Haskell's Hot Stove

Identified flying object: My sport of choice is — disc golf

By Mark Haskell | Mar 21, 2020

I was sitting at my desk last week on an unseasonably warm day in early March when Sports Director Ken Waltz walked into the office.

He casually said to sports reporter Zack Miller, “Tee time at 11:30?”

The three of us laughed. They had no plans to golf that day, but the weather had certainly taken a turn for the better. And before long, they likely will be dusting off their clubs and, like many, getting in their first rounds on the links.

I am an occasional golfer at best. In our capacity, we here in the sports department will take part in various golf tournaments, typically at either the Rockland or Northport golf clubs.

Ken is a longtime golfer, while he hooked Zack hard a few years ago at one of those events. Zack now has his own set of “sticks” and the two get out when they can from the end of mud season until the snow flies.

Unbeknownst to them, I had already been golfing a few times this year. Of course, not “ball golf,” as those in my corner of the world would refer to it as.

I have been playing disc golf on and off since college. Back then, it was more an excuse for us young ruffians to get out for some fresh air — six-packs in hand — and bust each other’s chops while we walked the course.

Years later, it has slowly, but surely, become my go-to favorite sport to play.

Disc golf has grown exponentially over the past decade and currently is one of the worlds fastest growing sports.

As far back as 2008, the state boasted approximately 25 disc golf courses, with the majority in the central Maine area. Now, with the boom the sport has seen in recent years, there are more than 75 courses statewide and more continue to crop up every day.

For the uninitiated, disc golf follows many of the same rules as traditional golf, with a few minor contrasts.

In “ball golf,” the object is to hit your ball off the tee and get the ball into the hole in the fewest amount of strokes. In disc, the object is to throw your disc off the tee and get the disc into the raised, chain basket in the fewest amount of tosses.

In “ball golf,” holes are measured in yards. In disc golf, in feet. “Ball golf” is often an expensive proposition for the average Joe, while disc golf is wildly affordable and, like “ball golf” can be, equally addictive.

“Ball golf” has a myriad of different clubs — largely, drivers, irons and putters — while disc golf has discs called drivers, midrange and putters that go various distances and are best used in particular situations.

Drivers have harder edges and when thrown properly, can go long distances at high speeds. Midrange discs are easier to control and,while they do not attain the distance drivers do, are easier to throw straight. And putters are for short, straight shots near the basket.

So, much like golf clubs are tailored for certain needs of golfers, so too are discs. You can play “ball golf” with three clubs, but most have upwards of 10-14 in their bags for various situations.

Golfers might refer to a shot hooking (draw) to the left or slicing (fade) to the right. They might get a certain type of club to compensate for that.

Discs have four numbers on them that, between 0-15, display the discs speed, glide, turn and fade. Drivers, for example, typically have a high number in the speed column, while putters have a zero for turn and fade.

For years, I had only one disc. A Rogue Maximum Flight driver. Now, over the past three years, I have amassed nearly 20 discs with different weights and flight patterns. So many, in fact, that last summer I splurged for myself and bought an Innova disc golf bag specifically to carry them.

Unlike “ball golf,” the game can be played in the snow. This year’s mild winter made it manageable for many to do so, though looking for a lost disc in a foot of snow is less than ideal.

Snow is one of the obstacles one can encounter. On the average course one will see trees, bushes, boulders, creeks, tall grass and manmade objects as obstacles as one makes their way to the "pin."

The best part about the sport, to me, is that anyone can play. Former ADAA all-star Patches O’Houlihan once opined that “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”

Well, if you can throw a frisbee, you can play disc golf.

And the good news for local players, is a few of the 75-plus courses statewide can be found locally.

Cider Hill in Waldoboro is a terrific local course and can be played for the low price of $3, while West Appleton Country Club has its own course as well and goes for $7 per round. Legacy Farms in Winterport opened in the fall as well and also is $3, but there are championship-level courses throughout the state that can be played for under $10 (that price often is to play all day).

And, while “ball golf” can be an expensive sport to start playing and sometimes even more so to maintain that activity, many disc golf courses advertise a free round with the purchase of a disc, which cost no more than $20.

Over the winter I’ve gotten rounds in at Cider Hill and Cripps Creek in Topsham, while over a recent weekend I hit two topnotch courses with a friend of mine — Akers Acres in Bowdoinham and Sabattus Disc Golf — the latter of which has been the host to national tournaments in conjunction with the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

Most courses statewide have Facebook pages, but The Maine Disc Golf Scene on the same website is an invaluable tool to network with fellow players, find out about tournaments (if people want to take it to the next level) or find valuable sounding boards for information on discs, throwing form or different courses.

The sun is out, and the snow is gone. With warm weather approaching and the other side of mud season in our sights, it almost is time to hit the links.

Or, as they say in my corner of the world, to go chuck some discs, throw some plastic or bang some chains.

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