No matter how you rank disc golf in your life, it helps the sport’s growth

Last week’s poll question got me thinking a bit.

I have a lot of things going on in my life. Personal and professional things aside, there are many things I enjoy doing or being a part of. Whether it be out hiking and finding geocaches, to summer softball, to community events and hobbies such as photography, I keep myself busy.

harmer_sigAnd then there’s disc golf.

I discovered this sport in 2010 when a friend encouraged me to go play a round. Two of us joined him and another and played our first round at Joralemon Park in Coeymans, New York. It was an interesting course to first be introduced to the sport as the wooded holes are difficult.

Alas, we played the shorter version, so that day we only got a brief introduction to that course.

It took me several months to pick up a disc again. But once I did, I realized how much I liked the sport. So, I bought a few, started playing here and there and, before I knew it, I was living it a little too much. Tournaments and all that, getting mad when I didn’t do what I thought I should have done and, basically, becoming too competitive.

I knew where it was heading — being too competitive. Thankfully, I got it under control quickly and realized I wasn’t going to be the next big thing on the National Tour.

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Commentary: Get courses looking good to make them last

Working on a fresh piece of land is like having a blank canvas, which makes disc golf course design an art.

jenny_cookAs a result, when designers and contributors take the time for the careful design and implementation of the course and any type of course modifications — big or small — players get an unforgettable experience.

In the current world of disc golf course design, there are several aspects of design that can greatly increase the reputation of a course. There are many courses around the world that have made adjustments to their aesthetics, which increase the playing experience. For example, a hanging basket at the edge of a riverbank or a well-placed rock formation along a walkway to the next hole can make memories. General upkeep and monthly maintenance quickly increases the novelty.

Standout courses

Milo McIver State Park in Estacada, Oregon, is home to one of the best courses I have ever had the opportunity to play. I speak of this course from my experience of having played the original layout as well as the tournament layout (two courses) for the Beaver State Fling. From wide fairways and fir trees
that dwarf the baskets and people who play among them to nicely grooved tee pads and the overall scenery, this course is a must for your bucket list. The result of such attention to detail and thought is a disc golf course to which very few in the country can even compare.

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PDGA vs. USGA membership: One way the barrier to entry is higher in disc golf

Saying I am a disc golf supporter and even an ardent promoter would be an understatement. Kind of like stating Labrador retrievers like to chase things and bring them back.

I write for two blogs exclusively dedicated to disc golf, and have a book in the works. My side business — School of Disc Golf — is more about spreading the word than generating income. I produce a TV show/video magazine on disc golf.

jackI have also served as an officer for my local disc golf club, helped to design and install several courses, and talk about disc golf to whoever is willing to listen. I proudly hold PDGA #9715, which nowadays marks me as old school.

However, I am not a current member of the PDGA, disc golf’s governing organization.

In the past membership was a no-brainer, as it was required if you wanted to participate in certain sanctioned events. But raising young kids and injuries have effectively halted my participation in all but local, one-day competitions, so I’m no longer compelled to be a PDGA for that reason alone.

Don’t misunderstand me. Being able to compete in sanctioned events wasn’t the only reason I joined the PDGA.

I somewhat enjoyed the magazine that comes with membership — both versions (Disc Golf World News and Disc Golfer), and was proud to do my part in supporting the main organization representing the sport I love. But right around the time I stopped playing in big events I also found myself out of work, and all superfluous expenses had to go. After 13 consecutive years of membership, my streak ended in 2010.

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PDGA eases down slippery slope in hopes of squashing sandbagging

Rule changes, in any sport, can be a slippery slope.

In disc golf, it can be much more magnified, considering there’s a smaller group of people who play the game under the enforcement of rules.

With rule changes, too, there is always looking at both sides of a situation.

harmer_sigThough I’ve only been a disc golfer for a few years, I’ve kept tabs on the PDGA rules. Mainly because I play in tournaments from time to time, but also because I like to see what is allowable and what isn’t.

Much like ball golf, disc golf is one without referees and is ruled by players. It’s up to us to keep things on the up-and-up. Whether it’s calling a foot fault at a tournament or just trying to help along other players to understand the rules, players are those who keep the game in check.

Kind of like ball golf in that it should be a gentleman’s game of sorts.

Something that seems to be a big topic in recent years is sandbagging. Basically, the idea of sandbagging is somebody purposely tanking a round for a bad score, thus hurting their PDGA rating. That, in turn, allows said player to play in a lower division should they wish, which in theory will give said player a better chance to win.

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Opinion: Low voter turnout for PDGA election not good for game

Where are all the disc golfers?

That question, by itself, is probably pretty easy to answer. Head to your local course and find a few.

With disc golf being a fast-growing sport, I would think there would be a lot more disc golfers interested in the game as a whole, not just throwing discs around the course.

The reason I ask this is because of several things I’ve noticed lately. One is the statistics for hits from this website. We go up and down quite rapidly. Part of that, of course, is pinned on us going to basically three stories per week. But even before that, we saw a slight drop.

Is it content? Is it because it’s the summer and more people are outside?

Who knows.

That, to me, isn’t alarming. See, we do this because we love to do it and if people read and comment, that’s a bonus.

Then there’s the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

The PDGA is the governing body of our sport. If you have played in sanctioned events, you know all about the PDGA. In fact, I’ll bet most of you who read this blog know what the PDGA is and what they do (for the most part).

The PDGA is ruled over by an elected board of directors. This board helps shape the sport as a whole. The board includes professionals and amateurs and people who have made disc golf their life.

The association held its annual elections for three board seats through the month of July. Members had that month to cast their ballots online. I first got notice in early June that the PDGA would be sending its ballots out July 2, so I knew it was coming.

On July 2, I received my ballot. At that point, I knew I would vote (I always do), so I put a reminder on my calendar for the final date. I wanted to see what would happen through the month.

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Avoid overconfidence and playing up can be a valuable experience

Darren putts during the pro event last year at the Jersey Jam.

By Darren Dolezel — RattlingChains.com Staff

It turns out, there is such a thing as overconfidence in disc golf.

The closest course to me during the week is the course at the Rutgers Douglas Campus in New Jersey. I play the course at least three times per week, and likely average about three rounds per day when I play.

So to say I know the course would be an understatement.

Last year, at the New Jersey Jam, I tied for fifth in the Am3 division. The second day, despite scrutiny from some friends, I spent the extra money and played in the Open division, despite likely having no chance to place. However, I felt the experience was invaluable.

It’s my belief that I actually played better than I normally would have because I was playing with those of a higher skill level.

Despite shooting just four strokes worse than I did during the amateur day of the tournament, it didn’t even bother me that I finished last in the tournament. I did this because I love the game and wanted the experience.

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Opinion: One giant step — and statement — by women disc golfers

For something to be successful, it often takes small steps.

This past weekend, the women of disc golf didn’t appear to want to make a small statement. Instead, as a collective unit, more than 600 women made note that they were there to play the game.

Bravo.

Several months ago, when I first heard about the Women’s Global Event, the gears in my brain started to turn. How could we as a disc golf blog help to not only promote this wonderful event, but also work to help get women’s voices out there?

A women’s week came to mind.

I have to be honest, too. I never even connected it with Mother’s Day. In fact, it was Val Jenkins who noted that to me in an e-mail. Though she promised she wouldn’t tell “mom” about my gaffe of not realizing that WGE and Mother’s Day were the same weekend, I’m coming clean.

That just made this week at Rattling Chains more special.

As this idea grew, I spoke with the person who created our logo — Ben Coury — and asked him about switching some colors. He did it quickly. I looked at our blog theme and realized I could change the color to match.

Women’s Week at Rattling Chains was born.

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