By Andrew Belet — Rattling Chains Staff
As noted in previous posts, my ability to play disc golf in South Korea is based solely on Facebook groups “Disc Golfers of Korea,” “Daegu Disc Golf,” and the “KPDGA Official Page.”
It was through these channels that I met up with a crew to play Beacon Hill, which led to my first ace in a foreign country. I made even more friends through it, too. I was lucky enough to have three of those friends make a long journey up to play my new course, the Dragons Lair, which now has tone poles.
Jessica and Connor took a bus from another military base down near Seoul, and James came all the up from Daegu via car. That’s about a six hour-drive, and only if the traffic is good. I’m extremely humbled and honored that they would come all that way just to play a nine-hole course. It also shows the dedication of the disc golf community here in Korea.
That being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Until now, the only people who have played the Dragon’s Lair are my fellow soldiers. Most of them are inexperienced disc golfers, and the ones who do have “the love of the game” are just glad to have somewhere to play.
Would my course hold up to the scrutiny of other DGers who have played all over the world?
James has played every course in South Korea and had a hand in designing or raising funds for at least half of them. Luckily for me, disc golfers tend to be a pretty chill bunch. I’m mostly hoping for honest, open feedback so I can make the course even better.
We started early in the morning, when they first arrived, and we were playing for tags. Joe joined us to make a fivesome. I knew I could handle Joe and Jessica, but James and Connor and are better than me. But I had the home-field advantage, and there are several tricky holes that I had mastered already. It was decided that Joe and I would tee of first on every hole, regardless of normal order, simply to guide our buddies through the course. There are certainly some rough spots and blind shots that require a guide to find the pin.
The round started off well, with four of us ending with a birdie on the opening hole. Though it’s one of the easiest holes on the course, I had to make a crazy putt from about 35 feet for my birdie, after I had snagged a bush on my drive. The second hole also went well. I parked it with my Metal Flake Teebird and Connor also scored a birdie. Joe went massively out of bounds by sending his Destroyer careening across a road.
Jessica and James both recorded pars, after Jessica’s perfect drive hit a horribly placed baby tree that stopped it immediately. It may have ended up an ace but for that piece of hole No. 3 was the first problem — and the first solution.
My initial layout was a downhill shot that required a big hyzer line through a fairly large window, but with the creek running all the way down the middle of the fairway it made for tough OB that was pretty much unavoidable for any shot but the aforementioned hyzer. The crew put their heads together and came up with a much better area to tee off from.
We tried the new tee out, and it worked perfectly. It made the hole much more fair, but with added challenge. The creek was still present, but much less punishing. Instead of one large window, there is now three small windows, allowing for a straight run (the riskiest window,) a mellow hyzer, or a perfect downhill anhyzer or flick. Connor proved the greatness of the hole by birdieing it, while Joe, James and I recorded pars. Jessica picked up a bogey after a close putt.
The next few holes began a shootout between Connor and I. I pulled ahead with my first birdie on hole No. 5 (a blind shot, about 350 feet, using my Ken Climo Tour Series Tern) that was dang close to an ace. So far, the crew was tearing up the course. Joe and James were fighting out for third, and Jessica was nipping at their heels. I pulled even more ahead on hole 6 when Connor’s drive went past the hole (with a putter, no less!) to go OB. Joe followed and went OB as well.
We moved on to the signature hole of the Lair, hole No. 7: “The Dragon’s Tail,” which is 600 feet of downhill goodness. I was super excited to show my guests this hole and my skills maneuvering it. The day before, I had actually birdied the Dragon’s Tail after a perfect drive that danced and weaved it’s way to a park job. I intended to do the same thing this time around.
Plans go awry, however.
My amazing drive turned into disaster when I threw my Star Tern with a little too much torque and turned it over into some power lines, dropping the disc a massive 100 feet from the tee.
Sadly, I watched Joe, Connor, James and Jessica outdrive me by at least four times the distance my pathetic drive went. I was on shot three (the drive went OB) and I of course shanked my Teebird into the water for another OB stroke. Joe had also gone OB, but he holed out at 4. Jessica carded a 5 while James and Connor both carded pars. I set up for shot 5, and drove past the hole right into OB again. The brutality ended with me putting out for a triple-circle 8, my all-time worst score on any disc golf hole, ever. This put me way back in fourth, and only one stroke ahead of Jessica.
Luckily, I was able to swallow my pride and birdie hole No. 8 while everyone else had pars. For the last hole, I threw my Eclipse Tangent on a perfect hyzer flip that managed to stick onto the hill on which the pin is placed. Normally this is the huge rollaway hill, which Joe found out about when his perfect drive got an edge and sent him not only back down the hill, but into OB. With me and Connor finishing with a birdie, James having par and Jessica and Joe each bogeying, I was able to finish a respectable third. The somewhat hilarious part is that none of us even had to swap tags.
Since we had treated our guests to the course, they treated us to a fine meal using their knowledge of South Korea. We left the base and found a tasty beef-and-leaf traditional Korean restaurant for our post-match feast. Much food was consumed (and cooked!) and much soju (the national drink of South Korea) was consumed as we discussed the game, the course, and how we can improve and promote the sport of disc golf in our host country.
Once again, the bond of disc golf came through. We made tons of great memories, played some great holes, and, with the assistance of my friends and fellow lovers of the game, made the Dragon’s Lair an even better course. Throughout the day, I heard more than a few times “when are you going to do a tournament up here?”
So I’ve found my next quest! Hopefully, by the end of 2014, I can pair up with the KPDGA and host a C-Tier tournament, which would be right outside my back door!
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.