Golf takes wing where discs whirl
Thursday, May 19, 2005
By Wade Nkrumah
Dan Denny describes the Pier Park course in St. Johns as one of the city's recreational treasures.
He refers to old-growth trees and sightings of bald eagles and owls.
"It's a world-class course," Denny says. "It's really stunning."
Good thing, too, because it's the city's only full-sized disc golf course.
"There's a backup on Hole One every day," Denny says. "You have to wait your turn to get up there to start throwing. It's that popular."
Denny, 38, lives six blocks from the course. He discovered it -- and later the sport -- while walking the park with his girlfriend.
Disc golf operates under the same general rules as ball golf, as disc golfers say, except Frisbees take the place of clubs and balls. The targets are metal baskets about 5 feet off the ground instead of holes in the lawn.
It's a true hybrid, combining elements of golf and Ultimate Frisbee.
Physically, Denny says, disc golf is a low-impact sport anyone can play, and the learning curve isn't steep. "All you need is a disc and you're good to go."
Jerry Miller, a 45-year-old Southeast resident who has been playing for 25 years, likes the pace.
"Ultimate Frisbee's like soccer," he says. "You run way too much."
But why disc golf instead of the more popular ball-and-club version? That's simple for Matt Roller, 36.
"It's a heck of a lot cheaper," he says, noting that playing disc golf courses costs little or nothing.
Roller, a Newberg resident who works in Northwest Portland, has been playing for 17 years. He's a Pier Park regular and one of about 26,000 members worldwide in the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Having hit golf balls at a driving range and watched golf on television, Roller says he believes tossing a disc into a basket provides the same thrill as hitting a ball into a hole.
Miller echoes that sentiment.
"I just love to play," he says. "Just the fascination with watching a disc fly. . . . You get that burst of adrenaline and a sense of completion of the hole."