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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Disc golf: A primer

Basket, chains, disc, source.
By Doug Dorda

Attention seasoned disc golfer. I am pleased to announce that we are again selling a full compliment of golf discs at Siciliano's for you to peruse. For those you that have wandered the aisles of the store and wondered why we sell “frisbees,” I would like to offer some insight into what has become a favorite pastime of ours.

Disc golf was established as a sport sometime in the 1960's. Many think that the game was designed to be a more casual alternative to traditional golf (a sport for those who loved the outdoors, but didn’t want to pay green fees, or wait for tee times, etc). Much like traditional golf, the object of disc golf is to traverse a course and reach a target within a certain number of strokes per "hole." The major differences between disc and traditional golf are that there are baskets or "chains" instead of holes, and you play with a variety of discs as opposed to clubs.

Disc golf offers certain advantages over traditional golf, namely a small initial investment for starter equipment and the fact that 90% of courses in Michigan are free to play. Also, a disc golf course is designed to be walked, so 18 holes are easily played within an hour or two, and the course will not be bogged down by cart traffic. Personally, I find the game to be a wonderful way to spend time outdoors, and a great chance to discover some of the lesser-known recreation areas Michigan has to offer.

If you would like to get into the sport, I recommend you take to a course with at least three discs. You will need: a driver, a mid-range, and a putter. Just like the clubs used in traditional golf, each disc is designed to be used for specific purposes. A driver will be used off of a tee box or pad; its purpose is to make long shots or cover the majority of distance on a hole. A mid-range will be used for medium distance shots, and often for finesse throws required to get around trees or through tricky hazard situations. A putter will mostly be used for close range shots as you approach the basket. Putters are often made of a softer plastic in order to fall easily into the basket when you hit the chains. 

Each company that makes golf discs will offer a wide variety of discs to choose from. There are some more suited to beginners, as well as those designed for professionals. At Siciliano's you will notice that we carry a full array of discs from two companies—Innova and Discraft. The wonderful thing about both companies is that they are based in the US, Innova out of California and Discraft here in Michigan. Each company offers a wide variety of discs in varying degrees of construction that will affect the price per disc accordingly.

First-time disc golfers need only concern themselves with the discs that range in price from nine to ten dollars. This level of plastic is perfect for beginners and, if cared for properly, will offer many seasons of disc golf enjoyment. My suggestions for a beginner's bag: From Innova—a Beast (driver), a Roc (mid-range), and an Aviar putter. From Discraft—an XL (driver), a Buzz (mid-range), and a soft Magnet putter. In my experience, each of these discs has performed well, and each provides the most forgiving flight pattern to those learning how to play the sport (you will quickly discover that throwing a disc is not at all like throwing a frisbee). In order to make the sport as affordable as possible, at Siciliano's we also offer special discounts for buying in quantity. Buy two discs to receive ten percent off your purchase. Buy three discs and receive fifteen percent off your purchase. Buy four and receive a whopping twenty percent off your total!

Once you have your discs, you will no doubt be eager to hit the course and learn the trick of the trade. The courses I would suggest for beginners are as follows: Jaycee Park, located at the very end of Gentian Ave in Kentwood. The course is easy to follow and can be enjoyed by beginners and seasoned players alike. Jaycee also offers great amounts of shade, and is wonderful to play on those sweltering summer days. Garfield Park is a fantastic course for beginners, though more seasoned players may find it lacking complexity. The major difference between this course and others is that you aim to hit “posts” as opposed to baskets. The case is similar at Henry Johnson Park, a fun course but one I do not advise for beginners as it offers some fairly advanced challenges.

A great directory of Michigan and Grand Rapids area courses is available here. For those of you that prefer to have a hardcover directory, we also sell the book Disc Golf Michigan by Stephanai Myers which details all the courses in Michigan, their attributes, directions, and reviews.

As the weather continues to welcome us outdoors, we often struggle to think of the best way in which to enjoy the precious moments we are able to spend outside. It is my sincere hope that you consider this sport as a way to see Michigan’s woodlands in a way you may not have seen them before. For those of you that play already, you will surely encounter one of us from the store on the course. Don't hesitate to say hi, as we will probably ask if you’d like to play a round.

This year's discs, a bumper crop

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