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Flying plastic a less expensive option for golfers

Sylas Wright
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune file / Tim Parsons attempts a birdie at Zephyr Cove Park's disc golf course.
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Disc golf courses typically consist of 18 or 24 holes, with some having only nine. Distances to the holes vary, but usually are between about 150 and 500 feet. Shrubbery, water, trees and whatever other terrain features happen to be present serve as abundant hazards.

The sport – called disc golf and not “Frisbee” golf because “Frisbee” is a trademark name – shares many of the same pleasures as regular golf: fresh air and scenic landscape, the camaraderie of being with friends and the excitement of combining personal skills to send an object sailing toward a target. The differences: the courses are not fed with thousands of gallons of water to help their looks, acres of trees are not logged in order to play and, of course, disc golf is much cheaper.

An estimated 500,00 people play regularly. Traditionally dominated by men ages 18 to 54, the field of disc golfers has expanded rapidly in recent years to include women and children. Anyone can play, regardless of age, gender or economic status.

To learn more about disc golf, visit DiscLife.com, where there are more than 800 pages of images and information. For sports-loving folk seeking outdoor entertainment but lacking those green, rectangular pieces of paper that are so key to existence in today’s world, disc golf may be the ticket.

There are four courses in the Lake Tahoe region – Bijou Community Park, Zephyr Cove Park, Discwood at Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Truckee Regional Park.

South Shore resident Tim Parsons knows each course very well not only as a player but as a designer. Parsons designed Discwood, did the redesign at Zephyr Cove and has volunteered his services at the Bijou course since it began in 1993.

“All four courses are unique, each offering different qualities of Lake Tahoe” Parsons said. “(The courses) are also destination places for people in the Valley to come up and enjoy some of the cooler weather and get to some of the more challenging courses at higher elevation.”

Kevin McSorley, a 27-year-old teacher at North Tahoe High School, said the game is a lot like regular golf in that players – more often than not – are competing against themselves.

“You’re really challenging your own self,” he said.

And that means one does not even need friends to play, although they can be of assistance when scouring the brush for a missing disc.

The only requirements, though, are free time, a disc – which costs less than $20 – an understanding of golf’s rules and an ability to wing a disc accurately enough to land in the vicinity of its target – a vertical pole with a steel basket and dangling chains.

Like its elder relative, golf, patience is also a virtue.

After getting past the first few horrible throws, players warn that the sport’s addictive qualities begin to surface.

“Once the light bulb goes off, you’re hooked,” Donner Summit resident Tom Meyers said during his recent disc golf outing with friends McSorley and Kerry Andras.

Andras, a 29-year-old Tahoe City resident who frequents the regional park course, said he began playing disc golf off and on when he attended California State University, Chico, in the 1990s. Like many, one thing in particular attracted him to the sport.

“It’s free,” Andras said. “All you need is a disc and you can play.”

But besides frugality, there are other reasons to dabble in disc golf.

“It’s good to come out and get some fresh air,” Andras said. “It’s a challenging sport, but you’re playing against yourself instead of other people.”

Just as a golf ball does when smacked a smidgen off-center from its tee, discs tend to veer away from intended targets. Sometimes out of sight. On those inevitable errant flings, pinpointing where the disc lands and eyeballing it until recovery, is key.

“You’ve got to watch and remember where it lands or you’ll be searching,” Meyers said.

A couple holes after giving the pointer, Meyers accidentally proved his point when an unidentified bush swallowed his white disc. But a short search later, Meyers was out of the trailing players’ way and on to the 18th hole.

For times when searches comes up short of recovery, Meyers said, a name written on the disc can save it from becoming another golfer’s back-up. Discs found with names printed on them can be returned to the Sports Exchange in Truckee, where someone will call its rightful owner, Meyers said.

The easiest discs to locate are blue and red ones, while green, yellow and tie-dye ones blend in with nature and are thus harder to find. Most serious players carry a bag with an assortment of discs, like a golfer’s bag of clubs.

“It’s a lot like real golf,” Meyers said. “Same etiquette, same rules. They’re both pretty fun but this one is not as formal. You can just come out with friends on a nice day and it’s a good excuse for a walk.”

– Tribune City Editor Jeff Munson contributed to this report.

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