I’m a big golf fan. Love the history, love the strategy, love the way the game forces you to do battle with sport’s most formidable opponent: yourself. Well, I should clarify: I love the way the game forces other players, on television, to do battle with themselves. Me, I’ve sliced too many 30-yard drives to work up the patience anymore.
Then I heard about the Brakewell Steel disc golf course in Warwick. Disc golf? Sounded like some sort of office competition that involves throwing CD-ROMs at unsuspecting co-workers. As it turns out, disc golf is practically identical to traditional golf, with one major difference: Instead of clubbing a tiny ball toward a hole, disc golfers toss a Frisbee-like disc toward a four-foot-tall chain basket. At least I can halfway throw a Frisbee, I thought. Maybe I could succeed at this version of the sport. Feeling optimistic, I arrange to meet local disc golf fanatic Dan Doyle at Warwick Town Park, where the course is located.
I arrive to find a parking lot that is nearly full; one car sports a license plate holder that reads “I’d rather be disc golfing.” Dan briefs me on the basics. Like traditional golf, each course has 18 holes of varying lengths. Unlike traditional golf, most courses are completely free to play. Although you can play an entire course with one Frisbee, most serious players carry discs of different weights and thicknesses for different situations — thinner, more aerodynamic ones for drives; fatter, larger ones for putts. Individual discs can be purchased at sporting goods stores for $8-$15.
Watch Greg’s attempt here:
Locally, Dan tells me, there are disc golf courses at the KOA campground in Saugerties, FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights, and Leonard Park in Mount Kisco. Warwick Town Park is home to two courses: the “animal” course, so named because of the animals emblazoned onto each hole’s concrete “tees,” and the newer Wolfe Woods course. Today we’re playing the former, which Dan designed himself. The “animal” course is unique in that each hole has two “tees” and two baskets, allowing players of different skill levels to play the same course. “Some of the pro players consider this one of the top five courses in the country,” he says.
After a short lesson in throwing motion from my more-seasoned partner, a 30-year veteran of the game, we set off from the first hole. The green is blocked by two massive trees, but I somehow avoid danger and manage a two-over par. Not bad for a first try, I think.
The next hole’s fairway begins on top of a hill, then slopes downward into a valley of tall, ample trees through which there is only narrow passage. Unlike traditional golf, “big, open, flat areas are boring to us,” Dan says. “We like obstacles.” No kidding. My initial toss hits a tree, as does my approach to the green. I again finish with a double bogey.
I don’t fare much better on the third hole. My drive starts promisingly, then hooks left. Now, when I say “hooks left,” I don’t mean “slightly askew.” My disc sails over the fairway, over the rough, over the 55-mile-per-hour country road adjacent to the course, and into a deep thicket. Oops. After 10 minutes of searching for the wretched object, Dan and I give up.
The good news? My play on our next (and final) three holes is slightly less embarrassing than my play on the first three. The bad news? I’m as atrocious at disc golf as I am at traditional golf. But in the end, I had fun. Who knows? Maybe some day you’ll see me on ESPN, doing battle against myself in Warwick.