Better than stick golf? |

Better than stick golf?

Story Sara Thompson
Photographs By Dan Thrift /

After tossing his disc into basket No. 26 at the Bijou Community Park Disc Golf Course on Thursday afternoon, Pete Manninen trekked to the final basket, No. 27.

Manninen, treasurer of the Tahoe Disc Golf Association (TDGA), became hooked on disc golf seven years ago when he went out playing with his friends.

“I was throwing it 50 feet while they were throwing it 300 feet,” he said. “I thought if they could do it, I could do it.”

Lake Tahoe is becoming a Mecca for disc golf players from all over the world: The area assembled five disc golf courses in the past 10 years.

The sport is popular because it’s easily accessible to people of all ages, said TDGA Vice President Steve Newell.

Parents accompany their kids and senior citizens play, too, he added.

The sport is quickly learned, is accessible because it doesn’t take a huge time commitment and is great source for recreation, said Craig Getty, a local course designer. People can play any number of holes they want to, and since there are no time constraints, they can play at their own whim, Getty added.

In 1996, Bijou became the area’s first course. Now there is a course at Zephyr Cove, courses at Truckee and Tahoe Vista to the north, and a course at Kirkwood south of the basin. Building courses creates a demand for the sport, Getty said.

The Bijou course can be played by people of all skill levels, so families can play together. The terrain is flat, so small children can be pushed in strollers and seniors can traverse without inclines.

Zephyr is a tougher course for experienced disc golfers due to the terrain.

From 50 to 100 people play disc golf daily at Tahoe, Getty said.

On Oct. 27 and 28, local disc golf enthusiasts will inaugurate a tournament at Tahoe Vista, the newest course. Anyone may enter, but they should have previous tournament experience so they understand tournament etiquette, Getty said.

Disc golf etiquette shares many characteristics of conventional golf: maintaining quiet, allowing the farthest person from the basket to shoot and not standing in the sights of another competitor’s throw, Getty said.

South Tahoe Middle School is even catching the disc golf craze.

Newell began teaching disc golf as part of a physical education class in 2002. At that time, only three or four students in the class of 60 had heard about disc golf. Newell said 40 to 50 from his class of 60 last year had either played or knew about the sport.

Numerous professional disc golfers have played in Lake Tahoe. They include Nate Doss, David Feldberg, David Greenwell, Steve Rico and Ron Russell. All of them have won major titles and are sponsored by companies such as Innova or Discraft. Professional disc golfers can earn up to $30,000 a year from tournament winnings PDGA Web site.

In 2002, 12-time PDGA World Champion Ken Climo played in the area. At the time, one of his criticisms of the Bijou course was the lack of tee pads.

That problem has been remedied: Newell said all 27 baskets have rubber tee pads. That’s exciting, he added.

“We’re still pinching ourselves over it,” he said.

With the improved Bijou course combined with other area courses, Newell said the TDGA hopes to attract the World Championships to South Lake Tahoe soon.

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