If Kanye West had taken up disc golf sometime over the last decade, not only would we have very little to talk about during award show wrap-ups, but we might never have muttered the “word” Yeezus at all. Looking to be taken down a peg? No easier way to stay humble has ever existed than to chuck a piece of plastic hundreds of metres through an arboreal obstacle course at a barely visible target. The recipe calls for one part humiliation to three parts fun, not unlike my time as an adult on a Razr scooter.
I meet with Dan MacDonald, board member of the South Island Disc Golf Society, for a round on a bright Saturday morning. He greets me with a bag of discs slung over one shoulder, his teenaged daughter Hailey (sporting similar accoutrements) and her friend Kari McLeod. With me is my best bud from childhood, Justine Simons, someone who, like me, tried out the Salt Spring Island disc golf course at Mouat Park in high school when we were buoyed by the trappings of our youth (read: blind confidence and inebriants). I’m about to have my ass handed to me by not only everyone in the group who tosses a disc with intention, but all those who pass by us this morning, children and dogs included.
This is where I pause and mention that we’ve met at a private location in the Highlands, because despite its popularity, the group hasn’t been able to find enough support to build a proper course on park land. This summer SIDGS is making strides to legitimize their sport with a fundraiser tournament tentatively set for Aug. 31 at Prospect Lake golf course. Until then, the locale is officially under wraps, but as I hear from Dan: “If you want to throw discs, you’ll find somewhere to throw them. If you’re passionate, you’ll find a way.”
So back to the part where I begin hurling a little red disc at the closest tree, rock, bush, etc. with no clear idea where it’s headed and no style points awarded. But they wouldn’t count anyway. One of the things I actually love about this activity is that there is no wrong way to throw the disc. None. As long as you’re not walking around with it, you’re free to launch it as you choose. Try the underhanded “Grandma” or the close-range lob of the “Flapjack.” None of these work for me, but I like that the options exist. Sun spills through the trees along a well-worn path and I’m happy to laugh at my shortcomings. There are many.
Cut to me standing below a rock face, tossing Dan’s disc 90 per cent of the way to the summit and watching it roll back down to my feet before I pick it up and toss it 90 per cent of the way to the summit and watch it roll back down to my feet…
Dan launches his discs with power and precision in a style he likes to frequently refer to as an “Anhyzer” for its wrap-around trajectory. Still, Hailey impresses me the most as she begins each hole with an overhead tomahawk move, one that sees the disc slide effortlessly from its vertical starting position to horizontal flight midway to the pin before it lands at a respectable distance from our target. Dan calls this the “Bon Jovi.” He can’t explain why, so I assume it has something to do with attracting unsuspecting middle-aged women to the pastime. McLeod, only on her fourth round to date, seems to be developing a solid and reliable set of skills. Simons has her moments of splendour, too.
I learn the classic backhand is where I should focus my efforts. While I frequently catch a finger on the lip of the disc and throw it in the exact opposite direction I’m expecting, its flight is generally free from wobble. Dan says it shows promise. Hungry for validation, I cling to this. It also feels better to send a shot that looks decent out into the hinterlands, rather than watch a shadow of your ego roll towards the pin a metre at a time in front of your feet.
But now we’re at our mark, somewhere towards the end of our 18-hole extravaganza, each of us hoping that we’ll release our discs and have them met with the warm sound of contact with the tonal pin. Instinctively, I thrust my disc straight forward like I’m inserting a floppy disc. This is my legacy; I present to you: the “Floppy Disc.” It may work for me at close range, but put to the test, the move would prove cumbersome, useless.
Like its namesake, I just don’t have the drive.
Learn more about the South Island Disc Golf Society, their petition for a course and their upcoming tournament at sidgs.org.
Why not play a round around your ‘hood? No course required. Grab a disc, grab a friend and set your targets as you go.