Disc golf is a fringe sport. I make no bones about that, and I understand it isn’t for everyone.
That being said, I am always looking to get more people to try out the game. I figure that, since it is relatively inexpensive and I have had such a good time playing, others might get hooked as easily.
So when I was able to swindle seven of my friends — most of whom had never played — into driving an hour and 20 minutes from home to play a course, I thought I had hit the jackpot.
Thinking back on it, I suppose the beer probably helped, too.
You see, the 80-minute trek wasn’t just for any old course. It landed us at Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, Calif. Home to its own valley language and delicious craft brews like Hop Ottin’ IPA and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, the facility also boasts an 18-hole disc golf course.
In short, this place is my own personal Mecca. The fact that I suckered my buddies into coming, though, was a total bonus.
It all started with some innocent emails. My friend Shane Andersen was coming back into the states for some R&R after working in the Middle East for a few months, and he was hoping everyone might be able to get together in our hometown in Northern California.
Since I had been wanting an excuse to head to Anderson Valley, I casually threw out the idea of heading up for the day, playing a round of golf, and imbibing a bit — emphasis on imbibing. Expecting to be roundly rejected, I didn’t get my hopes up too high, knowing that I could always go shoot a round at the local course with my dad and still do plenty of drinking of craft beers without the big trip.
To my surprise, though, everyone was on board.
Like I said, the beer helped.
Since I was going to drag everyone to the course, I took it upon myself to provide the discs for the day. I had a stack of old base plastic putters sitting around that I had no problem letting go of, and I used my discounts at Disc Golf Center to load up on a stack of pink Pro-D Buzzzes (appropriate enough, given the disc golf setting for the day). Why pink? Definitely because it is easiest to see, and certainly not because I wanted to make them feel like girls. Totally.
When a last-minute change of plans threatened to derail the journey, though, I grew a bit worried.
The day before our disc golf adventure, Shane informed us that his parents planned a large gathering of his extended family for the same day as the brewery trip. I figured that this meant doom for the day, since the guest of honor, more or less, would not be attending. Since Shane was the reason we were all getting together this weekend anyway, I figured everyone else might be ready to throw in the towel.
But, it turns out I underestimated my friends’ schedules, as well as the lengths they would travel to drink quality beverages.
So, we made the winding drive through gorgeous countryside – one man down, but undeterred – and arrived at our destination around 10:30 a.m.
Once you drive onto the property, you are greeted by a sprawling pasture dotted with mature oaks. The production facility is housed in the largest building, with the welcome center and taproom just across the parking lot. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s worth the trip.
We all went into the taproom, where my friend Dave Pfeiff took time to hug it out with the giant bear statue from AVBC’s logo. While he got cozy over in the corner, the rest of us paid our $5 fee to play the course and perused the vast beverage selection in the refrigerators. Since the fee can be used toward beer purchases, we walked away with quite the haul to take on the course with us – at least four or five six-packs, if I recall correctly – on the cheap. Not a bad deal at all.
Arriving at the first tee, I noticed a pond a short way out on the way to the basket. As I walked toward it to check it for depth and see if we all needed to shoot around or over it, I felt a Buzzz buzz past my right ear. Pfeiff had let one fly, nearly taking me out.
I had a feeling it was going to be a long day.
But, after everyone got those first couple practice throws out of the way and no one got killed, we cracked open a few beers and got on with playing. I was curious to see how my buddies would fare – all of them have played golf, so they understood the basics, and some of them had Ultimate experience, so discs weren’t foreign.
The course itself offered enough challenges to make it fun for me and my dad, the more experienced players of the bunch, while also being open enough to not be demoralizing for the new players. Rubber tee pads marked with old work boots were a nice touch, and the low-hanging oaks provided both scenery and treachery for discs. There were trash cans at each tee, so there was no hassle with having to bag your empties for too long, and overall everything was green and serene. It was a great place to break in some beginners.
And they didn’t do too bad. Pfeiff – the one who snuggled the bear – sported a pretty mean forehand from his Ultimate days. The other Dave of our group, Dave Lane, proved to be a scratch putter, banging a couple 30-plus footers with ease, then acting like it was no big deal.
Gary Hoch and Tom Denson both hit their fair share of trees, but no more than my dad and I did (and we even hit the water, too). Brian Chisholm – or Cheese, as we refer to him – took “play it as it lies” quite seriously and had no problems crouching under a semi-truck to flick his approach on Hole 18. Brent Aboudara– God love him – had a good time, but was the recipient of the proverbial male hijinks of the day, taking a putter at close range right to the groin late in the round. It wasn’t an accident.
We drank plenty of beer, made a lot of poor throws, and didn’t keep score. And it was one of the best days of disc golf I have played.
I’m not sure if those guys will go out and play much again, but I will certainly try and get them to. After all, they’ve got a couple of discs, and everyone had a good experience for the first time out. That’s usually enough to keep them coming back.
That, and some good brew, of course. I’ll be sure to bring a sixer in my disc golf bag next time I head up north, in case of emergency.
Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.