Their curiosity peaked, a mom and a daughter in-line skating through Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek stopped to watch. I had just stepped onto the tee pad for Hole 8 at the park's disc golf course, and the rectangular slab of cement faces a small lake. With a streamlined version of a Frisbee in my hand and no one around to catch it, the pair must have been wondering what I would do next.
My target sat 320 feet away -- across the water. The gleaming silver post, about four feet tall, is called a pole hole. Halfway up the pole is the "hole" itself, a metal basket connected to a set of chains, which guide the disc in for a successful "putt." But before putting you have to get close enough with a drive.
I took a few quick steps forward, twisted my torso away from the basket, planted my foot, then let go of the disc with a flick of the wrist as I turned back toward the target. There wasn't enough power on the shot to clear the water, so my blue disc skipped toward shore before sinking just short of land. Unimpressed, the skaters rolled away as I cursed myself for chucking the disc in the drink.
After selecting another disc from the bagful I was toting around the 18-hole course, I threw from the spot where my original shot left shore and managed to land the disc within 20 feet of the basket. I grabbed a third disc, this one a round-edge putter, walked onto the green, and rattled the chains on my fourth shot. Adding a penalty stroke, I walked away with a double bogey on a par-3 hole.
All disc-golf holes are par 3s, and the object is the same as in traditional golf: make it around the course with the fewest number of shots possible. Professionals -- who will play in the Fifth Annual Summer Sizzler tournament at Tradewinds this weekend -- shoot from a long tee, whereas beginners drive from a tee closer to the hole. But even if you're just 200 feet from a hole, that basket may be hidden behind a hedge or a stand of trees. And let's not forget those lakes.
Frisbee players have been playing their own version of golf since the day Wham-O introduced its first plastic disc back in 1957. Instead of holes, they used trees and trash cans. Finally, in 1974, Wham-O designer Ed Headrick laid out the first official disc-golf course just outside of Los Angeles. Today there are courses around the world, and several companies manufacture the discs, which are thicker and more aerodynamic than your typical Frisbee. Some pros can throw a disc more than 600 feet.
Form is more important than strength when it comes to launching a monster shot. You have to put your weight behind a throw and make sure the disc is level when it leaves your hand. That way, if you've lined the shot up just right, you're almost assured a spot on the green.
A warning is in order for beginners, though: Disc golf is addictive. Once you rip that first good shot and watch the disc glide gracefully through the air, you can't wait to do it again -- and again. And eventually those long shots over the water will land high and dry.
-- John Ferri
The Fifth Annual Summer Sizzler disc golf tournament takes place June 20-21 for professional and advanced-amateur players, June 27-28 for amateur and junior players. Registration is closed, but the public is welcome to watch. Daily course hours are 8 a.m. to dusk. Discs may be purchased from a vendor at the course or at sporting goods stores. Tradewinds Park is located at 3600 W. Sample Rd., Coconut Creek. Admission is $1 per vehicle. Call 954-968-3880.