Preparation makes a local scene stand out

Autumn rounds often extend into the night, meaning it's time to tape lights to the discs. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

Autumn rounds often extend into the night, meaning it’s time to tape lights to the discs. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

By Tim Engstrom — for Rattling Chains

People come from out of town to play our courses here in Albert Lea, Minnesota — especially a championship course called Oak Island DGC.

It doesn’t hurt that our city is at the junction of two interstate highways, so travelers like to get a round in on their way to other destinations. As a result, it’s interesting to see how adaptable other disc golfers are compared to us locals.

We have a pretty good local scene here. In the summer months, we have a random doubles league on Monday evenings and a singles league on Thursday evenings. Our crew of competitive disc golfers — about 15 regulars and another 10 now-and-then types — travel to tournaments in the region. Our courses host tournaments, too. So we meet disc golfers in town and out of town.

It's common for players at Oak Island to play from the ice. There is no OB with winter rules. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

It’s common for players at Oak Island to play from the ice. There is no OB with winter rules. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

What strikes me about the Albert Lea disc golfers is how prepared we are for the occasion, no matter what it be.

An autumn round goes into the night? Guess who has flat lights for their discs: Albert Lea discers. Most likely, one or two of them are selling lights to others. The tape is free.

Disc goes in the water off Oak Island? Guess who has a retriever: An Albert Lea discer. Oh, it needs extra string? An Albert Lea discer has it covered. It’s too far out, and the water is ice cold, far too cold for wading? An Albert Lea discer comes to the rescue with some waders.

It snowed? Albert Lea disc golfers pull sleds that hold their bags.

But this is the type of fluffy snow in which discs get lost. That doesn’t stop us. With clear duct tape, Albert Lea disc golfers attach cassette ribbons or party ribbons to the bottoms of discs, so that the discs are easy to find because the ribbons stick out of the snow.

Need to rest your legs during a round, or play is backed up? We have homemade benches or picnic tables near most of our tees. The benches are made by the Albert Lea disc golfers. The city owns the picnic tables, but they likely were carried to the tee by an Albert Lea player. Fold-out stools, to us, are for out-of-town courses.

Albert Lea disc golfers brave all kinds of weather, even heavy, wet snow. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

Albert Lea disc golfers brave all kinds of weather, even heavy, wet snow. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

Fingernail falling off? Someone has athletic tape.

(Yes, that has happened.)

Hungry? Someone has some elephant food. That’s what we call trail mix, usually the kind with nuts, raisins and M&Ms.

Lost a disc? Many of us keep backups in our cars.

Disc in bushes too thick to enter? We have dogs that retrieve discs upon command. We even have dogs that go in the water to get discs.

If it’s raining, we have umbrellas. Some even have ponchos. Here, put your cellphone in this waterproof part of this cart.

When it’s windy, that adds to the fun. We have jackets.

Now, it’s as humid as hell, and there is a tornado warning in effect. No problem, just hurry up. Let’s finish the round quickly before the storm gets here.

(Seriously, that’s what happens.)

What’s that? It’s clear, sunny and beautiful? Well, we probably don’t have sunblock. That’s our Achilles’ heel.

Three Albert Lea area disc golfers, from left, Andy Richardson, Dave Sime and Michael Cosens, build a bench for Oak Island Disc Golf Course. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

Three Albert Lea area disc golfers, from left, Andy Richardson, Dave Sime and Michael Cosens, build a bench for Oak Island Disc Golf Course. (photo courtesy Flying Lea Disc Golf Club)

The point is, it is interesting how our club has developed a culture of being prepared for just about any situation. We don’t merely take a bag or cart of discs out to the course. We accessorize. We do it so that we can play the sport in Minnesota in all kinds of weather night and day. I have played disc golf in frozen, snowy January at midnight.

What, you haven’t? It’s fun!

Not everyone from out of town is unprepared. Some people we meet offer great ideas for us, that’s for sure. But it does seem to me that disc golf scenes in various towns develop in different ways. Some are shy to play in the winter. Some even dislike wind.

And some disc golf scenes are really good at being prepared. I’m willing to bet those are the kind of disc golfers who like to play anytime, anywhere, any season.

Tim Engstrom is an amateur disc golfer based in Albert Lea, Minn. 

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