to do something to change this, with my inspiration coming from frustrations similar to those Gostovic would have 20 years later.
I went on a big disc golf road trip, traveling from my home in Tallahassee, Florida to Toronto, Canada for the Canadian Masters Disc Golf tournament, followed the next week by the 1984 PDGA World Championship tournament in Rochester, New York. My traveling partner, Tom Monroe (PDGA No. 33) and I filled up the Honda Prelude with our golf bags, backup discs, maps, sleeping bags and a big Coleman cooler and hit the road in search of disc golf and glory. And we did find some disc golf courses to play on the 1,300-mile drive to Rochester:
- A woodsy disc golf at Cedars of Lebanon in Lebanon, TN;
- The “brand new” 9-hole course at Keriakes Park in Bowling Green, KY;
- Iroquois Park in Louisville, KY, with fire-scorched pieces of tinfoil in the baskets from someone’s BBQ;
- Eastwood Park in Dayton, OH, where we met future World Champion Steve Wisecup;
- Windy, dog-legged Blendon Woods Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio.
That was it. Five courses.
We drove through towns we knew had courses to play. We spent a night in Cincinnati, staying at the University of Cincinnati dorms and eating at Skyline Chili, where no one we talked to had ever heard of “disc golf.”
Four years later, the city would host the PDGA Worlds.
And we knew people played the sport in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, but we had no idea where. Of course, we would hear all about these courses over the next two weeks at the tournaments, but it was too late. However, the seed had been planted.
Over the next several months, I started digging in. I pored over every old Frisbee magazine and newsletter I had, taking notes about where tournaments had been held and who had run them. I talked to many disc golfers about where they had played in the past and took more notes. But the most important source of information I had was the PDGA – Ted Smethers to be more specific.
Smethers had been installed as Director of the PDGA when the organization was handed over to the players by Ed Headrick of DGA. Ted had been the organizer of the professional tour, and I had previously asked him if there was something I could do to help him out. Ted declined my offer for help on the tour, but said he had something else I could do – pull together all of the information he had on golf courses, both from his notes on where tournaments had been held as well as a collection of “data sheets” that Headrick had sent him with details on many of the courses that DGA had sold to park districts and campgrounds.
These data sheets from Headrick provided the template for organizing the data. I mimicked the way he laid out the city, state and course name, directions, number and type of baskets, and the number of holes less than 300 feet, 300 to 400 feet and more than 400 feet (this feature is maintained today in the PDGA Course Directory, both printed and online.) Armed with my own notes and a large manila envelope postmarked Little Rock, Arkansas, I commenced typing.
When I look back at the typing chore, I have to laugh. Typing, printing and self-publishing were much different in 1984 than they are today. Personal computers were just starting to take hold in the general public. Microsoft Word? A few years away. Laser printers? Ha!
The tool used for the first course directory was a Commodore 64 computer – kind of a hybrid between a PC and a video game console. It didn’t have a monitor – you hooked it up to your TV to see what you were working on. There was no hard drive, or even a floppy disk drive – documents were saved on cassette tapes connected to the C64.
I was too cheap (or poor?) to buy word processing or database software. Instead, I typed all of the course listings into a text-editor program (think Notepad on your Windows PC). Once all of the data entry was done, I printed it all out on my dot-matrix Gorilla Banana printer. If you look at the photo of one of the original directory pages you can see a few features of this low-tech setup: the descenders (tails) on the letters g, j, p, q and y don’t extend below the baseline – one of the “features” of the Gorilla Banana. And, the page numbers are written in by hand since the text editor had no page numbering feature.
I took the printed pages and pasted them on 11-by-17 sheets of paper, laid out so they could be printed out and folded in half, then stapled in the crease. Voila! A booklet is produced!
Now, this was nowhere near as useful as DGCR’s course listing or the online PDGA Course Directory or iPhone app, but it was a start. And one of the best features of today’s directories was present in the first edition — the feedback loop.
The last few pages of that first directory were tear-out, fill-in-the-blank pages, to be used to update changes or errors in the current course listings or to submit new entries. No one made greater use of these pages than future world champion Gregg Hosfeld (PDGA No. 1602), who was working the nationwide comedy club circuit at that time, in between rounds of golf.
Hosfeld became my best source for updates, sending me dozens of filled-in photocopies of those pages, full of detailed information on the remote courses that he had been haunting. It’s no surprise that he was one of the first players to play 1,000 courses – he displayed a fervor for playing new layouts from the very beginning.
I printed about 50 copies of that first directory and took them with me to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 1985 PDGA Worlds. I charged $5 a copy, which pretty much covered the cost of production and a little bit for my time. It was definitely not a lucrative project, but that wasn’t the point. For the next few years I continued updating the information and printed new editions twice, before handing the whole thing – directory and background data – over to Darrell Lynn of the PDGA when grad school and family became my priorities.
The PDGA Course Directory project has been shepherded by others over the years, most notably Steve Hartwell and Cliff Towne. I give many thanks to them and to Gostovic for maintaining and improving the quality of course information that is available for players like me. A disc golfer should never be unable to find a place to play!
Allen Risley (PDGA No. 1752) lives in San Marcos, CA, and serves on the board of the San Diego Aces Disc Golf Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.