(Editor’s note: Andrew Belet, a member of the U.S. Army stationed in South Korea, has joined Rattling Chains as a writer. He’ll be documenting his disc golf travels in another part of the world.)
I actually have been to South Korea years ago, when I was in the Marines.
I was way down south in a port town named Pohang, for training. I was here for about a month and didn’t get to see much of this part of the country, though I recall it being small.
Now that I’ve been here for two weeks, the only thing I can say is my thoughts about South Korea being small was misguided, at best. Camp Casey, where I’m stationed, is north of Seoul (the capital of South Korea)
…and all the disc golf courses are in Seoul or even further south.
The biggest and best course is DERP (Daegu Environmental Resource Park), whick is about as south as South Korea can get. Not only would I require special permission to go down that far, but it’s also about a five-hour train ride.
Even the courses in Seoul require an hour-long train ride, then you have to navigate the Seoul bus system. Since I don’t speak or read Hongul (the native language of Koreans), the buses would be a risky proposition, though the trains do announce all stops in English.
Nevertheless, fortune has smiled upon me since arriving.
For one, I was able to connect with several disc golfers in Korea through Facebook and DG Course Review. They included several native Koreans, who speak English, several military personnel, along with a few American and Canadian expats. In addition, there are a few soldiers in my company who have played disc golf before, including one who is rather good He didn’t bring his discs, though. Packing that trunk full of discs is proving to be a brilliant foresight on my part, if I do say so myself.
Through this group, we put together a meet-up at a reasonably central course, Beacon Hill, which is located on another Army Base — Camp Humphreys. This allowed us to meet some fellow disc golfers, play for tags and to, at last, play a course in Korea. Though I am in the process of building a course at Camp Casey, the red tape is difficult to cut through, so it’s great to just go out and throw discs.
Our day started promptly at 5 a.m. on a Saturday (us soldiers prefer to sleep in on weekends, you know) with myself, Private Joe Allen and Private First Class Russel Wood making the journey south to Beacon Hill.
Russ is a newcomer to the sport, having played only a handful of times, but has been in country for several months and was there to guide us through the South Korean transportation system. I armed him with a few discs suitable for beginners — an RGL Saint, a DX Leopard, a Star Lycan, a 150-class KC Roc and a JK Aviar.
We took a cab from our barracks to the local KTX train station to catch our train at 5:45 a.m. The ticket was super cheap, and after a two-hour train ride, we arrived at the train station closest to Camp Humphreys.
We were picked up at the train station by James, an American who is in country teaching military children in Daegu. This itself was a comedy of errors, as it took us nearly 30 minutes to find each other because none of us were familiar with the train station and, again, our inability to read Hongul, which rendered all signs in the train station meaningless to our silly American brains.
It was a short, 10-minute drive to the base and Beacon Hill was right next to the gate. After a round of introductions, we bought our tags (5,000 Won, which is about five bucks, for an awesome, full-color, solid metal tag — a steal if you ask me!) and began our round.
The group mostly knew each other, so they split the three of us up, so we could play on different cards, which was very cool. Five holes in, I nailed an ace with my new MVP Tensor. The hole was a 285-foot downhill shot through thick trees. I was very proud of that shot. Despite the ace, I finished fourth overall and took home the number 23 tag (I started with 51).
After playing two rounds, we began our long trip back to Camp Casey, arriving in time for dinner.
Much fun was had, and the good vibes of disc golf really showed through on this day. We were not only warmly welcomed, but made some lifelong friends in the process.
Andrew Belet has been playing disc golf for more than 20 years. He’s currently serving with the U.S. Army in South Korea. A published author and poet, you can see his works on Amazon. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.